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Mayor Turner pleads with Texas GOP to make July in-person convention virtual

The Texas GOP in-person convention is scheduled for July 16-18 and is expected to bring more than 6,000 people to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

HOUSTON — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he will be writing a letter to the executive director of the Texas GOP to cancel this month's in-person convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

On Monday, Mayor Turner pleaded with the event's organizers and sponsors to call it off and said if canceling is not an option, to at least make the in-person convention -- which is scheduled for July 16 through 18 -- virtual due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the city of Houston. 

"I believe canceling the GOP convention is the responsible action to take while we are in a critical moment," Turner said. 

Turner said all major conventions and conferences scheduled this year have been either canceled or rescheduled to 2021 expect the GOP convention and he doesn't think it's wise to bring thousands of people together as the city desperately works to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

Turner said if the convention happens, organizers must adhere to the following rules: 

  • Mask must be worn inside the convention center at all times
  • Modify the layouts to promote social distancing
  • Limit attendance
  • Use multiple entrances
  • Block out seating to enforce social distancing 
  • Eliminate lines to promote distancing
  • Install physical barriers to promote distancing
  • Limit the use of elevators
  • Keep a master list of attendees

Mayor Turner announced an additional 963 coronavirus cases Monday bringing the city's total to 24,336. 

There were no new deaths reported, though Turner said deaths typically lag in the case count.

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Dr. Persse with the Houston Health Authority joined Turner during his press conference and said as of Monday more than 500 Houston-area residents are in intensive care units in Harris County.

Persse said there's evidence that the virus may be mutating which is causing it to spread more easily. Fortunately, the mutation doesn't appear to be more lethal, according to Persse.

Persee also mentioned that about 200 scientists believe that COVID-19 could possibly be airborne and if that holds true, this news will be a "game-changer."

Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena spoke during the press conference as well and said 285 firefighters are currently in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. He said the majority of firefighters are getting exposed from community-spread, outside of work. 

Pena addressed the news released last week about fire stations closing due to a reduction in staff and said he is doing everything in his power to prioritize staffing at all fire stations and no stations will be closing.

"We are working overtime to bring people in," Pena said. 

 As of Monday, 206 HPD officers are in quarantine, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. 

About 260 officers have tested positive for the virus. One is in pretty bad shape, according to the chief. 

Acevedo said he will speak to the family to see when if it will be appropriate to release the officer's name. 

The Republican Party said it intends to move forward with the in-person convention in Houston next week.

Here's the full response:

“The Republican Party of Texas has been in extensive conversations with Houston First - the managers of the George R. Brown Convention Center. We have been proactive in implementing safety measures such as thermal scans upon entry each day for each attendee, limited entryways, expanded floor plans to accommodate social distancing, hand sanitizer stations throughout, and available masks for all attendees. With these precautions currently in place, the Republican Party of Texas intends to proceed with an in-person Convention next week in Houston.

“In addition to nominating the individuals who will represent the party in the electoral college, a state convention of a political party is a fundamental exercise of the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress. That need to assemble is important, and we are taking every precaution to ensure it is done safely.

“Mayor Turner must not have had the information about the measures being voluntarily implemented.

“The Republican Party, delegates, and guests are looking forward to a safe and productive Convention next week.”