In a major win for coronavirus-battered Houston, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled 7-1 Monday that the state’s GOP can’t force the city to host the party’s in-person convention this week.
The city, grappling with a record number of COVID-19 cases, last week canceled the convention that was scheduled to begin Thursday at the George R. Brown Convention Center. It was expected to draw about 6,000 Republicans.
“These are very serious times,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said at a news conference when he announced the cancellation last Wednesday. “Simply, the public health concerns outweighed anything else.”
The Republican Party of Texas went to court, arguing that the convention was protected under both the Texas and U.S. Constitutions. The top court agreed that the party had a right to hold a convention, but “those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use” of the convention center against the directives of city officials, reported the Texas Tribune.
The party’s executive committee met later Monday and voted overwhelmingly (remotely) to hold the convention online instead, according to the news site.
Texas is reeling as cases of COVID-19 surge, and several counties have ordered refrigerated morgue trucks to deal with the death toll. The state has recorded a total of more than 264,000 coronavirus cases and 3,235 deaths.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott early this month issued a statewide order requiring that masks be worn in public places. He announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Defense is sending medical task forces to help hospitals deal with the sick.
Turner said last week that the state opened “too quickly, too fast” and that COVID-19 cases began to spike soon after restrictions were lifted on businesses. Cases in Houston are growing “exponentially,” he said, warning that the city’s hospital system will soon be “overwhelmed.” He called over the weekend for a lockdown to help stop the spread of the disease.
In mid-May, Houston tallied an average of nearly 250 new cases daily. By the last week of June, that number had soared to 1,600.
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