The Texas Medical Association has withdrawn as an advertiser to the Texas GOP’s state convention after the party’s executive committee voted last night to go forward with plans to hold an in-person convention in Houston.
The State Republican Executive Committee voted 40-20 late Thursday night to hold the convention as planned July 16 through 18 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the state and the Houston area. Thousands of people are expected to attend the event.
“With or without masks, an indoor gathering of thousands of people from all around the state in a city with tens of thousands of active COVID-19 cases poses a significant health risk to conventiongoers, convention workers, health care workers, and the residents of Houston,” TMA President Diana L. Fite, MD, said. “We are concerned not only for the City of Houston but also for the communities to which the delegates will return, giving the virus easy transportation to parts of Texas that have far fewer cases.”
TMA in February purchased $5,000 in advertising at both the Republican and Democratic party conventions as part of a project that seeks to fight vaccine hesitancy and promote public health. Funds used for the project came primarily through external grants obtained for that purpose.
After the executive committee vote, TMA announced it has withdrawn as an advertiser at the convention.
“Thanks to the [Republican] party, we have already obtained far, far more than $5,000 worth of exposure for our COVID-19 safety message,” Dr. Fite said. “Since we are no longer advertising at the event, we urge the party to use our $5,000 to buy masks for people who come to the convention without one.”
TMA sent a letter to party leadership June 30 urging the in-person convention not to go forward.
“This is just not the time to bring thousands of the party faithful from around the state to an indoor meeting in a county that, as I write, reports more than 18,000 active COVID-19 cases,” Dr. Fite said in a letter.
Thursday’s vote came on the same day that Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people, with some exceptions, such as if an outdoor event is approved by a mayor or county judge. Governor Abbott also ordered that Texans in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases will be required to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces, with some exceptions.
The GOP executive committee is expected to meet again Sunday to consider changing the party’s rules, including an “emergency fallback contingency plan,” if necessary, to hold a virtual convention, the Texas Tribune reported.
Throughout the pandemic, TMA has strongly encouraged Texans to follow proven guidelines for slowing the spread of the illness. Those practices include staying home when possible, washing hands frequently, avoiding large crowds, keeping 6 feet apart, and wearing face masks or face coverings when around non-family members.
“Wash your hands often. Stay home if you can. Practice social distancing. And for your sake, for your neighbors’ sake, for my sake, and for your grandma’s sake, wear a mask, Texas,” Dr. Fite said in a message she asked Texas physicians to share broadly.