By Charlotte Aguilar
West University Place leaders have set June 1 as the goal for “returning to a sense of normalcy” and are taking a data-driven, “more conservative approach” in response to the state’s plan to begin allowing the reopening of some facilities and services starting Friday (May 1).
That word came as West U announced limited reopening of its tennis courts on that date and that it would be no longer confining construction to “essential” projects, but permitting all types. The city also unveiled a plan to potentially phase in the return of some parks and a timetable for city-sponsored summer activities, depending on what happens with case figures as businesses and facilities reopen.
As of Thursday (April 30), Harris County figures showed 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West University. Bellaire has 15 confirmed cases, with one reported in Southside Place.
“In a nutshell, we will be (taking) a more conservative approach, and we will be maintaining current COVID-19 operations through Phase I of the governor’s plan,” said City Manager Dave Beach. “We will re-evaluate changes prior to the May 18 deadline, so you may see limited opening of public buildings and more.”
Beach said the first two weeks of the governor’s plan will be key to see if cases of the virus still decline. “My concern is that we experience an increase in the cases in early May, which requires a closure of facilities again. Better to remain closed and then reopen as more information comes in.”
The city will reopen its tennis courts to limited use and expand permissible construction activity starting Friday. Four players will be allowed on each court, with no spectators allowed. Click here for the full set of rules and to make reservations.
At the top of the list to reopen, if monitoring is favorable in the next week or two, are Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park, Friends Park and Liberty Hill Park, all of which have few problematic features, such as surfaces and amenities that could harbor the virus.
Lower on the list to reopen are Judson, Weir, Whitt Johnson, Huffington parks and the playground at Colonial Park, as well as the basketball courts and swimming pools.
Remaining open are the open space at the east end of Colonial Park, the West University Recreation Center field and track, and the restrooms at Colonial Park and the Recreation Center which are available from outside entrances, as the buildings remain closed.
While the Parks & Recreation Department expects to release more information in May about the opening of swimming pools and other summer recreation, it is currently holding registration for programming that would typically start in early June.
In making its first announcement about a reopening plan Wednesday, the city issued a reminder that the pandemic is far from over:
“Please keep in mind that Gov. Abbott’s order plans for the phased reopening for all businesses in the state of Texas doesn’t mean COVID-19 is gone. It just means that the Stay Home – Work Safe, social distancing, wearing face coverings and practicing good hygiene have worked to flatten the curve and minimize the communal spread of the virus.
“Let’s not let all of the sacrifices made by those who have been out of work for the last five weeks and for that hopefully can go back to work on May 18, if not sooner.
“Please continue to practice good hygiene, wearing face coverings in public, minimizing unnecessary travel and social distancing at all times to help prevent the communal spread of the virus.”
Regularly updated information on the city’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is available here.