June 29, 2020

Upgraded Threat Level a Step Back for Non-Essential City Services

In response to an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases throughout our area, Judge Hidalgo and the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have upgraded the current public threat level to Severe (Level 1).  Hospitals have been reported to be at full ICU base capacity, and the numbers of daily cases and hospitalizations are at their highest since the beginning of the pandemic.  Level 1 signifies a “severe and uncontrolled” outbreak, prompting the County to reurge its Stay Home, Work Safe guidelines in an effort to flatten the curve once again.  For his part Governor Abbott has announced a temporary pause in his strategic plan to reopen Texas, and has rolled back some of the activities he’d previously allowed to resume.  Because of this change in circumstances and in keeping with now more restrictive guidance, the City is reverting back to the suspension of certain non-essential services.

The Library building is again closed to the public, but curbside pickup and online services are still available.  The Rec Center fitness room is closed, and all fitness classes are suspended until further notice.  The Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center, which has been closed since last week pursuant to public health protocols after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19, will now not be reopening as originally planned.  Evergreen Pool and the Elaine Wood Therapy Pool will remain open for lap swimming and water therapy, by reservation only and subject to capacity limitations.  Bellaire L.I.F.E. seniors programming, including bingo, trivia, arts and crafts, puzzles and other engaging activities, will continue to be offered online only.

With strict adherence to our enhanced sanitization regimen and established safety precautions and procedures, Camp Paseo will remain open at a reduced enrollment capacity.  Things have been going very well so far and we're pleased to be able to meet this need for many families in our community, while giving the kids a positive, even if modified summer experience.  Art Camp and Theater Camp are canceled until further notice, however.

We’ve also made the difficult decision to cancel entirely our signature Fourth of July Parade and Festival.  Parks and Recreation staff had come up with a workable plan to spread out the parade route from just under one mile to two and a half miles, the idea being to bring the parade to people rather than bringing people to the parade, while foregoing the festival portion on the Great Lawn this year.  Unfortunately, given the worsening situation and an understandably reduced participation rate, we’ve had to cancel the parade as well.

The City Council and boards and commissions resumed meeting in person—with the option for individual members and attendees to participate remotely—at the start of Phase III of the State’s reopening.  We’ll now be going back to telephonic meetings beginning with Council’s next Regular Session a week from tonight, and most likely for the foreseeable future.

Having had just a taste of normalcy—whatever that means—over the past several weeks as things have gradually reopened, it’s naturally disappointing to have to take a step back.  Our preference is always to maintain city services as much as possible, but not at the expense of public health and welfare.  We do not take these decisions lightly, and look forward to restoring suspended services just as soon as the threat level subsides and circumstances allow.  Please do your part by continuing to practice social distancing, avoiding gatherings, staying home as much as you can, and wearing face coverings when you do go out.