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Parks stay open, playgrounds close in Harris County's 'stay home, work safe' order

Memorial Park staff say the number of visitors doubled in the past 10 days, and started asking to close equipment before Tuesday's order.

HOUSTON — Public health officials said parks will remain open during Harris County's 'stay home, work safe' order issued Tuesday morning.

Officials said playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment would be off-limits as part of the order, partially because health officials say COVID-19 can live on surfaces for at least 48 hours.

Trails and green spaces will still be open, but tracks and fields at schools will be closed.

Staff members at Memorial Park want people to get fresh air, exercise and enjoy time outside, but are closing volleyball courts and asked people not to play games where multiple people touch the same piece of equipment.

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"It’s also about touching a surface that could be contaminated. We’re very supportive and we took actions before this was even ordered to close the equipment," said Shellye Arnold, president and CEO of the Memorial Park Conservancy. "Parks are a very important part of people’s physical and mental health always, and more than ever right now."

Arnold encouraged people to explore areas of the park they have never been to.

She also urged people to bring their own water and use the bathroom before coming to the park, as those facilities will have signs discouraging public use.

"We'll do what we need to do as long as it takes. People will learn new positive behaviors from this. In Memorial Park, they’ll learn, we hope, to explore areas they haven’t seen before," Arnold said.

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Joni David was at the Memorial Park Playground on Tuesday with her two daughters, like many parents who are now working from home and taking care of their young kids who are home from school.

"Our girls are very active and so is mommy. So for our sanity, the outside sun is just awesome," David said. "As long as it’s going to get rid of the virus, I don’t feel like it’s over the top."

Houston Parks and Recreation Department enacts new restrictions concerning HPARD facilities in response to COVID-19: 

Closed Houston Park Facilities

•    The Memorial Park Tennis Center, Lee LeClear Tennis Center, and MacGregor Park Homer Ford Tennis Center (Note: neighborhood tennis courts will remain open).

•    All Municipal Golf Courses operated by HPARD and their driving ranges, including Gus Wortham, Hermann, Melrose, Memorial, Sharpstown, and the First Tee at FM Law Park.

•    All COH playgrounds, water playgrounds, skateparks, basketball courts, and outdoor exercise equipment.

•    All Houston Parks and Recreation Department Community Centers remain closed, including fitness centers, the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, and the North Wayside Sports Center.

•    All public, produced, permitted, and sponsored events are cancelled through April 30th. In addition, all private events, private leagues, and private gatherings of 10 or more people are cancelled through April 30th. Cancellation fees are waived and HPARD will provide credit/refunds for permitted events, private leagues, and reservations through April 30th.

•    Department group-structured programs are cancelled until further notice.  

•    Dog parks remain open until further notice.

•    Lake Houston Wilderness Park remains open, however, the Nature Center, cabins, and dining hall are closed. Visitors are urged to pack extra soap and hand sanitizer as a precaution. If you have been sick in the last two weeks, please stay home.  

•    Curbside meals (snack and lunch) for youth (ages 1 to 18) will be provided at 50 HPARD community centers Monday-Friday between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.  To ensure social distancing is maintained throughout the curbside meal distribution, meals will be placed in the trunk of the recipient's car.

•    Community Center staff will distribute each participant the lunch and snack at one time.

•    Each child will receive one lunch and one snack.

•    Only children who come to the site for pick-up can receive the lunch and snack.

•    A parent cannot take food for a child that is not present at the time of pick-up.

•    Fifty (50) meals will be available at each site.  There is the potential for an increase to a maximum of 200 meals per site based on participation.

•    The Curbside Meal Program is an adaption of the federally funded and state managed After-School Meal Program which operates through HPARD's Community Centers.

•    Funding for the program comes from a grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture (T.D.A.) Child and Adult Care Food Program (C.A.C.F.P.).

•    All City parks and trails remain open and available for use.  Please observe the CDC's minimum recommended social distancing of 6' from other persons at all times.  For City of Houston COVID-19 information updates visit: https://houstonemergency.org/covid19.

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.