Cedar Park, Leander officials react to third phase of reopening

Image description
Image description
Image description
Cedar Park and Leander officials who were interviewed support Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent announcement easing restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic—as long as data supports continued relaxing of social distancing.

On June 3, Abbott introduced his third phase to reopening Texas businesses and activities. Nearly all businesses were shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Abbott’s announcement allows almost all businesses to operate at 50% capacity with social distancing and more rigorous cleaning procedures. Also, restaurants, which were already allowed to use up to 50% capacity, can increase to 75% capacity on June 12.

“As with previous phases, the Phase III plan is based on the advice and support of the four doctors on the Strike Force to Open Texas medical team,” the news release said.

Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said he welcomed the next reopening phase.

“I'm glad our employers are getting to improve their financial situation. They've been going through one of the most difficult, unpredictable economic circumstances in memory,” Van Arsdale said. “And, of course, I'm glad the COVID recovery rates continue to trend positively—which is what's allowing these businesses to open in the first place.”

Abbott says his phased reopenings are based on scientific data, but residents and business owners have varying degrees of comfortability with the relaxing of social distancing suggestions.

Some restaurants opted not to open when customer seating was capped at 25% and then upped to 50%.

“Businesses and customers are moving at the pace allowed and the pace they are comfortable with moving,” said Tony Moline, the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce president/CEO. “The businesses and customers who have not opened, or participated as much as is allowed, are doing things they are comfortable doing. Be patient and understanding.”

Leander Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bridget Brandt also welcomed Abbott’s next reopening phase.

“We are elated at the latest announcement,” Brandt said. “It is time for us to begin reopening safely, and I am confident that our businesses can rise to the occasion.”

Restaurants that did not see enough financial incentive to open to 50% capacity may do so when 75% seating is allowed, officials said.

"I’ve heard different messages from customers," Moline said. "You have the customer who never thought restaurants should have closed and was first in line to get out on a patio at their favorite location. You also have the customer that wants to support our local eateries and continues to do so by having curbside or takeout. And then you have the customer who just isn’t comfortable with eating out yet. It is mixed."

“Our restaurants are prepared and ready to begin serving their customers again,” Brandt said. “This has been very challenging for many of them, and I know they are thankful for the loyalty and dedication that the community has showed.”

Other businesses are reopening as well. Spouses Tom and Lauren Davis, as well as Joey Suarez, co-own the Splash Shack, an indoor water park in Cedar Park that has been closed since March.

"Next week, we'll be 13 weeks being closed,” Suarez said June 4.

They plan to reopen the facility June 12 at the allowed 50% capacity, which would be 225 people for the facility.

Although most of the Splash Shack staff had to be laid off, the majority have been rehired for the opening due in part to the business qualifying for the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Tom Davis said they have used the shutdown to add a third level of water sanitation.

“You’re not going to see this kind of quality at public or private pools,” Suarez said.

City facilities

On June 6, the city of Leander will begin a phased reopening of public spaces and pools.

Abbott's June 3 announcement also allows professional sports played outside to increase from 25% to 50% capacity. College sports played outdoors will be allowed to resume at 50% capacity for the first time since the pandemic.

Except for Easter weekend, city parks in Cedar Park have remained open, according to city spokesperson Jennie Huerta. The city gradually reopened other city-owned facilities May 8, May 18 and May 26, when the Cedar Park Recreation Center reopened some of its amenities, though reservations are required.

City and business officials interviewed were grateful for the community’s patience.

“I just really want to thank all of our residents and our businesses for how they've been handling this unprecedented time,” Van Arsdale said. “There was no manual. We were all writing that manual as we went. They've been patient, responsible, mature, unselfish, resilient—just fantastic. I just can't express enough to them my appreciation for that.”

Leander Mayor Troy Hill did not respond to questions emailed to him for this story.


Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin restaurant group Z'Tejas to open new Avery Ranch location

Z'Tejas will open a third Austin-area location with a large patio before the end of 2021.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine wait after receiving their shot at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin on March 13. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
National supply issues with Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect Austin-area shipments

After a manufacturing error ruined 15 million doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the supply will not increase until the plant in Baltimore is once again allowed to participate in production.

Here are the most recent coronavirus updates from Williamson County. (Community Impact staff)
Williamson County reported more than 250 new COVID-19 cases April 9-11

Here are the most recent coronavirus updates from Williamson County.

The studio celebrated its grand opening April 11. (Courtesy Müv Dance & Fitness)
Müv Dance & Fitness now open in Leander

The studio celebrated its grand opening April 11.

Romeo's Pizza held its Georgetown groundbreaking April 6. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza coming to Georgetown; Vacancy Brewing opens in South Austin and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Austin Public Health holds a vaccination clinic at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Coronavirus updates from Austin, Travis County; governor bans 'vaccine passports' and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.

Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
ROUNDUP: 7 eateries coming soon to the Cedar Park-Leander area

These seven restaurants plan to open this year in the Cedar Park-Leander area.

Williamson County added more than 200 new COVID-19 cases April 5-7. (Community Impact staff)
Williamson County adds more than 200 new COVID-19 cases April 5-7

Here is what you need to know today about COVID-19 in Williamson County.