Heights | River Oaks | Montrose Edition - July 2020

HEIGHTS RIVER OAKS MONTROSE EDITION

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5  AUG. 5SEPT. 4, 2020

ONLINE AT

Under Houston ISD’s reopening plan, parents weigh their options Fallingback

KEY DATES TO KNOW The Houston ISD academic calendar has been pushed back 10 days. AUG. 24 Parents must decide whether to opt for in-person classes in October; teachers report to work SEPT. 4 Deadline for parents to complete a training webinar on virtual learning SEPT. 8 First day of school, virtual only for all students OCT. 19 First day of in- person classes if health conditions allow

BY MATT DULIN

INSIDE

18

Heights High School and other school buildings have not seen students since March. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

With a nationwide eviction moratorium that protected some tenants expiring and boosts to unemployment checks phasing out at the end of July, renters’ best hope for relief may rest with local ocials. “What I have said often throughout this hor- ric pandemic is that we haven’t begun to see Evictions could surge as local relief dwindles BY EMMA WHALEN

quite how devastating it is,” said Kathryn Lott, the executive director of Southern Smoke Foun- dation, a Montrose-based nonprot that gives emergency cash assistance to restaurant workers. In Montrose, one of the neighborhoods in Houston’s Inner Loop with the highest number of evictions in 2020, the rate of eviction notices led over the course of the moratorium fell by half. Now, renters falling behind are expected to make up missed payments. Mayor Sylvester Turner has received a proposal for a grace period ordinance from the task force

Eviction cases led March 1July 28 Montrose has some of the highest eviction totals in the Inner Loop. SOURCES: HARRIS COUNTY JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTS, JANUARY ADVISORSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

610

Heights: 25

Lazybrook/ Timbergrove: 8

Washington East: 9

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Memorial Park/ Washington: 10

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Montrose: 59

Fourth Ward: 5

Afton Oaks/ River Oaks: 13

59

Upper Kirby/ Greenway: 26

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Virtual and in-person DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS We’re still here for you Even during these challenging times, Houston Methodist doctor offices are open and seeing patients who need our care. Though your appointment may not look like a typical appointment, our providers may see you via video visit, telephone or in person, when needed. Rest assured, we are taking every precaution to ensure we can safely see you and meet all your health care needs.

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • AUGUST 2020

Being ranked nationally means a lot to us.

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& Gastroenterology And it could mean a lot to you.

This year, U.S. News &World Report—ranked us as one of the best hospitals in the country. That’s meaningful to us, and it could be meaningful to you. Because if you, or anyone in your family, needs treatment in any of those specialty areas, it’s comforting to know that some of the best doctors, in one of the best hospitals, are here for you. Right next door.

You can learn more about our rankings at StLukesHealth.org/USNWR .

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

MARKET TEAM GENERAL MANAGER Nicole Ray, nray@communityimpact.com SENIOR EDITOR Matt Dulin CITY HALL REPORTER Emma Whalen SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Anya Gallant ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Keenan Porter METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Jason Culpepper ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Kristina Shackelford MANAGING EDITOR Marie Leonard ART PRODUCTIONMANAGER Tessa Hoee CORPORATE LEADERSHIP PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Warner CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman WHOWE ARE John and Jennifer Garrett began Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Pugerville, TX. The company's mission is to build communities of informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. Today we operate across six metropolitan areas, providing hyperlocal, nonpartisan news produced by our full-time journalists in each community we serve. BECOMEA#COMMUNITYPATRON

FROMNICOLE: August traditionally marks the beginning of a new school year and the excitement of extracurricular activities. Although things may look a little dierent this year, people continue to take comfort in activities they may have been too busy to enjoy until lately. Spend some quality time with us this month as we keep you informed on rapidly changing events aecting our community. Nicole Ray, GENERALMANAGER

FROMMATT: As we look to enter the fth month of living with COVID-19 since the March shutdowns, any notion that COVID-19 would be under control should be put aside. Houston ISD is just one of many institutions adopting a whole new way of doing business, including allowing parents to opt into fully online instruction for the entire school year. Matt Dulin, SENIOR EDITOR

IMPACTS

6

Now Open, Coming Soon &more TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES 8 Montrose walk-bike plan CORONAVIRUS 10 Contact tracing CORONAVIRUS BRIEFS 11 ELECTIONS 12 Harris County elections CITY& COUNTY 13 The latest local news BUSINESS FEATURE 14 International Billiards FIRST LOOK DINING 15 Kin Dee Thai PEOPLE 17 Zenae Campbell, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston REAL ESTATE 22 Residential market data IMPACT DEALS 23 Local coupons CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE All content in this print publication, both editorial and advertisements, was up to date as of the press deadline. Due to the fast-changing nature of this event, editorial and advertising information may have changed. Please visit communityimpact.com and advertiser websites for more information.

THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

Local sources 33

New businesses 6

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Transportation projects

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HEIGHTS  RIVER OAKS  MONTROSE EDITION • AUGUST 2020

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

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290

W. 20TH ST.

45

W. 19TH ST.

W. 18TH ST.

15TH ST.

HOUSTON

Fix & Fogg

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COURTESY FIX & FOGG

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early fall opening, Duo is hosting pop-up events every Sunday at Buffalo Bayou Brewery. www.duohouston.com 10 Chef Aaron Bludorn’s eponymous Bludorn restaurant is in the works at 807 Taft St., with signage installed in mid-Ju- ly. “One step closer to welcoming you in,” the restaurant shared on Instagram. Bludorn brings culinary experience from Napa Valley and New York, as well as an appearance on Netflix’s “The Final Table” competition. An opening date has not been announced, but the restaurant was actively recruiting staff in July. www.instagram.com/bludornhtx 11 Sugar Land-based BlendIn Coffee Club is planning a new location at 3201 Allen Parkway, Houston. The owners said construction could get underway this summer and that opening details will be shared at a later date. The shop was founded in 2017 after owner Weihong Zhang, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, decided to take a science-based approach to coffee. Its Sugar Land location, at 8410 Hwy. 90A, Sugar Land, offers on-site coffee tastings and classes. https://blendincoffeeclub.com 12 The owners of the Heights Emergen- cy Room are building out a new emergen- cy room for the Montrose area at 1110 W. Gray St., Houston, at the newly complet- ed Rêve at Montrose development. The Montrose Emergency Room will offer 24/7 emergency care. An opening time frame has not been announced. http://montroseemergencyroom.com RELOCATIONS 13 Vietopia Vietnamese cuisine moved to a new location at 3805 Southwest Freeway, Houston, from its previous loca- tion at 5176 Buffalo Speedway, Houston in May. It offers pho, curry, clay pot and rice dishes, along with traditional Viet- namese fare including Goi Cuon, Com Bo Luc Lac and Dau Hu Chua Ngot. Curbside, pickup and delivery options are available. 713-664-7303. www.vietopiawestu.com 14 Clark Cooper Concepts’ Daddy’s Burgers popup moved to Rice Village on July 21, allowing the Kitchen at the Dunlavy , 3422 Allen Parkway, Houston, to fully reopen July 23. Daddy’s Burgers opened May 29 at the Kitchen at Dunlavy and planned to remain open through at least Labor Day. It closed for two weeks in June after a positive COVID-19 case. www.clarkcooperconcepts.com

WHITE OAK PARK

WHITE OAK DR.

10

SUMMER ST.

MEMORIAL PARK

BUFFALO BAYOU PARK

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L L E N P K W Y .

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5

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6

W. GRAY ST.

610

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9

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527

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MAP NOT TO SCALE N TM; © 2020 COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER CO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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NOWOPEN 1 Bao Shi Yi Bun House opened a new location in mid-July at 3819 Kirby Drive in the Upper Kirby area. It describes itself as a modern, upscale Chinese restaurant with a focus on healthy natural flavors and breakfast dishes, including buns, dumplings and noodle dishes. Bao Shi Yi also has a location at 9715 Bellaire Blvd. 2 Goode Co. opened a new fried-chick- en focused offering called Goode Bird on July 12. The concept is offering curbside and delivery out of Goode Co.’s Armadillo Palace, 5015 Kirby Drive, Houston. The menu includes half or full chickens deep fried or mesquite pit-roasted, as well as chicken tenders, sandwiches, burgers and salads. The restaurant also offers sides and desserts. Orders can be placed by phone or through Doordash and Grubhub. 713-999-4180. www.goodecompany.com 3 A new Italian restaurant and floral boutique, Fiori , opened July 10 at 4315 Montrose Blvd., Houston, after post- poning earlier opening plans because of the COVID-19 surge. Ann Davis-Bruch of Flours and Flowerless curates the restau- rant’s floral arrangements and offerings. 346-333-7433. www.fiorihtx.com in Houston’s Chinatown area. www.baoshiyibunhouse.com

benefits of plants. 281-638-5111. www.pleasewetmyplant.com

4 Fix & Fogg , a New Zealand nut butter maker, opened its first U.S. storefront at 1731 Westheimer Road, Houston, in June, offering a walk-up service window. Regular shop hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Customers can pick up orders and request product tast- ings at the window. Its butters, including varieties of peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter, are free of genetically modified products and palm oil and are vegan friendly. 832-463-9446. https://fixandfogg.com 5 The custom luxury menswear brand Alton Lane is opening its first Houston showroom at the River Oaks Shopping Center, 1964 W. Gray St., this summer. Using 3D body scanners to capture fitting measurements, the store offers tailored shirts, suits, trousers, shoes and other items. www.altonlane.com COMING SOON 6 Wet My Plant , a lifestyle blog turned indoor plant nursery, is set to open Aug. 30 at 710 W. Gray St., Ste. 1, Houston. Owners Colin Gardipee and Jessica Cohen began offering plant maintenance tips in 2018 on Instagram and will offer a retail space with an emphasis on the health

7 Peter Nolan, a former manager of Doris Metropolitan and Federal Ameri- can Grill, is looking to open his first bar, Permission Whiskey & Service , at 2920 White Oak Drive this fall. The bour- bon-focused bar will offer a selection of hundreds of American whiskeys as well as cocktails and wine by the glass with a wine bar-style menu including char- cuterie, cheese and oysters. The space is under construction but will offer a “millionaire’s dive bar” vibe, according to Nolan. www.permissionwhiskey.com 8 A Fred Astaire Dance Studio fran- chise is slated to open this summer at 1051 Heights Blvd., Ste. 230. The dance studio chain, founded by Astaire, offers lessons in ballroom, Latin and other dance styles. 281-825-3893. www.fredastaire.com/houston-heights 9 The owners of the Pilates studio Restored Motion, 2703 Bammel Lane, closed June 30 as they prepare to reopen under a new coffee shop-studio concept called Duo . The new business will feature a full coffee shop also serving wine, beer and a selection of food, along with yoga and Pilates studio classes, at 2147 Westheimer Road. Prior to a planned

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN & EMMA WHALEN

FEATURED IMPACT EXPANSION The nal phase of Memorial Park’s new Clay Family Eastern Glades section opened in late July. The new 100-acre section of the park was previously unused and now extends to a series of trails, boardwalks and picnic areas as well as added bathrooms and parking. “It’s going to be more for relaxation, picnics and nature walks, and it’s going to allow for an even more enjoyable park. We’re thrilled about that,” District C City Council Member Abbie Kamin said. The $25 million project was also designed with the area’s natural ecology in mind. Over 550 trees and 150 native plant species were added to the section along with rain gardens that ease runo and purify water before it enters the adjacent Hines lake. The soils used some compost made of trees that died during the 2011 drought. The rst phase of the project opened in October 2018 and is part of a broader master plan to upgrade various sections of the park. The park’s golf course is slated to host the PGA Tour in October. The $35 million restoration includes a new food truck court and event lawn, Live Oak Court, and an installation showcasing 50 quotes from Houston residents reecting what the park means to them.

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BlendIn Coffee Club

COURTESY BLENDIN COFFEE CLUB

EXPANSIONS 15 The Cottage Shop , a thrift store that benefits The Women’s Home nonprofit in Montrose, at 811 Westheimer Road, Hous- ton, has launched an online shopping op- tion. The Women’s Home programs help women and families recover from home- lessness, mental illness and substance use disorders. The Cottage Shop provides financial assistance through sales but also serves as an employer providing vocational training and resume-building experience. Among the items in stock online are Alice + Olivia tops, Balenciaga and Hermes skirts, Diane von Furstenberg dresses and Gucci shoes. 713-526-4663. www.thewomenshome.org/ cottage-shop-online

The Eastern Glades addition includes 1.5 miles of new boardwalks and accessible trails.

COURTESY MEMORIAL PARK CONSERVANCY

A pedestrian entry to the Eastern Glades is located at one of the original entrances to Camp Logan, the World War I military training facility and namesake of Memorial Park. The park draws 4 million visitors from 170 ZIP codes each year, according to the Memorial Park Conservancy. “This opening is just the start of what’s to come,” said Nancy Kinder, President and CEO of the Kinder Foundation, a partner on the project. “Memorial Park is a regional treasure and we look forward to witnessing the continued transformation.” 713-863-8403. www.memorialpark conservancy.org

HEMPSTEAD RD.

WESTCOTT ST.

10

MEMORIAL PARK

R

WOODWAY DR.

BUFFALO BAYOU

610

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • AUGUST 2020

TRANSPORTATION

POTENTIAL WALK AND BIKE PROJECT SITES

Sidewalk-focused opportunities potentially eligible for grant funding Safe transit access

CORRIDOR PROJECTS

ACCESS PROJECTS

Major thoroughfares requiring street repaving or redesign

Neighborhood safe streets

Dedicated on-street bikeways

Walkable street retrofits

Safe school access

MONTROSE BLVD.

A Montrose Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zone study identified over $40 million in projects that would improve almost 70 miles of sidewalk and over 3,100 curb ramps.

145

pedestrians involved in crashes from 2014-18 in the Montrose area

WESTHEIMER RD.

of sidewalk blocks are

in good condition 38%

SOURCE: MONTROSE TAX-INCREMENT REINVESTMENT ZONE/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER 35 1,434 total curb ramps need to be rebuilt miles of sidewalk need to be rebuilt to achieve full usability

527

527

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Study lays path forMontrose to become ‘20-minute neighborhood’

BY MATT DULIN

is possible for residents without ever having to hop into a car, said Geoff Carleton, senior principal for Traffic Engineers Inc., which led the study with Gauge Engineering. “We walked and assessed every lin- ear foot of sidewalk, every curb ramp, every transit stop,” Carleton said. “We went into this to do a sidewalk assessment that could become the gold standard of what every neighbor- hood should aspire to.” From that assessment, the study built a network model tying in major thoroughfares as well as internal streets and sidewalks. The study also layered safety, accessibility and future project considerations, such as the METRONext plan, which calls for improvements to bus corridors along

Montrose Boulevard andWestheimer Road, as well as a bus rapid transit line down Richmond Avenue. “People are able to point out a gap, like a broken sidewalk, but we were able to think about this as a system,” Carleton said. “This is all around prioritizing and laying out a path.” The study identifies over $40 million in potential projects, most of which will involve partnerships between the TIRZ, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, the city of Houston and Harris County. The study also contemplates other programs to encourage homeowners and developers to make sidewalk improvements with the possibility of rebates. The data-driven nature of the study

will allow the TIRZ to make strategic decisions about how to move forward while also tapping into other funding sources, such as transit dollars to improve access to METRO bus stops and grants to improve pedestrian safety around schools. “This will help us go after grants. This is the type of approach they like to see,” Gauge Engineering principal Muhammad Ali said. “And because the TIRZ made the case that we need to look at the whole area, including the enclave neighborhoods, not just the TIRZ boundary, we have some- thing that will have a substantially greater benefit.” The TIRZ will begin developing a capital improvement plan of projects the zone can pursue over decades.

In Montrose, despite being consid- ered one of the most walkable areas in the city, almost 30% of the sidewalks are in poor condition, rendering 6 out of every 10 blocks potentially impass- able to someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller. That is among the findings of a nine- month, first-of-its-kind study backed by the Montrose Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zone, which accrues a portion of area property taxes to fund infrastructure improvements. “We say it is walkable, but it’s not,” said Randy Mitchmore, the chair of the TIRZ. “But we want it to be.” The plan outlines a road map to make Montrose a “20-minute neigh- borhood,” where a high quality of life

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN

ONGOING PROJECTS

PROPOSED PROJECTS

HIGH ST.

2ND ST.

MKT TRAIL

WICHMAN ST.

W. 11TH ST. W. 12TH ST.

WHITE OAK BAYOU

610

HICKS ST.

10

HOME ST. WICHMAN ST.

WASHINGTON AVE.

A S H

10

WAUGH DR.

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Yale and Center intersection A project slated for fiscal year 2019-20 will reconstruct the intersection and replace and update the signals and cross- walks at Yale and Center streets, where car crashes are a concern.

Hempstead Road reconstruction The Texas Department of Transportation is continuing work on Hempstead Road north of I-10 inside Loop 610. The project is nearing 30% completion as of June, according to reports filed by James Con- struction Group. The project is upgrading the four-lane roadway to six lanes and is rebuilding three railroad underpasses. The project will also add sidewalks, curb ramps, storm drainage culverts and new traffic signals at 11th and 12th streets. Timeline: February 2018-February 2022 Cost: $55.23 million Funding source: TxDOT

Memorial Heights-area paving and drainage project A project aimed at improving neighbor- hood streets between Heights Boulevard and Studemont Street was planned to begin construction this fall but has since been pushed back one year. The project will put in new paving with drainage, curbs, sidewalks and driveways as well as street lighting and underground utilities along Hicks, Center, Harvard, Wagner, East, Lakin, Court, Wichman, High and Home streets. Cost: $12.1 million Timeline: Fall 2021-TBD Funding source: city of Houston

Heights Boulevard/MKT Trail pedestrian/bicycle safety

A project to bring bicycle and pedestrian improvements to two intersections in the Heights area was nearing completion of its design phase in July. Construction could begin by the end of the year. Up- dates to trail wayfinding, restriping bike lanes and improving connectivity are all targeted for the intersection of Heights Boulevard and the MKT Trail and at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Heights.

Timeline: TBD Cost: $969,750

Funding source: Memorial Heights Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zone

Timeline: 2020-21 Cost: $1.36 million

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF JULY 17. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT HRMNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

Funding source: Memorial Heights Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zone

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • AUGUST 2020

CORONAVIRUS Centralizing, expanding contact tracing proves challenging as cases surge locally

in early May, bringing the total number of contract tracers to 125. Others, such as UT Health Austin, brought on volunteers to assist with contact tracing efforts in March. Rachel Clear, a volunteer with UT Health Austin, said when she was initially brought on board, there was not a lot of work to do. But as cases began to rise—Travis County surpassed 16,000 total cases on July 15, with more than 40% of those cases reported in July—Clear said so did her workload. “The surge of cases has been difficult for us in terms of workload,” Clear said. “That’s definitely been a new difficulty we’ve encountered in the past fewweeks.” County health departments were given three options regarding the Texas Health Trace system, Van Deusen said. Local entities could either do their own case interviews with the state’s call center doing the contact tracing, assign all case interviews and contact tracing to the state, or continue handling both components themselves. The data is still supposed to be sent to the state regardless of which option county health depart- ments select. In Houston, public health officials are looking at rolling seven-day averages to determine how workloads are affected. From July 14-20, Harris County reported an aver- age of 1,389 new cases per day, according to Harris County Public Health. “It’s much easier when you’ve got 300 cases. It’s far more difficult when you have 1,500,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “You need thousands of people to effectively do that. We really need to get to the point where we’re talking about 300 or less over a seven-day period to get where we need to be.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson with the Harris County Public Health said the department has 300 contact tracers and can handle the capacity. However, some residents are reporting not being contacted by a contact tracer even though they had a positive test, and some are reporting late results for their COVID-19 tests—meaning they would not know if they had COVID-19 and may not be quarantined. In a questionnaire sent by Community Impact News- paper , some residents of Montgomery, Harris and Travis counties reported it taking days to over a week to get results back. Jessica Gonzalez, who lives in Montgomery County, said she scheduled a testing appointment in her home county, but the earliest availability was two days later. Instead, she chose to get tested at a CVS in Harris County. Gonzalez said she did not get results until June 27, and it was positive. “It ... took forever to get the results that I already knew,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “[I] just needed confirmation so that I can get paid for the time off.” As of July 10, Gonzalez said to her knowledge, she has not been contacted by a contact tracer or anyone requesting follow-up information from her. Jack Flagler and Emma Whalen contributed to this report.

BY EVA VIGH

The state had been anticipating an uptick in cases, which is why it launched a centralized database known as Texas Health Trace, Clendenin said. Cases and contacts could be entered into the system beginning May 1. The initial plan was to have 4,000 contact tracers as part of Texas Health Trace, said Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations for the Texas Department of State Health and Human Services. As of July 13, there were 3,100 contact tracers working in Texas between the local health depart- ments, regional offices and the Texas Department of State Health Services virtual call center, he said. “The call center has been able to handle its work- load with capacity remaining to continue to assist local health entities that would like assistance. Both we and the local health departments continue to add staff,” he said. The Houston Health Department, for example, repurposed its staff and employed 45 contact tracers

Burgeoning coronavirus cases, delayed test results and a lack of contact tracers statewide are just some of the challenges making contact tracing in Texas increasingly difficult, public health workers said. Contact tracing is part of the three-pronged approach to managing the coronavirus: testing to identify positive cases, tracing to identify who might have been exposed, and treating those infected. Contact tracing begins with a COVID-19 case investigation, or contacting a known infected person and identifying who they may have been in contact with. These individuals are then contacted to warn them of potential exposure. In Texas, local health authorities were initially tasked with handling their own contact tracing and case investigations, said Angela Clendenin, an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Texas A&M University.

SNAPSHOT: COVID-19 inHarris County

Testing rates

Hospital capacities

As of July 26, almost 500,000 tests have been administered.

Local hospitals have managed to keep ICU bed usage at or near base capacity.

Surge capacity Base capacity

1,200 1,600 2,000

APRIL 27-MAY 3 MAY 4-10

JUNE 15-21 JUNE 8-14 JUNE 1-7 MAY 25-31 MAY 18-24 MAY 11-17 JUNE 22-28 JULY 6-12 JULY 13-19 JULY 20-26

COVID-19 patients

Beds in use

400 800

0

May 2020 June 2020 July 2020

Harris County deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of July 26 636

JUNE 29-JULY 5

46,105

0

10K

20K

30K

40K

50K 60K

Daily newcase counts

COVID-19 cases surged Harris County but appeared to be slowing in late July.

New cases per day

7-day rolling average

2,000

1,500

1,000

500

0

SOURCES: SOUTHEAST TEXAS REGIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CORONAVIRUS BRIEFS

Phase 3 trials nowunderway inHouston for vaccine

HIGHLIGHTS July 16 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorized the deployment of 19 clinical staffers and five support staffers for two new coronavirus testing sites for two weeks in Houston. “We are grateful for what people across the US did for NY. We are grateful [and] we are paying it forward,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter. The two sites operated daily are at Fallbrook Church at 12512 Walters Road, Houston, and Higher Dimension Church at 9800 Club Creek Drive, Houston. July 13 A U.S. Army Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force team was assigned to Houston as part of a statewide effort to help fight off the coronavirus pandemic. These teams include medical and support professionals who will help support hospitals. Another task force was sent to San Antonio, and eight other teams will be assigned throughout the state. July 10 Omnicare, a CVS Health company, announced it would begin offering on-site, same-day COVID-19 testing in nursing homes throughout the state. The partnership with the state of Texas is aimed at reaching a goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month. QUOTEOFNOTE “IN ESSENCE, WE’RE BACK TOWHEREWE WERE IN 2014. WE’VE ESSENTIALLY LOST OVER SIXYEARS’ WORTHOF JOB GROWTHDURING THIS DOWNTURN.” PATRICK JANKOWSKI, VICE PRESIDENT OF RESEARCH FOR THE GREATER HOUSTON PARTNERSHIP. HE ESTIMATES THE GREATER HOUSTON AREA NEEDS TO ADD 217,000 JOBS TO RETURN TO ITS PRE-PANDEMIC STATE, WHICH COULD TAKE TWO TO FIVE YEARS. NUMBER TOKNOW $4.58 billion State budget shortfall projected as of July 20 by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, attributed to sales tax revenue declines and oil price volatility. In October 2019, the state projected a $2.89 billion budget surplus.

BY HUNTER MARROW

Evaluation Unit is part of the National Institutes of Health’s newly estab- lished COVID-19 Prevention Network, which was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to respond to the global pandemic and enroll thousands of volunteers to conduct trials. Other Houston trial sites include the Tomball-based DM Clinical Research and its partner the Texas Center for Drug Development, which began recruiting volunteers in July. The network is a part of “Opera- tion Warp Speed,” a partnership led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to invest in and coordinate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Volunteers will be given two doses, separated by one month, of either the vaccine or a placebo. Should volun- teers experience symptoms, they will be tested as part of the trial. If the vaccine is successful in preventing the spread of the disease, authorities will review the results to decide if it is safe for wider use.

The Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit of the Baylor College of Medicine is one of 90 sites selected to participate in the Phase 3 clinical trials for Moderna Inc.’s mRNA-1273 vaccine to evaluate its effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, according to a news release from the hospital system. “This is an important next step in determining the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in a diverse group of persons of different ages, background and exposures,” said Dr. Hana El Sahly—an associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology and medicine at Baylor who serves as a national co-principal investigator of the trial—in the release. The Vaccine and Treatment

HOWTO VOLUNTEER

DM Clinical Research: Fill out the interest form at www.houstonfightscovid.com or call 281-886-3753. Baylor College of Medicine: Call 713-798-4912 or email covid-vax@bcm.edu.

Houston looks to allowmore outdoor dining to slowcoronavirus

BY EMMA WHALEN

the adapted outdoor dining areas and limits closing hours to no later than midnight. Participating restaurants would also be required to ensure that ADA-accessible parking spaces remain available. Fields is also working on a sep- arate proposal with the Houston Downtown Management District and District I Council Member Robert Gallegos to close a portion of Main Street between Congress Street and Dallas Street to allow for additional outdoor dining space.

restaurants to serve more guests in an open-air environment that limits the spread of the coronavirus more effectively than dining indoors, Centers for Disease Control guidance states. Restaurant owners would not need to apply for the authority to make such a change; instead, they would file a notification with the city so that the planning department can track restaurants’ compliance with the new protocols. The proposal prohibits music in

Restaurants in Houston, which are currently limited to 50% indoor capacity, may soon be able to serve diners in parking lots to accommo- date more guests. Pending a vote by Houston City Council, a “More Spaces” plan developed by Houston’s Chief Transportation Officer David Fields would allow restaurants to convert 50% of off-street parking spots to dining spaces. The ability to do so would allow

After confusion, TABC allows breweries to operate as restaurants

BY IAIN OLDMAN

Wagner said the brewery was pre- paring to sue TABC and Abbott before the latest ruling came out. Under the latest guidance, for a brewery to open dine-in services to customers, breweries must also have a kitchen on-site, according to the agency. “The kitchen needs to be permanent and be part of the business itself. A third-party food truck would not be sufficient in most cases, though businesses with questions about the specific requirements should contact their local TABC office,” TABC Public Information Officer Chris Porter said.

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. on July 13 had announced it was closing its beer garden to customers. At the time, founder Brock Wagner said he was informed the brewery’s sales to distributors must be included, which meant closing and possibly laying off as many as 75 employees. “It made no sense, as far as I was concerned,” Wagner said. “That’s when we went on a full court press on the governor’s office to get that changed. The community really flooded [Abbott’s] office with corre- spondence and letting them know that was an absurd interpretation.”

After over two weeks of confusion around state guidelines, breweries across the state may reopen as restau- rants after a July 24 ruling by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Under the new guidelines, alcohol sales to distributors and to-go alco- hol sales will not be included in a brewery’s 51% calculation that would otherwise categorize it as a bar. Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders, bars statewide must remain closed as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The issue came to a head after

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • AUGUST 2020

ELECTIONS Harris County exploring voter registration, election alternatives

ELECTING TO CHANGE Harris County is exploring the creation of a new ocial in charge of elections, which would take eect Nov. 18, after the 2020 election cycle.

COUNTY CLERK

COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR-COLLECTOR

BY HANNAH ZEDAKER

voters and running elections more ecient, Ellis said he favored an option under the Texas Election Code that allows the creation of an oce of an election administrator. According to Ellis, under this system, a board made up of the county judge, county clerk, county tax-assessor collector, Republican Party chair and Democratic Party chair would be created and tasked with the search for and appointment of an election administrator. The appointment would require three votes from that board, and the removal of that ocial would require four votes, Ellis added. Additionally, the system change would not go into eect until Nov. 18—two weeks after Election Day—to allow the election administrator to observe the county’s current election process. “A neutral, nonpartisan adminis- trator will increase election integrity [and] increase voters’ trust in the process,” Ellis said. “Moving elections and voter registration under one department will increase eciency, allow employees to focus solely on elections and allow for more coordi- nation in all aspects of voting.” According to Ellis, all other urban counties in the state of Texas—with the exception of Harris and Travis counties—have already switched to the election administrator system. “There is

The way elections are run and voters are registered in Harris County could look dierent following the 2020 elections, as Harris County Commissioners Court has begun exploring alternatives to the county’s current system. In a 3-2 vote July 14, the court authorized the county attorney, auditor and budget management department to study the implica- tions of establishing an elections administrator, with the caveat that there must be a public hearing with stakeholders on the proposal prior to the study’s return to court in 30 days. Under the existing system, the duty of running elections and registering voters is split between the Harris County clerk and tax-assessor collector, both of whom are elected positions held by Chris Hollins and Ann Harris Bennett, respectively. In addition to running elections, the county clerk is also tasked with issuing marriage licenses, recording documents related to real property transactions, ling assumed name certicates, maintaining an index and issuing copies of all recorded documents, and maintaining and issuing copies of licenses. Likewise, the county tax asses- sor-collector is tasked with collecting taxes and performing vehicle registrations and title transfers countywide, in addition to serving as the county voter registrar. Precinct 1 Com- missioner Rodney Ellis cited the county’s lagging voter engagement as a concern. “Harris County 10 largest counties in Texas in the percentage of voter registration growth from November 2016 until March 2020,” he said. In hopes of improving the county’s level of voter participation and making the process of registering right now ranks ninth out of the

JOB DUTIES • Issues marriage licenses • Records documents related to real property transactions • Handles assumed name certicates • Maintains index of all recorded documents, including birth, death certicates • Administers election polling locations and ballot counting

JOB DUTIES • Assesses property values and handles appraisal protest process • Collects taxes for jurisdictions with the county • Performs vehicle registrations and title transfers • Serves as the county voter registrar

FY 2020-21 budget: $26.14 million + $12.36 million elections budget

FY 2020-21 budget: $31.63 million

Current position held by Chris Hollins

Current position held by Ann Harris Bennett

ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR If approved by Commissioners Court, this position would run elections and register voters.

Serves as the county voter registrar

Administers election polling locations and ballot counting

*Budget to be determined

SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

collector and our county clerk do not share my party aliation, I believe that the principle of having people stand before the population,” Cagle said during the meeting, which took place the same day as the 2020 pri- mary runos. “And one of the most important people, or sets of people, that are impacted by this are our pre- cinct chairs and our election judges, who are not able to participate in this discussion today because they’re in an election—there’s an actual election that’s going on right now.” Radack said the change could become a “distraction” for the precinct chairs and election judges throughout the November presiden- tial election. “The 2020 elections are here; we’re in the middle of them,” Radack said. “And I think it’s an awful bad message to send to people that, ‘Hey, the people that you register to vote with could be changing; the people running the election in the county clerk’s oce could be changing,’ so I just highly recommend that y’all put this o.”

However, Ellis and County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the timing made sense, as the position of county clerk is up for grabs this November following the resignation of Diane Trautman eective May 31. Hollins was appointed by the Commissioners Court to serve as interim county clerk until the election. “It’s a dicult conversation when you have the momentum that this existing system has been done since the time of Jim Crow, but just because it’s the way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it,” Hidalgo said during the meeting. “I actually think the timing is something we need to take advantage of.” Upon the study’s return, the court will have to vote on the approval of the report and plan before proceed- ing with the process of creating an elections administrator oce. Addi- tionally, if the new system is pursued and does not pan out as planned, with a majority vote the Commission- ers Court could return to the current system at any time, Ellis said.

probably merit to give this to some- one other than someone who runs for election to run the elec- tions,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said. “I think there is a lot of merit in creating some separation there.” However, the

“ANEUTRAL, NONPARTISAN ADMINISTRATOR WILL INCREASE ELECTION INTEGRITY AND INCREASE VOTERS’ TRUST IN THEPROCESS.” RODNEY ELLIS, PRECINCT 1 COMMISSIONER

proposal was met with opposition from Precincts 3 and 4 Commission- ers Steve Radack and Jack Cagle—as well as several residents who called into the virtual meeting to share their opinions on the item. “Even though our tax-assessor

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CITY& COUNTY

News from the city of Houston

QUOTEOFNOTE “WHETHERORNOT THAT ORDER COMES, WE ALL KNOWWHAT TO DO, ANDWE SHOULDN’T HAVE TOWAIT FOR AGOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN TODO IT.” SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON MAYOR, ON JULY 22 AFTER REPEATING CALLS FOR A TWO- WEEK SHUTDOWN FOR THE CITY Houston City Council meets weekly at 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays for public comment and 9 a.m. Wednesdays for regular business at 901 Bagby St., Houston. Meetings are streamed at www.houstontx.gov/htv. MEETINGSWE COVER on houstonmuralmap.com, which launched July 15 and was funded by a grant secured by the Houston Arts Alliance. 800+ NUMBER TOKNOW murals are mapped across Houston

HOUSTONHIGHLIGHTS July 22 The city established its Office of Sustainability with the assistance of a $2 million grant. The two-person staff is part of Houston’s broader climate action plan, which among other goals aims to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. July 22 Uber and Lyft rides to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport will have additional fees, ranging from $1.25 to $3.00 for drop-offs and pickups. Council approved the fees as part of a broader effort from the city to divest from its regulations on the taxi cab industry and increase its oversight on ride- hailing companies. Fees formerly applied only to pickup rides. July 22 City Controller Chris Brown announced his audit plans for fiscal year 2020-21. In new audits, Brown plans to examine the Houston Harvey Recovery Program and the Houston Police Department property and evidence room, among others. July 29 Houston City Council approved a $15 million small business relief fund using the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security money. Business owners can apply for individual grants up to $50,000. Businesses with less than $2 million in revenue can apply. Details will be announced in mid-August.

Legal battle ensnares Harvey housing recovery funds again

BY EMMA WHALEN

the City of Houston has chosen to pay attorneys to keep Houstonians in the City’s own failed housing program.” However, the city’s lawsuit claims the GLO’s plans for spending the funding on a first-come, first-served basis would leave those with the most urgent needs behind. Turner told council members July 22 that the legal action does not affect those who have already been served by the city or are currently receiving recovery assistance. “The ruling stops the GLO from taking actions that would have harmed our city’s most vulnerable populations affected by Harvey, including low-income, disabled individuals and people of color, who are protected by the Fair Housing Act through the City’s programs.” The GLO plans to appeal the decision. The injunction remains in effect until a trial can be held.

HOUSTON A legal battle between the Texas General Land of Office and the city of Houston has again flared up over the city’s Hurricane Harvey housing recovery funding. Travis County 353rd District Court Judge Tim Sulak on July 21 ruled in favor of the city and temporarily halted the GLO’s effort to control the funds. The GLO initially filed a lawsuit to gain control over spending the funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, claiming the city’s efforts to expend them were too slow. “City officials and their attorneys continue to hinder disaster recovery for the most vulnerable Houston residents three years after Hurricane Harvey,” said Brittany Eck, the communications director for disaster recovery at the Texas GLO. “Rather than put people back in their homes,

IT’S NOT OVER YET. Stay strong, Houston. It’s working.

Social distancing, frequent handwashing and avoiding exposure is slowing the spread of COVID-19. But we can’t let up now. Hang in there—for your family, for your neighbors and for our heroes on the front lines. No one wants to celebrate with hugs and high-fives more than we do. Until then, thanks for doing your part to keep us all safer. We’re all in this TOGETHER.

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