Litchfield Park’s senior management team met Wednesday, July 1 to formulate a plan to keep the city open amid concerns over rising cases of COVID-19 across the state, and two positive cases among Recreation Center and Pool staff.
City Manager Bill Stephens, Assistant City Manager Matthew Williams and Management Assistant Sonny Culbreth met in special session Tuesday evening, June 30 with the City Council and other city staff to receive guidance on city buildings, sports programs and special events.
Litchfield Park officials closed public buildings and programs in mid-March to comply with Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order after public health organizations declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. They opted to stay closed for two weeks after the order expired, reopening City Hall and the Recreation Center and Pool on June 1.
On June 23, officials announced that the Recreation Center and Pool had closed indefinitely after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, a second employee has tested positive and three tested have tested negative for the respiratory disease, Mr. Stephens said.
He told the council Tuesday evening that 72 employees, family members and a couple of councilmembers who came into contact with the infected employees were tested that day, with results due within a week to 10 days.
In addition to being tested for COVID-19, some also opted to be tested for antibodies, Mr. Stephens said. Three city staff members who have been on vacation and did not come into contact with the infected employees were not tested.
Both of the employees who tested positive are self-quarantining, he said.
The council’s consensus on Tuesday was to keep City Hall open if possible, and to keep the Recreation Center and Pool closed until at least the end of July while monitoring the status of the pandemic in Arizona.
As of Thursday, the state had 87,425 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 4,877 from the day before and 1,757 deaths, up 88 from the day before.
“Hopefully we’ll know in 30 days if we’ve done something positive, but I don’t know if we’ll have enough data to say that it’s OK to change again,” Mayor Thomas L. Schoaf said.
On Monday, Jun 29, the governor issued an executive order closing bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks and tubing, and limiting gathering to 50 people of fewer for 30 days in an effort to bring the surge in COVID-19 cases under control. He did not order pools to close, but Litchfield Park officials opted to not to reopen the facility at 100 N. Old Litchfield Road after deep cleaning and disinfecting.
“We chose to close our pool for the entire month of July due to our two rec center employees (testing positive) in an effort to help to stop the spread of COVID-19. We will reconsider the Recreation Center and Pool as we get closer to the end of July,” Mr. Stephens said.
The closure forced the city to cancel an open swim scheduled Saturday, July 4 in place of Litchfield Park’s annual Independence Day Splash Bash. On Thursday afternoon, the city announced the fireworks display at The Wigwam Resort also was canceled.
Swimmers from Odyssey Institute Athletics generally use Litchfield Park’s pool for practices and the city was considering allowing the Minotaurs to conduct swim meets there this summer, though that plan was scrapped, Mr. Stephens said.
“If Odyssey wishes to conduct practices, we will allow them to utilize our pool. All meets last year were conducted at other locations, not our pool,” he said. “For this year, we had been considering allowing them to utilize our pool to conduct a few ‘home’ meets, however due to the COVID-19 situation we’ve decided to not allow swim meets in our pool this year.”
A decision on the Youth Coach Pitch Baseball, which is set to begin practices on Monday, Aug. 10 and play its first games on Tuesday, Sept. 1, is under evaluation, along with the September openings of other fall sports, Mr. Stephens said.
The city’s first big fall event, Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 3, also is under evaluation, he said.
Litchfield Park Preschool’s opening date, pushed from Monday, Aug. 3 to Monday, Aug. 17 by the governor, will be subject to state guidance.
City Hall, 214 W. Wigwam Blvd., remains open to walk-ins, for those needing to do business with city staff or the Magistrate Court.
“We will have a few staff members present to handle deliveries and help those who walk in. I expect staff to continue to conduct city business per usual as best as possible, monitor phones/phone messages and emails, do code enforcement and building inspections and respond to voice mails and emails appropriately and timely,” Mr. Stephens said.
Public Works will continue to work as usual, staggering start times to allow crew separation. Public Works and Code Enforcement also will alternate days in the office, Mr. Stephens said.
For more information, residents may call City Hall at 623-935-5033.