During these unprecedented times, community associations are forced to address issues and situations that have never been addressed before. Many people have a friend, relative, acquaintance or neighbor who has tested positive for COVID-19. Community associations are being informed of potential and actual cases within their community. What should your association do if the board or management has been informed that a resident has or may have tested positive?
Before addressing the things an association should do, there are certain things that the association certainly should not do. First and foremost, regardless of the source of information, associations should not disseminate any personal or identifying information regarding the individual who may or may not have tested positive. If the person has self-reported, they may choose to inform other residents on their own, but the association absolutely should not make that decision for the individual.
Knowing what an association should not do, there are steps that associations should take, particularly those associations with common hallways or entryways. First, even if there haven’t been any reported cases in the community, the board should communicate to owners the need to wear face masks and other protective gear, such as gloves, when occupants leave their residences.
Next, and regardless of whether a resident reports that they have tested positive, a neighbor reports their concerns about another resident, or the association receives an anonymous unsubstantiated tip, the association should treat all reports as though they are positive cases. This may be overly cautious, but it will help to ensure that the association’s response is uniform, unbiased, and in the best interests of all residents’ health and safety.
Until adequate testing is implemented and we have a better picture of the extent of the virus in the population, if your association has common hallways or entryways and has received information about an actual or potential case, a letter should be sent to all building residents advising that there has been a report of a positive case within the building. There likely isn’t a need to send an additional letter each time the association receives a report. This letter should remind residents to take appropriate personal protective measures which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), which include the following:
If you are sick, stay home to avoid potentially spreading any illness to others.
Wash hands frequently, ensuring to lather with soap for at least 20 seconds.
Use hand sanitizer containing a minimum of 60% alcohol when hand washing is not available.
Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.
Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your household daily.
If you are experiencing symptoms of infection, seek medical care and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
If you have come in contact with an infected person, you should self-quarantine in your home for at least 14 days.
Communities that do not share any common hallways or entryways have less of a need to send a notice to residents; however, those association may choose to send a notice simply to keep all residents informed. Because no amount of cleaning will adequately ensure that surfaces are clean if residents do not take their own precautionary measures, the Association should avoid any implication that common areas and surfaces are disinfected. If it is within the association’s financial abilities, additional cleaning and disinfecting are good ideas; however, there is simply no way to eliminate the risk of spread without everyone taking appropriate precautions.
This is an evolving issue and the CDC recommendations have and will likely continue to be updated and revised as more information is discovered. While each association can take some action to help prevent further spread and to inform residents, it is ultimately each individual’s responsibility to maintain their own health and safety.
If your association is facing a unique issue related to the Covid-19 pandemic, please contact one of the knowledgeable attorneys at our firm.