The COVID-19 outbreak has engendered fear and unrest in the lives of many Americans. As a homeowners association (HOA) board member, your role may have expanded to include reducing the spread of coronavirus 2019 in your facilities.
An outbreak could last weeks or even months in your community and could persist longer in communities with shared spaces like clubhouses, pools, or gyms if social distancing measures are ignored.
While your residents should generally take responsibility for their own health, it does not mean your board should sit idly by during the epidemic. If a resident, staff member, or volunteer has contracted the disease, reducing further spread of coronavirus 2019 is important to not only your community but to the public at large.
Protecting Your Organization and Your Community
Your HOA board has a general obligation to fulfill its main role in maintaining the community which covers maintaining the common areas and protecting the streets with working lights. Safeguarding individual residents’ health may exceed your HOA’s duties.
Consult your HOA CC&Rs and other governing documents to discern if there are provisions necessitating residential health and welfare protection and to protect your organization from liability. Additionally, it may be advisable to discuss these findings with your association’s attorney.
How COVID-19 Spreads
Research suggests the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads more efficiently than influenza. When a contaminated person talks, sneezes, or coughs, disease-filled mucous is released into the air. This mucous can then be inhaled by people six feet away and spread to other people much like a common cold.
Scientists also believe it is possible to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated object or surface and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes. There is currently no evidence COVID-19 can be contracted through properly treated water.
A person who comes in contact with an infected object or person should self-quarantine and watch for symptoms. Signs may take two weeks to appear, and asymptomatic individuals can still transfer the contagion to others.
Symptoms coronavirus disease 2019 may include:
- Breathing difficulty
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Absence of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
Make sure infected residents call 911 if symptoms are severe or they experience life-threatening shortness of breath.
Addressing COVID-19 Positive Residents and Employees Properly
In case of a COVID-19 infection, make residents aware that the board is following CDC recommendations to help reduce the spread of the disease. Encourage those community members to follow CDC protocols as well.
If anyone in your community displays any of the COVID-19 symptoms listed above, ask them to follow CDC protocol which recommends:
- Limiting face-to-face contact with others
- Remaining in their homes and self-monitoring for 14 days
- Seeking telephonic advice from doctors to discuss their medical evaluation
If a community member is confirmed to have COVID-19 inform other residents, workers, volunteers, and visitors; however, be certain to protect the sick individual’s privacy by withholding personal information about him or her, per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Position signage in community areas, exits and entrances, and by sending a letter or email to every resident. This information should be conveyed with an eye toward reducing stigma and discrimination.
HOA retirement communities have a higher concentration of elderly and at-risk residents with underlying health conditions. Extra care should be taken to slow the virus spread and prevent critical illness in these communities. Consider restricting non-essential visitors and assisting community members with creating a buddy system to make sure they remain connected.
If your HOA utilizes full-time workers, your board is responsible for protecting their welfare as well. Ensure they practice social distancing while at work and frequently wash their hands. Consider a remote working arrangement via a computer if they can perform their tasks from home. Any employee who displays symptoms should remain at home until fully recovered.
Taking Action to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19
The ease with which COVID-19 can spread makes it crucial that your board takes firm steps to reduce its spread in your community.
Limiting Face-to-Face Contact
Mitigate contact among association members and employees by:
- Implementing temporary common area closures including gyms, pools, or spas.
- Canceling or delaying group events.
- Managing your communities through CINC’s reliable web portals and staying in contact through emails and messaging.
- Holding board meetings using video conferencing software.
Promoting Proper Hygiene and Social Distancing
Encourage sanitary practices and social distancing procedures by:
- Posting CDC COVID-19 print resources around your community to remind residents of ways they can limit their exposure to the disease.
- Requiring cleaning staff and other employees to wear facemasks and other personal protective equipment when performing essential services near contaminated areas.
- Ensuring association employees wash their hands frequently and to avoid touching their faces.
Reducing Coronavirus Spread in Common Areas
HOA common areas are where residents frequently gather and where a spreading virus can inflict the most damage. Residents have a responsibility to refrain from touching their faces, but your HOA is responsible for decontaminating your common areas by:
- Confirming your cleaning staff uses a powerful disinfectant to wipe down countertops, walls, doorknobs, and any frequently touched surface.
- Cleaning and disinfecting exercise equipment and sporting good equipment.
- Installing alcohol dispensers or hand sanitizers in your activity rooms, dining areas, clubhouses, and any place residents may contact multiple surfaces.
Execute a Solid Plan to Reduce the Spread of Coronavirus
As an HOA board member or association manager, you have a responsibility to protect your community from an increased spread of COVID-19. Focus those things you can control — closing and disinfecting common areas, canceling events, reminding residents and workers of CDC guidelines, installing hand sanitizer dispensers, safeguarding your high-risk populations, and assuaging fears.
In this uncertain time, you can take comfort knowing CINC’s sturdy cloud-based software is available from any of your devices ensuring you always remain in touch with your community. To request a demo or to learn how CINC can help your organization during this difficult time and beyond, call (855) 943-8246.