As of June 12, the entire state of New York was in Phase 1 reopening. For cooperative and condominium management, boards, staff and residents, reopening presents opportunities and risks. The New York State Department of Health has issued model plans and guidance for reopening and operating businesses in New York State during the COVID-19.
The social distancing guidance addresses: staggering workers’ work hours, lunches and breaks; limiting gatherings; managing enclosed spaces, such as elevators; limiting activities by multiple workers in the same area; scheduling tasks in enclosed areas sequentially; limiting visitors and managing deliveries and access to common areas. Certain common areas, such as gyms and party rooms, may need to remain closed until Phase 3.
Second, safety for places focuses on personal protective equipment (PPE) for everyone in the building and hygiene and cleaning of the building. New York has mandated that employers provide certain PPE, including masks, face shields, goggles or gloves for workers. Residents should be providing their own masks and face coverings and using them in all common areas. No visitor should be permitted to access the building without a mask.
Many buildings have prohibited housekeeper access during the emergency. In addressing reopening access for housekeepers, residential buildings need to consider social distancing in common areas. Limiting the number of housekeepers per day, staggering access and similar steps may be required. Housekeepers should have temperature checks, and anyone with symptoms should be turned away.
Allowing access to buildings for construction workers for remodeling will require evaluation for social distancing. Projects may have to be deferred or sequenced based on commons areas. In addition, crew size may have to be reviewed and reduced to manage safe elevator access. Buildings will have to accept that projects will take longer. Residents may have to accept that projects may not be scheduled until others are complete.
The second aspect of safety for places relates to cleaning sites and maintaining site hygiene. Surfaces touched frequently must be disinfected regularly. This should include the hallway side of unit owner doors. Cleaning materials should contain bleach or alcohol. The bleach solution should be 5% to 6%. Alcohol solutions should be at least 60%. Among the areas that must be cleaned with disinfectant are restrooms, locker rooms and common areas. Hand washing stations or hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) must be available. Alcohol or bleach wipes need to be available for spot disinfecting. If building staff or residents test positive for coronavirus, they must self-quarantine, and the site must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Third, safety for processes includes screening non-residents seeking to access the building. Handheld thermometers are one acceptable means for checking those seeking access, according to the CDC website.
Processes also include sending workers home who develop symptoms. Likewise, employers must insist that those who have been exposed to the virus self-quarantine for 14 days. Site managers and employers must notify the authorities of any positive cases on the work site and be able to provide contact tracers with information. Workers should be advised that management plans to cooperate with contact tracing.
Management should create good communication systems and provide staff and residents with accurate information. Signage concerning social distancing, using masks and disinfecting should be posted as needed in hallways, mailrooms, elevator lobbies, access stairways and other common areas. Where access is limited, such as for housekeepers and remodeling, building management must make opportunities to use these services available equally. Granting special privileges for some such as board members may result in claims of discrimination.
This column presents a general discussion. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. Please consult your attorney for specific legal advice.