We are now entering the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Summertime Is approaching, and with the new season comes questions regarding how associations should manage their common area recreational facilities during the current phase of the pandemic.
Governor Newsom declared a State of Emergency on March 4, 2020, quickly followed by a Stay at Home Order on March 19, 2020. The State of California and local municipalities began Issuing COVID-19 regulations soon after, including regulations, restricting gatherings, mandating mask-wearing, limiting the use of pools, gyms, and playgrounds, setting forth cleaning protocols, and more. These regulations often arrived and changed at rapid-fire pace. Association managers, like many Californians across a wide swath of Industries, struggled to keep up with the changes.
The COVID-19 regulations in place during the last two summers provided some sense of structure (albeit and often onerous and confusing one) as associations were required to follow the law. What other option was there?
Now, many COVID-19 regulations have been rolled back, but California’s State of Emergency remains in place. The pandemic, unfortunately continues, mutating into different strains that dominate the news and bring more uncertainty. We have not entirely returned to a pre-COVlD world, as much as we wish to do so. So how, to approach the upcoming summer?
Associations may consider doing the following:
Defer to the law. New governmental restrictions, such as mask mandates, may come into place in the event of new surges. Associations can consider adopting rules that mirror existing governmental restrictions verbatim in order to bolster the reasonableness of those rules. Or, associations can simply refer residents to the governmental regulations for a more hands-off approach.
Address clashes. At least anecdotally, it seems that confrontations are on the rise as Americans enter the third year of a difficult, stressful pandemic. Associations should Investigate and appropriately address any governing document violations, including nuisances, harassment violations, or hostile environment harassment based on a protected status.
Clean smarter. Hopefully, the longer the pandemic goes on, the more we learn about how COVID-19 and its mutations spread. Associations should rely on their cleaning and janitorial professionals regarding best practices for maintaining common area facilities in as reasonably safe a condition as possible.
Continue to rely on experts. Associations can and should continue to rely on qualified experts like cleaning professionals, legal counsel, and Insurance representatives to minimize the associations’ liability, Including with regard to managing the common area and holding meetings and events.
With these steps, associations can ready themselves for the upcoming summer, as we settle into the “new normal” of the post-shutdown world.
* This article was originally published in CAI San Diego Community Insider Magazine in the Summer 2022 edition and was adapted from the original article, The New Normal as authored by Rhonda R. Adato, Esq.