After Governor DeSantis’ April 1, 2020 Order that ordered Florida residents to stay at home and limit their movement outside the home to only those necessary for essential services, many community associations closed their amenities, such as pools, fitness centers, clubhouses, tennis and pickle ball courts, dog parks, etc.
Effective May 18, 2020, Governor DeSantis has ordered that restaurants, gyms, and fitness centers, among other facilities, may reopen at 50% capacity, as long as they continue to observe social distancing and sanitation procedures.
While the Order does not specifically address fitness centers, pools, and other amenities operated by community associations, boards of directors may certainly use these orders as guidance in the operation of their communities.
Naturally, the board should review any local city or county ordinances that may prevent or curtail use of such amenities before reopening amenities and common areas.
The board should also review its general liability insurance policy prior to reopening. Most insurance experts agree that there will be a flood of claims arising from the COVID 19 pandemic. Many policies contain exclusions for bodily injuries stemming from viruses, bacteria, and other communicable diseases. The Board should be aware of its insurance coverage or lack thereof in event of a claim that may arise from reopening their amenities.
Cleaning common areas will be extremely important during the reopening process. Community associations should have written standard operating procedures addressing how each amenity is cleaned after use or should consider hiring outside professionals to clean certain amenities.
Communication with residents is critical. There has been little concrete guidance provided to community associations during this crisis, so every community will handle things just a little bit differently. The board should clearly communicate how and when amenities will open, if at all.
Frequent updates should be given to residents so that they know that the board is working on a plan that includes whether the association can and should open. Any update should include a disclaimer that the board is receiving new information on a weekly, if not daily, basis, and therefore it reserves the right to make changes as new information comes in. Boards should consult with legal counsel and insurance providers on any plan they create before it is implemented.
Continue to consult the following websites for further information during this crisis:
- The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
- The CDC Coronavirus Resource Page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- The Florida Department of Health 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response (COVID-19): https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/
As always, call (941)203-6075 or email me with any questions. My best wishes to you and your communities. Stay safe!