Thought Leadership

COVID-19, Chapter 3: Re-opening Amenities of an Association

On June 5, 2020, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-74, which outlined parameters regarding the gradual re-opening of various facilities, including pools and fitness centers. This post updates my prior post on the topic.

Under Order 20-74, all pools and fitness centers may open, but only in accordance with the guidance outlined on the Stay Safe Minnesota website (https://staysafe.mn.gov). Although the Order refers to “public” pools, the Order also applies to pools operated by homeowners associations and condominium associations.

OPENING AND OPERATING POOLS DURING A PANDEMIC

Effective June 10, 2020, all pools may open at 50% capacity; re-opening is certainly not required. All swimming pools must have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in place before opening.

As associations begin re-opening pools, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends that associations take certain actions and precautions to avoid transmission of the virus during pool use.

Plan for Reduced Capacity

  • Ensure that capacity allows for proper social distancing on the pool deck in the event of a fecal incident or other life-safety situation where bathers may need to exit the pool and remain on the pool deck or evacuate to another location.
  • Establish a schedule with time slots for various activities, and allow sign-ups online and/or by phone.
  • Consider assigning separate entries and exits, and manage the flow of users to move in one direction.
  • Consider staggering entry of users and establish time limits to maximize the number of users while maintaining capacity limits.
  • Establish safe places for users to wait for entry.
  • Consider limiting or suspending use by guests.
    • Allows use by more residents.
    • Allows for more effective and focused contact tracing in the event of a transmission of the virus.
  • Install sanitizing stations at the entrance to the facility and at key locations throughout the facility where residents are likely to contact shared equipment. If hand sanitizer is provided, ensure it contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Enforce the requirements for user sanitation and safety, including showering, as stated in Minnesota Rule 4717.1650: User Sanitation and Safety (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/4717.1650/).
  • Do not allow users to congregate while waiting for access. Consider using floor markings, outdoor distancing, or other techniques to maintain adequate separation.

Modifications for Pool Decks and Pool Operations

  • Consider removing some of the pool deck furniture to allow for appropriate social distancing, and mark the location of furniture better ensure the socially-distanced furniture remains where placed.
  • Continue to encourage everyone to wear masks on the pool deck.
  • Ensure adequate staffing to accommodate modifications to the operation, including altered hours of operation and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Train all staff on new procedures and expectations.
  • Each facility must have a designated person on site to ensure that guidelines and regulations are followed. A facility may appoint an attendant or other staff member to perform these duties, as long as the facility is otherwise properly staffed. A lifeguard while on lifeguard duty may not perform duties of the attendant or be given additional duties that distract from the responsibilities of lifeguarding.
  • If there is more than one employee working at any given time, plan employee schedules so that the same employees work together when practical. Try to avoid having embers of one team of employees work with another team.  Scheduling in teams can help to reduce exposures within the staff.
  • For pools without lifeguards, make a plan to determine how mandated capacity limits and access will be monitored. Options may include using a screener at the pool entrance, or using a video monitoring system.
  • Encourage the screener to note the name and phone number (or on-site address) of each user to assist in contact tracing in the event of a transmission of the virus.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Establish a cleaning protocol that includes:
    • Defined times of day when cleaning and disinfection will occur (examples include before opening, between shifts, after closing).
    • Defined areas and equipment that need to be cleaned (for example: frequently touched surfaces such as ladders and hand rails, diving equipment, tables, doorknobs, switches, deck furniture, drinking fountains, emergency phones, toilets, faucets, sinks).
  • Do not allow chemicals used to that are used to clean the decks, furniture, or other equipment to enter the pool water.

Be sure to notify residents in advance of new expectations, the plan for compliance and what restrictions will be imposed. Remind them of the need for all residents to cooperate with the plan and its restrictions in order to keep the pool open.

EXERCISE/FITNESS FACILITIES
  • Arrange for more frequent cleaning/disinfecting all high-touch items, such as doorknobs, countertops, barriers, railings, handles, and other surfaces.
  • Implement schedule for more frequent cleaning/disinfection of equipment by the association.
  • Require users to make an appointment.
    • Allows better social distancing.
    • Allows for cleaning/disinfecting between uses.
    • Allows for more effective and focused contact tracing in the event of a transmission of the virus.
  • Remove some equipment.
    • Capacity of facility is limited to 25%.
    • Social distancing must be observed.
    • Greater social distancing should be implemented for treadmills and other equipment that encourages high exertion (and therefore higher respiration rates).
    • If equipment cannot be moved, block it from being used.
  • Strongly encourage users to wear masks (which admittedly is difficult while working out).
  • Remind users to thoroughly wipe down equipment after use.

As is the case with pools, be sure to notify residents in advance of new expectations, the plan for compliance and what restrictions will be imposed. Remind them of the need for all residents to cooperate with the plan and its restrictions in order to keep the fitness facilities open.

Many associations have inquired about requiring users to sign liability waivers or “acceptance of risk” forms to prevent users from being able to sue the association if the user contracts COVID-19. Bear in mind that the likelihood that a user could show that he or she contracted the virus while using association amenities is very low. Furthermore, while some insurance providers initially advised that there would be no coverage for such claims, some insurers have now advised that such claims would likely be covered under an association’s directors’ and officers’ liability coverage (not under the association’s property damage coverage). Associations should check with their insurer to verify the extent of their insurance coverage. Finally, simply because someone signs a waiver does not mean he or she will not sue; the waiver may provide one defense to liability. Associations may be better served by the posting signage, providing copies of use guidelines to all residents, and posting a copy of the guidelines at the pool and fitness facility.

NOTE: Because of the fluid nature of the restrictions related to COVID-19, this information is current as of June 16, 2020. Conditions and restrictions may have changed since that date.

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Nancy T. Polomis
Phone: 952-746-2105
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