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VOLUME IVSharing Is Caring, But Maybe Not During COVID-19Tackling Shared Amenities for Multi-UnitsBy Melanie GreenDue to the pandemic, landlords of multi-unit properties must carefully navigate how to manage shared amenities, such as swimming pools, gyms and lobbies, to reduce viral transmission to residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), multi-family housing has the potential to increase coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure risk. Fortunately, there are CDC-recommended strategies to help landlords foster safety throughout shared spaces.Stock Relevant Supplies and Hygiene ProductsKeeping disposable masks and hand sanitizer available in shared spaces can increase the likelihood that residents will take CDC-recommended precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are display units that combine precaution signs, large hand sanitizer bottles with pumps and disposable mask organizers. Keeping these posted in lobby areas and near mailboxes can make it more convenient for residents to access these supplies when they enter shared spaces and reduce the overall risk of transmission.Display Appropriate SignsThe CDC recommends that landlords and property managers develop a plan that considers the unique need of the residents living on the property and the specific shared spaces available. One of the steps that all landlords can take is to display appropriate signs to remind residents of the rules of shared spaces. This includes signage that promotes social distancing and mask wearing, especially when in indoor amenities such as gyms and swimming pools.
Ensure There’s Enough VentilationVentilation in indoor spaces is an important aspect of reducing the transmission of viruses. This can be as simple as opening windows, installing fans to circulate fresh air into the room and improving air filtration as much as possible. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan or filtration system can be purchased and plugged into the average wall outlet. Doing so helps to provide cleaner air in higher-risk common spaces.Clean Spaces RegularlyIncreasing the frequency of cleaning services can help to keep residents safe when using shared amenities. According to the World Health Organization, proper disinfection processes are key to reducing COVID-19 contamination in shared settings. Any high–touch surfaces should be prioritized, such as lobby door handles, washer and dryer handles in laundry facilities, and elevator buttons. Prioritize Outdoor ActivitiesFor landlords, condo boards, and property managers that plan or offer social activities, prioritize outdoor venues whenever possible. Some residents can feel completely isolated due to social distancing requirements; outdoorsy events may help with bonding residents, as well as an opportunity to inquire about building concerns. For example, hosting an association meeting in an outdoor pavilion or picnic space is safer than the indoor recreation center.
Close or Limit Access to Indoor Recreational SpacesIn high transmission cities, some landlords may opt to close certain shared indoor spaces or to limit access. The CDC also recommends limiting access inside spaces to a certain number of people at a time. Allowing a certain number of residents to use the amenity at once reduces transmission risk while making it possible for residents to enjoy it during the pandemic.Landlords and association boards may want to limit or close hot tub and swimming pool access altogether, unless the facilities are being used for essential activities such as water therapy. Maintenance staff, residents and visitors should not wear masks in the water, and goggles and scuba masks are no substitute for standard masks used to protect against COVID-19.
However, lane lines can be used to maintain proper social distancing in the water, along with rearranging tables and chairs near the pool area for those who want to safely lounge.As with swimming pools, the possibility of virus transmission has made shared gym equipment riskier. Other than social distancing, disinfecting equipment and making sure not to share towels, residents will just have to be precautious.Although all of the tips above (i.e., mask wearing, social distancing, meticulous cleaning and ventilation) may help reduce the spread of COVID-19, there is nothing that can be done to completely remove the residential risks. However, by educating residents about safety precautions and making strategic decisions for shared spaces, this is at least a step in the right direction.