HOAs are now implementing measures that will lessen or prevent the transmission of the coronavirus in their communities. One common question that many HOA boards face is whether to close community pools during COVID-19. Before you decide, here are important things to consider.
Community Pools During COVID-19: Should You Close Them or Not?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread through the use of recreational waters — such as swimming pools in HOA communities.
Chlorine, bromine, and other chemicals used to clean and disinfect pools can deactivate the coronavirus. This means that you are not likely to catch the coronavirus from swimming in the community pool.
However, outside the water, there is still a chance that you could catch the coronavirus from other people or to a lesser extent, from touching surfaces in the community pool area. As a result, many HOAs decided to close community pools during the start of the coronavirus pandemic as a precautionary measure.
As communities are starting to reopen, the CDC has released a new set of guidelines for public aquatic venues, which can be useful for HOA board members during COVID-19. Combined with social distancing and healthy hygiene practices, these guidelines can significantly reduce the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in your community pool area.
Important Guidelines for Keeping Community Pools Open During Coronavirus
If you’re planning to open community pools during COVID-19, HOAs must implement safety measures that will protect their community members.
Here are important guidelines to consider:
1. Following Social Distancing Rules
It will be hard for homeowners to follow social distancing rules if your community pool area is crowded. The HOA can encourage social distancing by limiting the number of people who can access the swimming pool at any given time. You can set up an online reservation system or a sign-up sheet for specific time blocks so that all homeowners have a chance to use the community pool. It would also be best to have someone patrol the area so that everyone follows the social distancing rules.
2. Adjust Pool Furniture
Another way to encourage social distancing is to make sure that the lounge chairs, picnic tables, and other furniture in your community pool area are six to 10 feet apart.
3. Use Cloth Face Coverings
The CDC does not recommend wearing cloth face masks while in the water. However, when outside the swimming pool, guests should wear their face masks to reduce the potential risk of coronavirus transmission. Wearing of face masks must be strictly enforced if it is difficult to maintain social distancing in your community pool area.
4. Install Sanitation Stations
Install sanitation stations near high-touch areas such as the light switches, door handles, and elevator buttons. Make sure that the restrooms and shower areas have an adequate supply of hand soap and paper towels. The HOA can also place hand sanitizers (with at least 60% alcohol) and disinfectant wipes in different areas around the swimming pool so that guests can easily clean and disinfect their surroundings.
5. Place Signs and Visual Cues that Promote Safe Behaviors
HOAs should place signs in the swimming pool area to remind homeowners to practice safe behaviors. You can have a list of rules outside so that everyone can read them before entering the swimming pool. If you have a PA system, the HOA can make regular announcements over the air. In high-traffic areas such as the shower room, place visual cues to encourage social distancing. You can place protection tape on the floor to keep homeowners at a safe distance while waiting for their turn.
6. Clean and Disinfect the Community Pool Area
The community pool area should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, but due to the coronavirus, pool maintenance must be done more frequently and thoroughly. Contact your maintenance company to ensure they are using EPA- approved products for cleaning and disinfecting your community pool area.
Make sure to target high-touch surfaces such as handrails, door handles, tabletops, lounge chairs, handwashing stations, diaper-changing stations, and showers. Cleaning and disinfecting the pool area should be done daily at the very least. If you have shared items such as kickboards and pool noodles, they should be cleaned in between each use.
7. Educate Community Members About COVID-19 Guidelines
HOA board members must work together with the homeowners during these uncertain times. By educating them about the community’s COVID-19 guidelines, you will be able to make common areas such as the swimming pool safer for everyone. Remind them to stay at home if they are feeling sick, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or belong to a high-risk group.
Can HOA Board Members Get Into Trouble for Opening Community Pools During COVID-19?
HOA board members should consult their governing documents before deciding to open or close community pools during COVID-19. Your governing documents will have provisions on how to handle emergencies or crises. In such cases, the board may be granted emergency powers. They can enact certain policies such as closing community pools and other communal areas.
If the HOA is planning to reopen community pools, board members should first consult HOA management and local health officials. The HOA management company can help board members with creating and enforcing safety guidelines for the community. Meanwhile, local health officials can give the go signal whether it is safe to reopen community pools. This step is important if your HOA is in an area with a high number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
If the HOA board makes an informed decision — one that prioritizes the safety of the community — they should not get into trouble for opening the community pool area during COVID-19. If you need further guidance, consult an HOA attorney to ensure the community’s safety guidelines are compliant with the law.
Regardless of your decision, make sure to communicate with your homeowners. The coronavirus pandemic has put us all in uncharted waters so the simple act of talking to residents can help. If homeowners want the pool open, make sure they understand their personal responsibility in ensuring their health during this pandemic.
What to Do With Community Pools During COVID-19
Ultimately, the decision to keep community pools open or closed during COVID-19 is up to you. What’s important is that HOA boards educate themselves about this issue. They should consider all possible scenarios, and then make a decision based on their resources and capabilities.
Each community member is responsible for his/her own health. But, that doesn’t mean that HOAs cannot implement measures that will protect their community during COVID-19.
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