One of the most common homeowners association problems this pandemic is whether or not to reopen amenities — specifically gyms. But, maintaining gyms in an HOA during these trying times can be tricky without proper preparation.
Should You Open Gyms in an HOA During COVID-19?
That’s the million-dollar question, for which nobody has a definitive answer. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, unfortunately, as the situation can differ depending on your exact location. When considering whether to reopen gyms in an HOA, make sure to take everything into consideration.
Above everything else, you must check your state and local rules and regulations concerning COVID-19. The rules may vary from place to place, so you might not even be able to reopen your HOA or condo gym even if you wanted to. There may also be certain rules pertaining to how you can use a given facility.
When referring to state and local regulations, you might not find any that specifically singles out HOA or condo amenities. Instead, look for ones aimed at public facilities.
With COVID-19 cases still on the rise as of writing, it’s important for HOAs to consider the health and safety of their residents and employees. If your area has a high case count, it might be better to delay reopening or reopen HOA amenities in phases.
You should also look at this decision from a financial perspective. Reopening gyms will entail additional costs, such as cleaning costs, protective equipment, sanitizing stations, and the like. Your HOA’s ability — or inability — to cover these expenses can influence your choice.
Strategies for Maintaining and Operating HOA Gyms
If your association does decide to reopen your gym, it’s wise to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consider adopting the strategies below.
1. Create a Health and Safety Plan
Your HOA board should write down a health and safety plan that matches your local regulations. This plan should include the following:
- How many residents can use the gym
- Any HOA rules and restrictions for the gym
- The person/s in charge of enforcing the rules and restrictions
- Cleaning and disinfecting schedules
Additionally, your plan should detail what series of actions you will take if a resident who used the gym tests positive for COVID-19. You may also want to conduct routine health checks of the gym, either in-person or virtually.
Once you come up with a plan, make sure to have an attorney review it before distribution. This way, you can save the association from the risk of liability. Then, communicate the plan with all residents using various methods so they can stay updated.
2. Require Masks
Many states are now requiring citizens to wear masks in public places. That includes gyms in an HOA.
Given that the coronavirus can spread through droplets, masks can help limit transmission. Though, the World Health Organization doesn’t recommend wearing masks while during “vigorous physical activity” as it can inhibit your breathing. As such, consider requiring the wearing of masks when people in the gym interact with each other.
3. Allow Space for Social Distancing
Since wearing masks while exercising can impede breathing capacity, HOAs should make sure to allow for enough space between equipment for social distancing.
Proper measures for social distancing require at least 6 feet in between people, so consider moving equipment around in a way that encourages that. Alternatively, you can disable every other gym equipment.
4. Ensure Proper Ventilation
Proper ventilation plays a key role in the mitigation of COVID-19. Consider adjusting ventilation to increase the amount of fresh air in the room. At the same time, try to keep the level of humidity at 40 to 60 percent.
You may also want to open the doors and windows to improve air circulation. Additionally, if at all possible, improve your HVAC system’s filtering efficiency or invest in a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration unit.
Outdoor activities are also preferred over indoor activities because of the open air space. If your HOA or condo gym can manage it, consider moving any indoor activities outdoors. If you live in a colder area, though, this may not be advisable.
5. Install Handwashing or Sanitizing Stations
Associations should urge residents to limit physical contact and adopt proper hygiene. Frequent handwashing or sanitizing can greatly reduce the risk of transmission.
To encourage this type of behavior, consider installing handwashing or sanitizing stations around your gym. Sanitizers should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
Since faucets or sanitizer pumps are high-touch points, try to use touch-free stations instead. Additionally, restrooms and shower areas should have a sufficient supply of soap and drying materials.
6. Disinfect Equipment After Every Use
Gym equipment and tools are high-touch objects, which means the virus can spread easily between patrons who use them one after the other.
To combat this, it’s imperative to wipe down and disinfect each gym equipment or tool after every use. This precaution might seem excessive (and costly) to some, but it’s definitely one worth taking.
Associations should use EPA-registered products, 70 percent alcohol solutions, or diluted household bleach mixtures to disinfect surfaces. For more frequently touched areas, sanitizing disposable wipes are adequate. If a surface is visibly dirty, make sure to wash it with soap and water prior to disinfecting.
7. Schedule Additional Cleaning
Homeowners associations should adopt heightened cleaning routines to maintain gyms in the time of COVID-19. Generally, gyms should be cleaned at least twice a day. Make sure to orient cleaning staff on the proper cleaning procedures and how each space should be handled. You should also provide protective equipment for them.
8. Use an Amenity Reservation System
You can’t implement social distancing when there are too many people in the room. Therefore, you should limit the number of residents allowed in the gym at any given time.
This might seem difficult to accomplish, particularly if you have a large membership. But, you can simplify the task with the help of an amenity booking system.
There are many services that offer amenity reservations or bookings online. Your HOA software or website might also come with such a feature.
If you plan to adopt this system for the first time, make sure to give your residents detailed instructions on how to use it. It’s also a good idea to require residents to agree to your gym rules (through a tick mark) before allowing them to finalize their reservations.
It’s important to keep in mind that some cities have also imposed a maximum occupancy rate for public spaces or facilities. Once again, you should check your local regulations for guidance.
9. Monitor and Adapt
It’s critical for every HOA board to ensure smooth reopenings and operations. But, nothing is certain, and changing circumstances might force associations to close again.
The best thing boards can do now is to stay informed about local regulations and enforce safety guidelines. You must learn to adapt as the situation continues to unfold.
What to Do About HOA Gym Employees
If your HOA employs gym workers, you must ensure they follow health and safety protocols as well. Provide them with and require the use of masks at all times.
Ask employees to distance themselves from patrons, only approaching equipment and tools to disinfect them between uses.
Additionally, consider implementing a more flexible sick leave policy. Employees who feel sick should remain at home at all costs. You also might want to conduct temperature checks when employees come to work.
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they should inform you of the results immediately. The affected employee must self-isolate and seek medical care. Any other employees or patrons who came into contact with the patient should also self-quarantine.
Protect Your HOA from Liability
There are two main areas of potential liability when it comes to reopening gyms in an HOA during COVID-19. The first is the purported negligence of the association concerning the gym reopening.
Local governments and health officials have already recommended health and safety regulations. Associations must follow these regulations to protect themselves from possible legal action in case a patron contracts the disease.
The second area where potential liability may arise is an HOA’s guaranteeing of resident safety. Your association should never promise residents’ or employees’ health and safety. Doing so is a liability trap. Even if a resident follows all the rules and regulations, that still doesn’t mean they are completely safe from the virus.
To protect your HOA, make sure to inform all residents that you can’t guarantee their health and safety. Residents accept the risk of COVID-19 when they partake in gym activities. Because even if a resident practices all the recommended guidelines, there’s no stopping other residents from violating the rules.
The reopening of gyms in an HOA in the midst of a pandemic can be tricky. First, you need to decide whether it even makes sense for your association to do so. If you go through with the reopening, you must create a detailed health and safety plan as well as be ready to enforce these new rules and regulations. Moreover, you must make sure to allow room in the budget for the related additional costs.
You can save yourself the time and headaches associated with gym maintenance and management by outsourcing the task to an HOA management company. Look for management companies and other vendor services in your area using our online directory.
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