Ask yourself this: is my duty of care as a corporate director of a common interest community only to prevent the worst possible outcomes such as people dying and buildings collapsing, or is it something more? Does my duty of care extend to people who are not vaccinated? What about to help protect people who are immunocompromised? Does it extend to the general public?
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King County + Washington State
WA Secretary of Health Order 20-03.3 re: Face Coverings - June 29, 2021
COVID-19 POLICIES, PROCEDURES & STRATEGIES
- What steps should occur when you know a resident is sick?
King County has done a fantastic job of publishing easy to understand guidance for multi-famiily residential buildings. Here are some important takeaways from that publication:
It is NOT necessary to alert residents about possible cases.
If the identify of a case is known, visitors and staff should NOT enter the unit.
If you believe someone in your housing community has or may have COVID-19, DO NOT share their personal health information.
- Can you penalize failure to wear a face covering in your building?
After one of Governor Inslee's proclamations made face coverings mandatory in most circumstances within WA State, several associations started imposing fines on residents who did not appear to comply. Attorney feedback from more than one organization has stated such fines are illegal.
- Under what conditions can you operate or close your common amenities?
- To what degree are Board members and management companies responsible for the health of their residents? Can an association be successfully sued for providing an environment that allowed the transmission of an infectious disease?
COVID-19 is one of many infectious diseases that could present itself within any multi-family residential property. Few, if any, condominium associations ever considered their responsibility for infectious disease until such a high-profile global pandemic arrived. In WA State, condominium Board members owe a duty of care to their association and, to a lesser extent, also to the public at large. Management companies that represent condominium associations may have limited legal liability based on specific contract language.
Duty of care requirements are largely based on common sense and acting in good faith which often boils down to following the law and not engaging in willful misconduct. From this perspective, condominium associations and their Board members would be well advised to follow the minimum health and safety requirements published by WA State and King County Public Health.
While only an actual court case could prove the relative success of a lawsuit related to any infectious disease, feedback from insurance brokers and attorneys is essentially that proving the origin of an infectious disease would prove difficult and that while insurance policies do not cover infectious disease, insurance brokers and/or insurance companies will go to bat for their clients.
- What policies and procedures should be implemented at common interest communities?
Associations have enacted a large number of policies and procedures related to COVID-19. Some of these are implementations of WA State and/or King County Department of Health requirements and others take it to another level. Here's a list to consider:
Signage throughout properties that include reminders for COVID-19 policies and procedures
Enforcement of government mandated requirements for employees and contractors
Social Distancing with specific areas such as the concierge desk taped off to reinforce 6' distancing
Increased disinfection of high-touch surfaces and hand sanitizer stations located in common areas
Closure and/or capacity limitations for common indoor and outdoor (courtyard and rooftop) amenities
Elevator protocols limiting occupancy. Some organizations have increased elevator cab air exchange by adjusting fan speed.
Updated protocols for delivery and retrieval of packages and meals. Some of these protocols differ substantially from having delivery persons remain outside a property to direct unit door drop-off. Some policies even at the same organization differ based on grocery delivery vs. meal delivery vs. package delivery.