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No Cause for Alarm: Why Boards Shouldn't Panic over Ebola

New York City, Manhattan

Oct. 30, 2014

Staying Informed

The first thing concerned board members should do is to inform themselves of the disease and its transmission. People are not contagious until they develop symptoms, and even then, you would have to have direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids to be put at risk. Ebola is not airborne.

CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez explained that Spencer "would have had to bleed or vomit to have any chance of spreading the virus — and then someone would have had to touch the bodily fluid and rub it into an open sore or his or her eyes, nose or mouth."

Boards should also consider passing along to its residents the facts about Ebola. They should also let everyone know if someone in the building is in self-quarantine. Stuart Saft, partner at Holland & Knight, agrees. "Boards should contact unit-owners to let them know [that someone in the building is self-quarantining], and they should contact their insurance carrier, just in case a claim is made later." 

Risk Versus Perceived Risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined four risk groups, from high to low. People in the highest risk category are asked to avoid mass transit and large groups, but as long as they are not displaying any of the symptoms, they can leave their apartments.

Boards are going to have to determine what self-quarantine entails. Can someone in self-quarantine leave the apartment to get the mail? Is the elevator off limits? How will the quarantined person take out the garbage? Just because a person is quarantined doesn't mean that person is sick or contagious — but that doesn't mean other residents won’t perceive that person as a risk.

Alex Kuffel from Pride Property Management points out that many buildings simply aren't designed for self-quarantine. If a person who is quarantined in an apartment is to stay inside for a 21-day period (the disease's longest possible incubation period), what happens if an emergency, such as fire, requires that person to evacuate? This is the type of question that many in the management community are currently addressing as they determine how to guide their boards on this issue.

Worst-Case Scenarios

Of course, if a person in quarantine begins to develop symptoms, he or she must immediately notify public health officials and seek immediate medical care. At that point, everyone defers to health officials charged with properly disposing of potentially contaminated materials in the affected apartment.


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