Andrew I. Bart in COVID-19 on June 23, 2020
New York City has just entered Phase Two of the state’s reopening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-op and condo boards need to be aware of the Phase Two safety guidelines because they affect on-site management offices, employee break rooms, doctor’s offices and apartment showings. All of the state’s guidelines are divided into two categories: mandatory and recommended best practices. The guidelines for the real estate industry and workplaces are similar, with minor differences.
Physical Distancing. The total number of occupants in a particular area at any given time must be no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy set by the certificate of occupancy. At least six feet of distance should be maintained between people and, if people come closer than that distance, face coverings must be worn. Interpersonal contact should be limited by adjusting workplace hours, staggering arrival/departure times, and limiting in-person presence to necessary staff.
Further, adequate social distancing has to be maintained in small areas such as restrooms and break rooms. The state recommends signage or other techniques to help restrict occupancy in such areas. As for recommended best practices, they include the erection of physical barriers, such as Plexiglas shields at front desks to protect doormen from contact with guests and delivery personnel.
Personal Protective Equipment. The guidelines mandate that workers must be provided with face covering at no-cost and that an employer must have an adequate supply on hand in case of replacement. Employers must also train workers on how to don, doff, clean and disinfect protective equipment and advise workers and visitors to wear face coverings in common areas such as elevators and lobbies. Workers should also be required to wear gloves when in contact with shared objects or surfaces, or they should be required to perform hand hygiene before and after such contact. Acceptable face coverings include those of cloth or bandanas, surgical masks and face shields.
Hygiene and Disinfection. Mandatory guidelines include providing hand hygiene stations in the workplace, including handwashing with soap, disposable paper towels, and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol for areas where handwashing is not feasible. Rigorous cleaning and disinfection must occur daily or after each shift. Shared food and beverages should be prohibited.
Screening. The state mandates that employees who are sick stay home and that those who screen positive for COVID-19 should not be allowed to enter the building and should be sent home. Health screening practices are also mandatory, including a temperature check or questionnaire for employees reporting for work. Sample questions: Have you experienced COVID-19 systems or tested positive for the disease in the past 14 days? Have you had close contact with someone who tested positive in the past 14 days?
Residential Property Showings. Only unoccupied or vacant properties can be shown to prospective buyers, and all individuals visiting a property, including brokers, must wear a face covering at all times. Showings should be staggered to avoid the congregation of people outside the property, and the state recommends that buyers should complete a questionnaire similar to the employee questionnaire before entering the property.
Showings of common building amenities such as pools, roof decks and gyms should be limited. Prospective buyers should be advised not to touch surfaces when visiting the property and should not bring children to a showing. All high-touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected after every showing. Finally, remote walkthroughs via video are encouraged.
Andrew I. Bart is an attorney at Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler Nahins & Goidel. He specializes in real-estate litigation and employment law.
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