Blog

Latest COVID Update 5/13/20

Updates: Swimming Pools, Gyms, the End of Arizona's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected Order,” and Thoughts on Handling Other Facilities and Amenities
MHCA Coronavirus Update
Updates: Swimming Pools, Gyms, the End of Arizona's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected Order,” and Thoughts on Handling Other Facilities and Amenities
 
By: Melissa A. Parham, MHCA Attorney
 
The information provided in this document does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.  Instead, all information herein is for general informational purposes only. Information in this document may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers should contact their own attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. This document does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the authors of this document.
 
MHCA is aware that Coronavirus is having a significant impact on MHCA's members, including on their health, their finances, and their operations.  As always, MHCA will do its best to keep its members updated with everything it knows.
 
Update on Arizona Governor's May 12, 2020 News Conference, Executive Order, and new Guidance for Pools and Gyms.  On May 12, 2020, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey held a press conference at which he announced Arizona's “next phase of recovery.”  Governor Ducey announced that the Stay at Home Order will be allowed to expire on May 15, 2020, and will be replaced by a new “Guidance for Economic Recovery,” which will “prioritize health and physical distancing.” 
 
Swimming Pool and Gyms.  During that news conference, Governor Ducey announced that swimming pools and gyms will be permitted to reopen for business on May 13, 2020 with “physical distancing and enhanced sanitation.”  The Governor's Office has issued specific Guidance for Pools that you can review here: https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/guidance_for_pools.pdf and Guidance for Gyms, which you can review here: https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/guidance_for_gyms_fitness_providers.pdf.
 
The “Guidance for Pools” states, among other recommendations, that pool users should:
  • Stay home if sick;
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other patrons;
  • Avoid visiting pools if at high risk for illness, including adults 65+ and those with serious underlying medical conditions;
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth;
  • Use hand sanitizer after leaving the pool and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds upon returning home.
The “Guidance for Pools” also contains lengthy guidance for businesses to follow, including but not limited to:
  • Properly operating and maintaining pools (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine);
  • Posting signs at pool entrances stating that if users feel sick they should go home;
  • Maintaining physical distancing “to the extent possible”;
  • Providing additional space between chairs at community pools to allow for appropriate physical distancing;
  • Providing access to soap and water for handwashing or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at stations around the pool for use by employees and patrons, and requiring employees to regularly wash hands for at least 20 seconds;
  • Operating with reduced occupancy and capacity based on the size of the pool and pool lounge area;
  • Implementing “comprehensive sanitation protocols,” including “sanitizing pool chairs, tables, and other poolside furniture after every use”;
  • Implementing symptom screening for employees at the start of their shifts;
  • Considering providing and requiring non-medical grade face coverings to employees to wear;
    • The Guidance notes, however, that the use of masks should be avoided by those swimming as a wet mask can inhibit breathing;
  • Considering not providing pool floats and toys;
  • Disinfecting the pool lift between each use;
  • Considering “posting signs advising customers and employees of expectations and guidance”;
  • Training all employees regarding the above safety actions;
  • Considering requiring pool users to bring their own towels (if this is not possible, guidance is set forth regarding how to deal with towels).
For gyms, the “Guidance for Gyms and Fitness Providers” has similar recommendations for gym users, including but not limited to the following:
  • Stay home if sick;
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other patrons;
  • Stay at home if higher risk for severe illness, including but not limited to people 65 and older and those who have serious underlying medical conditions;
  • Not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth;
  • Using hand sanitizer after leaving the gym and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds upon returning home.
For gym businesses/providers, the guidance's recommendations include but are not limited to the following:
  • Maintaining physical distancing “to the extent possible”;
  • Providing and requiring employees to wear masks “when possible”;
  • Providing access to soap and water for handwashing or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at stations around the gym for use by employees and clients, and requiring employees to regularly wash hands for at least 20 seconds;
  • Operating at “reduced occupancy and capacity” based on the “size of the business location with special attention to limiting areas where customers and employees can congregate”;
  • Wiping any pens, counters, or hard surfaces between uses;
  • Implementing “comprehensive sanitation protocols, including sanitizing gym equipment before and after every use”;
  • Providing disposable disinfectant wipes, cleaner, or spray so patrons can wipe down frequently touched surfaces or gym equipment;
  • Implementing symptom screening for employees before the start of their shift;
  • Considering offering cloth face masks for employees to wear;
  • Arranging any waiting areas and the like to provide for “appropriate physical distancing” and sanitizing areas regularly between use;
  • Considering posting signs advising customers and employees of expectations and guidance;
  • Training all employees in the all of these actions;
  • Limiting any fitness class sizes “to allow for appropriate physical distancing”;
  • Arranging equipment so that appropriate physical distancing can be adhered to;
  • Ensuring adequate equipment for patrons to minimize sharing to the extent possible, or limiting use of equipment by one user at a time and cleaning and disinfecting between uses;
  • Considering limiting gym hours to allow for proper sanitation;
  • Implementing enhanced sanitation of any locker room areas;
  • Requiring patrons to clean out lockers nightly to facilitate overnight deep cleaning;
  • Considering requiring guests to provide their own towels if possible.
 
With these Guidance documents issued, manufactured housing communities would be wise to spend at least a few days planning and determining how these suggestions may be implemented and ensuring that warning signage is obtained, sufficient disinfectant wipes and sprays known to kill COVID-19 are obtained, hand sanitizing stations are set up, hand washing stations (if available) are stocked with soap, gym equipment is spread out in accordance with the guidance, pool furniture is spread out in accordance with the guidance, and protocols are in place to limit use of the pool and gym to avoid the congregation of groups of more than 10 people.  Not only should signage displayed by communities advise pool, gym, and other facility users that if they feel sick they must return home, but communities should consider signage stating “USE AT YOUR OWN RISK” at every facility that will be opened.  Communities might also consider posting guidance from the CDC and Arizona Department of Health Services regarding COVID-19 around the community so that residents are made aware of the risks.  And, Communities might consider asking residents using any facility to sign a waiver form that warns them of risks related to COVID-19.  Any waiver must be carefully and narrowly drafted to avoid violating the Arizona Mobile Home Parks Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.  If staff is available, communities might consider asking residents to sign a form affirming that they are symptom-free before being permitted to use any facility (though, as we know, carriers of COVID-19 can be asymptomatic).
 
New Executive Order.  In addition to the aforementioned Guidance documents for pools and gyms, the Governor issued a new executive order, which is available here:  https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/executive_order_2020-36_return_stronger.pdf.  This executive order provides guidance for any business and facility, and would apply to other community amenities, like the clubhouse, leasing office, library, and so forth.  Among other recommendations, it states that all persons, when in public areas, should “maximize physical distance from others.”  It further advises that “social settings where appropriate physical distancing is not practical should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed and CDC guidelines are followed.”
 
The executive order recommends that all businesses develop, establish, and implement policies based on CDC, Department of Labor, OSHA, and Arizona Department of Health Services guidance to “limit and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” including:
  • Promoting healthy hygiene practices;
  • Intensifying cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation practices;
  • Monitoring for sickness;
  • Ensuring physical distancing;
  • Providing necessary protective equipment;
  • Allowing for and encouraging teleworking where feasible (for employees);
  • Providing plans, where possible, for employees to return to work in phases;
  • Limiting congregation of groups of no more than 10 persons when feasible and in relation to the size of the location.
Notably, the Governor also issued guidance for places of worship, which discussed spacing furniture at gatherings to ensure that there are at least 6 feet between each group that lives together, and between individuals who do not live together.  Such guidance is useful in providing direction to communities with clubhouses and other areas of congregation for how to situate furniture and implement resuming activities or allowing meetings and gatherings.  With regard to the clubhouse, communities might consider:
  • Requiring residents wishing to reserve a facility for a gathering to affirm in writing that the gathering will be attended by not more than 10 residents;
  • Requiring furniture to be spaced such that individuals who do not live together can be at least 6 feet apart;
  • Encouraging the wearing of cloth masks;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the facility, including all furniture used, with disinfectants known to kill COVID-19 before and after any gathering;
  • Posting signage that the facility is used at the residents' own risk and considering requiring waiver forms to be signed before any resident may use any facility;
  • Ensuring that hand sanitizing stations are available for use before entering the facility and upon exiting the facility.
Ultimately, to attempt to avoid liability and to keep residents as safe as possible under the circumstances, communities should carefully plan the re-opening of their facilities and ensure that they have the equipment, signage, waiver forms, furniture set-up, disinfectants and hand sanitizers, wipes, and other items needed before the facilities actually open.  It would be wise to spend the next few days or even a week or two planning to re-open as safely as possible, and notifying residents of the community's plans so that they do not become restless or resentful.
 
Communities must also consider employee safety—if possible, they may wish to supply managers and other employees with cloth masks to wear if they so desire, along with hand sanitizer and plenty of soap and disinfecting wipes.  Communities that have established contactless offices may wish to keep those protocols in place for employee safety. 
 
As always, MHCA will continue to keep its members updated as soon as it learns anything further. 

Contributors

    Contributors