We are all well into the quarantine life the Novel Coronavirus has pushed onto us and are getting used to the “new normal” of the rules we have to live by. As we move into a new phase that includes loosening of some restrictions, many apartment communities may wonder how to reintroduce communal spaces to their residents.
Below we have 5 tips for community managers to help their residents continue to practice social distancing in their apartment properties.
1. Disinfect Shared Spaces Daily and Provide Hand Sanitizer
Many apartment communities closed all their non-essential common spaces when the social distancing rules went into place. These places included the main office, business center, fitness facilities, and dog parks. Now that the rules are starting to loosen, allowing restaurants and movie theaters to open, residents may be ready for their common spaces to open too.
First and foremost, a daily protocol of disinfectant by the maintenance staff will need to take place before these spaces can be opened. In addition, hand sanitizer must be provided at entrances for residents to use as they enter and exit. Even with sanitation efforts, spaces will need to be restricted to around 25% capacity. This means additional staff will need to be employed to count residents as they enter and exit.
2. Pools and Gyms
It may be safe to re-open the gym and pools at 25% capacity and with a sign in and sign out sheet. You may need to close every hour for sanitation. The most important aspect of reopening large spaces is being able to contact trace if someone tests positive for the virus. A sign in/sign out sheet will enable the community to not only control how many residents are in the space, but also which residents used the space that day. Closing the gym and pool every hour for a 15 min sanitation, wiping down equipment and chairs, will also ensure that germs do not spread.
3. Non-Emergency Maintenance Requests
Most communities shut down any maintenance requests that weren’t emergencies when the quarantine rules went into place. Communities may be considering accepting non-emergency maintenance requests as the restrictions loosen. It is important to make sure that there is no contact between the resident and the maintenance person when they visit the unit. Requiring the resident and the maintenance person to wear a mask when inside the unit is also essential. Rules that were put into place with emergency requests should be upheld in all future requests.
4. Laundry Room Appointments with Assigned Machines
The laundry room may have been considered an essential area for your community. If it wasn’t, there are helpful things you can do to safely reopen it. An online sign up system with time blocks and assigned machines will help in contact tracing and sanitation. Sanitizing the machines each time they are used is essential in stopping the spread of germs. Providing hand sanitizer at the entrance and requiring masks will also help keep your residents and staff safe.
Perhaps the most important aspect of reopening common spaces is communication with your residents. Even if you are not comfortable reopening, you can explain that to your residents so they don’t suffer frustration as they wonder what’s happening in their community. Make sure every resident has access to the messages you are sending out. This could mean putting a flyer on each door with a link to sign up for email or text message communications, or also providing paper bulletins on community boards for residents that don’t have phone or internet service.
While we are not in the all clear yet, life is starting to get back to “normal” as we go into May of 2020. Things might never be the way they were, but battling germs will always be something that community managers should consider for their residents. Some practices implemented now may be lasting moves to provide a safer and more enjoyable apartment community.