As we enter another week of social distancing during unprecedented times, we know that many condominium Boards, Managers and residents are foremost concerned about the health of their families and communities. In this blog, we hope to provide some guidance to Boards and Managers on how to handle positive cases of COVID-19 in their condominium buildings.
Can a condominium corporation gain information about residents who have tested positive, while still respecting privacy?
This is of course an important consideration for many condominium corporations as they potentially receive news of positive COVID-19 cases within their buildings.
In our view, it’s absolutely proper for condominium corporations to receive, and even request, this information; and hopefully most, if not all, residents will agree and will cooperate. The corporation could then use the information to enhance safety in the building. At the same time, it’s our view that the corporation must keep this information private or confidential, unless the resident in question agrees to the disclosure.
So, in other words, while positive COVID-19 cases can be shared with other residents, this should only be done where the resident (who has tested positive) agrees.
Note as well that residents cannot in our view be forced to advise their condominium corporations if they have tested positive. However, they can certainly be asked to provide this information so that the corporation can use this information to maintain safety and hopefully prevent or slow the transmission of the virus within the building (and more generally in the society at large).
Rather than forcing individuals to come forward with this information, we feel it is a matter of appealing to the residents, asking for their cooperation and participation for the benefit of the greater community.
Should residents who are ill/have tested positive for COVID-19 be allowed to travel on the common elements?
In our view, the condominium corporation can certainly ask that anyone who tests positive should minimize their presence on the common elements (this means they should only be on the common elements when absolutely necessary to travel to and from their unit for essential purposes). These residents may also be instructed not to attend at the concierge or security desks in person and instead to communicate with any staff or representative of the condominium corporation electronically. Ultimately, such residents should be asked to self-isolate to the maximum extent possible until they have fully recovered as confirmed by an attending physician.
Furthermore, while necessarily on the common elements, such residents (and really ALL residents) should do what they can to minimize touching of any surfaces. It would also be helpful if these residents could let the condominium corporation know when they intend to enter the common elements so that the corporation has an opportunity to arrange for extra cleaning/sanitizing of surfaces the resident may have touched. The resident should be asked to follow all Public Health protocols for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, for example, if they are required to wear a face mask when necessarily outside their unit.
How should condominium corporations balance the kindness of residents with the need for social distance?
During a time like this, there will undoubtedly be certain kind residents who are willing to go out of their way to help individuals in self-isolation or who otherwise require assistance.
In our view, it is again a question of education and persuasion. It may be helpful for the condominium corporation to consider developing a “Guideline” or “Set of Instructions” for how residents within the building should interact with one another. Such a Guideline might include statements such as:
We can certainly help one another (and we fully support this!), but we must be careful how we go about it.
Social distancing is essential. Except in special circumstances, we must keep at least six feet away from one another.
We must not be touching one another – shaking hands, hugging, etc. has to stop for the time being.
Wherever possible, we must be communicating with one another electronically – by email, by phone, by text, by Facetime, by Skype, by Zoom, by electronic chat, etc.
Every time we are about to enter the common elements, we need to thoroughly wash our hands and also use one of our hand sanitizers in the building.
Every time we return to our units, we need to thoroughly wash our hands.
We must all do our best not to touch any surfaces while we travel through the common elements.
Any arriving parcels or packages need to be wiped down (with sanitary / alcohol wipes).
Any parcels or packages that we buy or pick up need to be wiped down (with sanitary / alcohol wipes).
Some condominiums may consider a “support network” – a Committee – to help any residents who are feeling the need for connection or who otherwise need assistance. In our view, a Committee of that sort could play a tremendously supportive role for residents in the condominium, all with the backing of the condominium corporation. Again, the key will be to educate and equip the members of the Committee so that they know how to maintain social distancing and they know how to maintain safety as they go about connecting with and assisting the residents in the building who need their help. In some cases, these Committees could also play a role in relation to deliveries of packages and parcels (more on this in a coming blog).
These Committee members could have their own set of Guidelines dealing with:
Frequent hand washing (before and after each connection in the building).
Frequent use of hand sanitizer.
Perhaps wearing of disposable gloves or other protective devices.
Social distancing. Particularly no touching!
Sanitizing (with wipes) as appropriate (packages, parcels, any surfaces that are touched, etc.).
These sorts of “Support Networks” or “Helping Committees” could ultimately be the persons in the building who “especially understand what to do to maintain safety” as they help those who need help in the building.
We will be posting more COVID-19 FAQ blogs in the coming days as we continue to receive more questions.
In the meantime, check out our previous blog post about the recent Ottawa Public Health Advisories.
Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in condominium law!