By the end of this week, at least 24 states will have lifted or relaxed their stay-at-home orders. Best practices for reopening nonessential businesses and operations in each state has become a trying and controversial discussion.

Community association professionals are grappling with how to provide the appropriate guidance for reopening the common areas and amenities that were closed due to COVID-19. Reopening is not an all-or-nothing tactic, and it is crucial for every community to consider government guidelines at the local, state, and federal level before relaxing the closures.

On April 16, President Donald Trump, with input from public health experts, announced Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phase approach for state and local officials to follow when lifting their stay-at-home orders and getting people back to work while continuing to protect American lives. The White House encourages state and local officials to tailor these guidelines to the circumstances their jurisdiction is facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to state and local governments proceeding with the reopening guidelines, it is recommended they satisfy the White House’s gating criteria, which includes a downward trajectory of illnesses related to COVID-19 within a 14-day period, a downward trajectory of documented cases or positive tests within a 14-day period, the ability of hospitals to treat all patients without crisis care, and the implementation of a robust testing program.

Once a state has satisfied the gating criteria, they can put into action the appropriate policies necessary to successfully achieve each of the three phases for reopening. These policies include, but are not limited to, continuing social distancing practices, limiting gatherings of 10 persons or less, and wearing masks in public.

California and Georgia have already created guidelines to satisfy the criteria needed to reopen certain businesses in the coming weeks.

California outlined six indicators the state would consider when modifying its stay-at-home order and outlined a four-stage Resilience Roadmap for businesses to use as a guide for their gradual reopening. At the end of this week, California will begin the second stage of its roadmap and slowly reopen lower-risk workplaces such as bookstores, clothing stores, florists, and sporting goods stores, with modifications and certain public health measures proposed by the state public health officer.

At the end of April, Georgia issued guidance that provides flexibility for healthcare practices and moves certain businesses, including medical practices, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, to minimum operations. In addition to following CDC guidelines, businesses in the state are being asked to screen workers who exhibit signs of illness, require workers who exhibit signs of illness to stay home, enhance sanitation of the workplace where appropriate, require hand-washing or sanitation throughout the business location, provide personal protective equipment as available, implement teleworking and staggered shifts for all possible workers, hold all meetings and conferences virtually whenever possible, and more. These measures need to be implemented to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 to members of the community.

During this time, it is critical for community associations to follow federal, state, and local guidelines when reopening portions of their property. Communication with residents is crucial. Community association boards and community managers should update residents on a daily or weekly basis on the status of amenities and new procedures within a community as these orders are lifted.

To view the latest COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and phased reopening start dates in your state, visit https://www.caionline.org/Pages/statecovid19.aspx.

For more information on lifting stay-at-home orders, check out HOAresources.

Phoebe E. Neseth, Esq.

Phoebe E. Neseth, Esq.

Senior Manager of Government and Public Affairs

Full Bio

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