A South End condo group has spearheaded new town-sanctioned recommendations
to help residents and managers of multifamily buildings reduce the risk of
contracting and spreading the illness
caused by the coronavirus.
Officials at Harbour House, a co-op building on Palm Beach’s South End, have been proactive in working to protect residents there against coronavirus-related illness. Harbour House is a member of the Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach, which has worked with the town to get the word out about health-related precautions in multi-family buildings.
Don’t panic! Remember that 80 percent of the cases are
mild. The most susceptible are people with weaker immune systems such as the
elderly and those with diabetes.
The best thing to do: Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating, after going to the bathroom and after sneezing or coughing.
Do not run out and buy face masks. The CDC does not recommend people who are well wear masks. Masks are recommended for sick people to keep infected droplets out of the air, for health care workers and for people caring for a person who is ill.
Cover your mouth when you cough and stay home if you are sick.
More from the CDC can be found here.
Leaders of the Citizens’ Association have spearheaded an effort to create a set of Town Hall-endorsed guidelines that building managers, workers, homeowners-association officials and residents can follow to lessen the risks of contracting — and spreading — the illness on their properties.
To be distributed to buildings townwide, the guidelines incorporate information gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Florida Department of Health, said Sean Baker, Palm Beach’s division chief of emergency medical services.
The town-sanctioned guidelines were posted Saturday morning on the town’s website.
The recommendations include sanitizing common areas; closing common-area facilities such as gyms and club rooms; and urging residents to practice social distancing in their interactions and to consider limiting the frequency of visits by guests.
In practice, that could mean keeping the swimming pool open but regularly disinfecting pool railings and ladders. Or removing half of the chaise lounges by the pool and spreading the remaining ones at least 6 feet apart to help prevent transmission. Or sanitizing heavily used surfaces — including elevator panels — frequently during the day. Or limiting elevator rides to one person or family at a time.
“When we’re looking at the coronavirus response specifically, a lot of the same rules apply to a single-family home or a multi-family unit. But in a multi-family (building), you have a greater possibility for large gatherings to congregate.”
He stressed that the recommendations are general enough so that building officials can adapt them to their own needs.
“When we’re looking at a multifamily buildings, the cleaning and disinfecting part is just as important — if not more important — than the social distancing,” Baker said.
From the get-go, the idea was to distribute the recommendations to every building in town, said Alfred “Skip” Aldridge, co-chairman of the Citizens’ Association and vice-president of the board at Harbour House, a South End co-op building.
“We thought we needed some common-sense rules for homeowners’ associations,” said Aldridge, who worked with association co-chairman Donald Singer and other association members on the project. By mid-week, they had approached Town Manager Kirk Blouin’s staff with the idea and earned a welcome reception, Aldridge said.
“I explained that we need some official guidance for high-density, multi-family residents,” Aldridge said.
In addition to the South End buildings, at least 62 more multifamily buildings are across town in Midtown and on the Near North End, according to the local multiple listing service
The town’s endorsement was needed, Aldridge added, to add weight to the recommendations for homeowners associations and building managers who were not yet doing everything they might to lessen the coronavirus risk at their properties. It would also help drive home the same point to residents, he said — a point echoed by Zeidman, who has served as an informal adviser to the Citizens’ Association regarding the health crisis.
“Some people just don’t ‘get it,’” Zeidman said. “We have said over and over that you have to abide by the recommendations. The best way to stop this virus is not to be around other people.”
The document will be posted on the website run by the Citizens’ Association. Aldridge said he would reach out to another major residents’ group, the Palm Beach Civic Association, to promote it as well.
‘You have to do it’
The idea for the recommendations was sparked initially by a letter addressing coronavirus precautions distributed at The Reef, a South End condo building. Aldridge asked Bram Majtlis, president of The Reef’s homeowners’ association, for a copy of the letter to serve as a basis for one he wanted to distribute at Harbour House. The Citizens’ Association also sent Majtlis’ letter to all of its members.
Matjlis, in turn, credits one of The Reef’s residents, who serves on the board of a New York City building, for bringing up the subject to him in the first place.
Like those at Harbour House, officials at The Reef have already changed many of their procedures — including closing the on-site fitness center — in response to health concerns, Matjlis said. But they also are trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy during these extraordinary times.
“We want to make the life of our residents as pleasant as possible,” said Matjlis, who is one of the vice chairmen of the Citizens’ Association.
“But the time has come that we do all this together. People have to support their (buildings’) boards in making very hard decisions. It’s a very hard decision to close a gym. But it’s a sanitary thing — you have to do it.
“All buildings have to work together. We all have to sing the same song. We all have to listen to what the health officials and town officials are telling us. And then that’s what we do.”
READ THE RECOMMENDATIONS
Here’s the text of the Town of Palm Beach’s new recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in multifamily buildings. Note: This version has been slightly edited.
When a virus with pandemic potential emerges, it is vitally important for citizens to take steps to help slow the transmission throughout our community. In multifamily buildings where residents encounter each other frequently in the elevators, corridors, and other common areas, the need to address preventative measures is much more involved than in single-family homes that have limited common areas. This communal living presents a unique set of issues when dealing with the spread of a virus as dangerous as the COVID-19.
The following is a framework for actions that are recommended by Town of Palm Beach officials that highlight the best practices from the CDC, Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) and other reputable sources.
General Guidelines for Buildings and Associations
Common gathering areas such as fitness areas, activity rooms, etc. should be closed for public use until further notice to prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19.
If swimming pools remain open, all persons should remain 6 feet apart in the water and on the pool deck.
Building staff and residents should disinfect any “touch points” such as pool ladders, pool railings, etc.
Chairs on pool decks such be positioned in a manner to maintain the appropriate social distance.
All preventative maintenance that has been scheduled should be postponed, or cancelled, restricting contractor access to emergency repairs only.
Residents should take turns using elevators to ensure that social distancing is maintained at all times.
Post signs urging residents to watch for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, malaise, diarrhea, and shortness of breath.
Post signs in the common areas with reminders to owners of the steps which owners can take to assist in mitigating the spread of infection (i.e. the reminders set out above) including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and covering any coughs.
Urge residents who have frequent visitors to limit or reduce guest visitation.
Curb any potential AirBnB or frequent rental activities.
Encourage residents to stay in their home when sick.
Encourage staff to staff home when sick. Send home employees who become sick.
Make sure you have updated emergency contact information for all owners, including any residents who may be particularly vulnerable.
Let your residents know that if they are feeling ill or have any questions or concerns that they can contact the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at (866) 779-6121
Place hand sanitizer in high-traffic areas.
Clean surfaces that are frequently touched – things such as flats surfaces, lobby desks, countertops, kitchen areas, electronics, elevator buttons and doorknobs using a disinfectant.
If someone in your building becomes sick from COVID-19, inform people who might have been exposed (do not share the sick person’s contact information) and contact the local health departments.
Palm Beach County Department of Health can be reached at (561) 840-4500.
Building managers should have a 24-hour responder listed for their building in case of an emergency. This person should contact Palm Beach Police Communication Unit at (561) 838-5454 to register their name.
Stay up to date on developments in your community by signing up for Town of Palm Beach Civic Alerts and refer to the Town of Palm Beach Covid-19 webpage.
General Guidelines for Building Occupants
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick — age 65 years and older
People who have serious underlying medical conditions such as:
Residents should stock up on supplies including food,
over the counter medications, medical supplies, and a refill of all current
Residents who are alone should have a person they will be
able to contact in case of emergency.
There are many far too many scenarios to cover in this document as there are many factors that are still not know about COVID-19, so it is highly recommended that residents contact their individual health care provider if they have any questions or concerns over their own health or their involvement in any community activity or use of common areas.
This action plan/overview of best practices to combat the COVID-19 virus in multifamily residences is not to be construed as legal guidance; instead it is a starting point for your building specific plan. The Town of Palm Beach encourages building managers, employees, and residents to work together to develop a comprehensive plan that is suited for their individual needs. Educational materials and supporting material on the COVID-19 virus are available on the CDC website, the Florida Department of Health website and also by calling the Palm Beach County Department of Health at (561) 840-4500.