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Steve R. Braten, Shareholder and Lauren B. Feffer, Shareholder, Rosenbaum PLLC Sep 8, 2020 8 min read

Palm Beach County is Moving to Incremental Phase 2 Re-opening: What Does This Mean For My Association?

It is widely anticipated that beginning September 8, 2020, Palm Beach County will move to incremental phase 2 re-opening.  We have had a flood of questions from property managers and board members, and are happy to address as many concerns as we are able to with the information we have available. There has not yet been a definitive Order on what will be re-opened and the requirements to re-open, however, based on the proposed guidelines, we have a good idea.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Q: Are there any changes to the current order for our community pools? Do we still have to monitor them? Can they be open without staff on site? Can we reinstate our water aerobics classes? Are there any limitations on the maximum number of owners who can be at the pool at one time?

A: We do not anticipate any changes to the current order regulating community association pools in the incremental phase 2 re-opening.  Community association pools were permitted to re-open by Palm Beach County Emergency Order Number 5, and certain requirements were clarified in Order Number 7.  Among the requirements were that CDC guidelines and social distancing guidelines be adhered to, locker room and shower facilities remain closed, but restrooms may reopen with regular cleaning and adequate hygiene supplies provided by the Association such as soap, water, hand sanitizer, and/or disinfectant wipes in each restroom.  Additionally, the association is required to provide personnel to monitor the pool area to ensure compliance with the order. This does not mean that you need to have an attendant at the pool at all times, but you do need to have regular oversight of the pool to ensure that social distancing is being adhered to. There has been no specific prohibitions on pool based classes, however all of the guidelines that apply to the regular usage of the pool also apply to classes.  

Q: Can we reopen the Association’s gym and fitness centers? Do they need to be supervised? Do we need to restrict usage of some of the machines? Can we reinstate exercise classes? Can locker rooms re-open?

A: Under the Incremental Phase II Reopening Plan, gyms and fitness centers may open and operate at full capacity with appropriate physical distancing and with enhanced sanitization protocols.  The CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces can be found here https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/orders/2020/EO_20-139.pdf.  It is not anticipated that the association will be required to supervise the gym, but  it is responsible for ensuring that social distancing guidelines are adhered to, and the gym is cleaned per CDC guidelines.  Additionally, guidance thus far does not mandate closure of any machines, cancellation of exercise classes, or closure of locker rooms. You need to evaluate your particular facilities and their demands, to determine what should remain closed in order to comply with the social distancing guidelines. If there are any concerns regarding liability, please make sure to reach out to your Association’s attorney and/or insurance agent to discuss them. 

Q: Can we reopen playgrounds and other recreational facilities without supervision? Does the association need to clean these amenities when they are open? Would signs stating that you must use the facilities at your own risk be sufficient?

A:  Parks, playgrounds and exercise equipment have been permitted  to re-open pursuant to Palm Beach County Emergency Order 21, dated August 27, 2020. Tennis courts and other spa facilities were allowed to re-open pursuant to  Order 11.  The Orders do not require supervision of the facilities by your association.   A sign advising that the use of the facilities would be at your own risk is not required and most likely  will not be effective for prevention of any claims arising from owners and residents. The CDC guidelines in place for the cleaning of gyms and fitness facilities also apply to playgrounds and other recreational facilities.

Q: Can we open the clubhouse and recreational facilities? Can we start allowing owners to rent and utilize the clubhouse for social events with the limited capacity size in place? How can we ensure residents will follow the rules if staff is not on site, for example on the weekends? Can we resume social events for residents with limited capacity (i.e. Bingo, Mahjong, Bridge, etc.)?

A: We have not received guidance on the number of persons that may gather in an area.   The Governor’s order moving other counties into phase 2 encouraged people to avoid congregating in groups larger than 50 persons.  Bingo parlors are slated to re-open at 50% capacity in the middle of October.  Your association should wait for further guidance as to the number of persons that may congregate inside your clubhouse.  However, your association should keep in mind that the government mandates are only the floor and your association will have to evaluate its own circumstances when deciding how and what to re-open.

Q: Should our Association continue using zoom if we anticipate more than 50 people in attendance at meetings?

A: Your association attorney can help guide you through the meeting process including the proper format to comply with the requirements imposed by your governing documents and Florida law.

Q: Cafes and Restaurants in Associations - What are the new rules and restrictions for operating cafes and restaurants in Associations?

A: Palm Beach County Emergency Order 15 permits restaurants to open indoor seating at fifty percent (50%) capacity with appropriate partitioning in place between the parties.  The incremental phase 2 re-opening plan does not appear to affect restaurants.

Q: Golf Courses and Clubs - Are there any changes to golf courses and golf facilities under the current guidelines?

A: The incremental phase 2 re-opening will likely not affect golf courses or facilities. The current restrictions are still in effect from Palm Beach County orders 5 and 7.

Q: Schools are slated to reopen in phase 2. How should we  handle communications to the owners regarding bus stops and other areas where school children congregate on Association property?

A: Your association can only create rules and regulations to set standards of behavior on its common elements or common areas.  School children waiting for the school bus must adhere to social distancing requirements set forth by the CDC, the Florida Department of Health and other local authorities. If you have any concerns regarding these issues, please contact your Association attorney for guidance.

The emergency orders are changing rapidly and our goal is to keep you up to date with current information as it is received. Please feel free to send any additional questions that you may have to us at cphillips@rosenbaumpllc.com. We hope to see you in the near future at our webinars and other educational events.