Written by: Terry A. Kessler, Esq.
With Executive Order 152, issued on June 9, Governor Murphy has authorized larger numbers of people to congregate in certain areas and under specified conditions and so enables community associations to open their clubhouses and facilities and to hold both indoor and outdoor events. However, the order restricts the sizes of such gatherings and the proximity of attendees because congregating in large groups and remaining in close proximity increases the risk of transmitting COVID-19. These new regulations can be found here. While outdoor events also are permitted, this article addresses only indoor use/events. An association is not required to open the clubhouse but if it does, it must consider the following:
If a community association opens its clubhouse in accordance with the Executive Order, the following is required:
- The number of individuals in attendance in each room at any gathering must be limited to 25% of the capacity of the room but no more than 50 people. This limitation does not apply if 10 people or less are in a room.
- Face masks must be worn by all attendees except where it is unhealthy for a particular individual or for a child under 2.
- Social distancing must be maintained so that individuals must always be 6 feet apart except for immediate family members, personal caretakers, household members, romantic partners or a limited number of individuals organizing/maintaining the gathering.
- Physical contact between individuals is prohibited except for family members, caretakers, household members and/or romantic partners or a limited number of the individuals that are organizing and/or maintaining the gathering
- To maintain social distancing, where possible, the association should place cones, flags or other markings indicating 6 feet distances, so that residents are aware of the appropriate spacing.
- No physical items or equipment may be shared except between immediate family members, caretakers, household members or romantic partners unless before and after each use by an individual such items are sanitized. Therefore, the playing of cards or other table games is problematic because so many items are being touched by multiple people.
- Any required payments must have options to be contactless, such as online or by telephone.
- All attendees must remain 6 feet apart at all times, except where social distancing is not required between people described above. We recommend that seating be limited to single individuals, must be placed 6 feet apart, and must be sanitized before and after each use in accordance with CDC guidelines. If games are permitted the owners must be spaced to comply with this regulation.
- The Executive Order states that the social distancing and contact restrictions do not apply to a gathering of 10 or fewer persons, but they still need to wear face coverings at all times. Nevertheless, we recommend that even such smaller groups maintain social distancing and avoid contact as much as possible.
Additional Safety Precautions
In addition to the requirements of the Governor’s Executive Order, it is recommended that associations do the following unless otherwise required:
- Post signs at all entrances that state:
- Stay home if you are sick, have symptoms or are residing with or had contact with someone who is/was sick in the last 14 days.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then toss the tissue in the trash
- Masks are required
- Maintain social distancing by staying 6 feet apart
- Install hand sanitizers or sanitary wipes at all entrances and encourage all those who enter to utilize them when entering the clubhouse and make them available on all tables if residents are going to be able to use the tables.
- If possible, place cones, barriers or floor markings in pathways to designate 6 feet distances, to keep attendees from getting too close.
- Move and/or rearrange the furniture to maintain social distancing. If the furniture cannot be moved, place markings or barriers to prevent an attendee from sitting within 6 feet of any other attendee unless they are exempt from the socially distancing requirement, as noted above.
- Have attendees sign in so that you have a record of anyone who was in the clubhouse for purposes of tracking in case someone who used the facilities has/had the coronavirus.
- Hire a third-party vendor with expertise in disinfecting facilities to clean and disinfect frequently.
- Consider limiting use of the clubhouse to residents only and prohibit residents from bringing guests.
- Consider prohibiting clubhouse rentals unless you will have someone available to: (a) supervise the event to be sure that the guidelines are followed and (b) sanitize after the event.
- Contact your insurance agent to see if there are any suggestions regarding the use of the clubhouse by your residents or their guests.
- Have the residents sign a waiver to use the clubhouse before permission to use it is permitted.
- Depending on the extent of the use, hire or obtain volunteers to supervise and make sure that social distancing is maintained, masks are used, hand sanitizer is available and other requirements are met.
The Executive Order does not address the use of bathrooms. Therefore, you should consider procedures for sanitation of the bathrooms in connection with indoor meetings.
- One option may be to keep the bathrooms closed for short meetings or restrict the number of bathrooms that will be available. In such a situation, warn the prospective attendees before they arrive.
- Closing the bathrooms may not be practical for longer or larger meetings. If a bathroom is opened, it should be cleaned frequently and have signage instructing users to wash their hands. In addition, you can close off sinks that are less than 6 feet apart and make sure that the soap is well stocked.
- An additional option would be to lock the bathrooms and require a key for use. In this way, you will restrict congregating in the bathroom and can have them cleaned after each use.
- You may want to arrange for your cleaning service to have personnel available during the meeting to frequently clean the bathrooms.
Please note that indoor pools and fitness centers must remain closed. Although they are often located within the clubhouse, their use is still prohibited.
In addition, if you are opening your clubhouse in relation to the use of your outdoor pool, all Department of Health Requirements must be followed in the areas. Please refer to our prior client alert.
This is not an exhaustive list. Depending on the size of the clubhouse and the amenities offered, there may be different rules and regulations that apply. Therefore, you are urged to contact your legal counsel to review what is required at your Association.