Written by: Caroline Record, Esq.
On June 8, 2020, Governor Murphy announced that all municipal and private club pools, including pools in community associations, would be permitted to open on June 22, 2020 in accordance with specific regulations to be published by the New Jersey Department of Health. Those regulations were published in the wee hours of June 10, 2020 and can be found here. If a community association board decides to open the pool in the community this summer, below are some of the requirements that must be observed and enforced:
- Pool facilities are still required to obtain the proper approvals from their local health authorities prior to opening;
- Incorporated into the Aquatics Facility Plan (AFP) and while complying with all existing sanitation and safety requirements, the pool facility must develop and implement a COVID-19 Pool Operation Prevention Plan, that complies with Department of Health Guidance;
- Pool directors and lifeguards must be trained and equipped on COVID-19 awareness, cleaning, and sanitizing to perform their assigned duties;
- Pool facilities should develop procedures and training for their specific pools and implement an “ambassador” to monitor and encourage social distancing;
- Pool facilities should implement a policy for screening staff entering the facility that includes temperature checks and screening for COVID-19 symptoms;
- Access to the pool facility’s entrance and exit points should be staggered to avoid congestion;
- Pool facilities must post signage alerting for signs of illness and to stay home when they are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms;
- Capacity must be reduced to 50% of maximum capacity for the facility and grounds, which may be done using reservations/passes and limiting hours (the regulations include a helpful chart regarding recommend bather load calculations);
- Mandatory social distancing is required when on the pool deck, lawns, and also while in the water;
- Pool facilities must maintain a sign-in sheet for all staff and patrons to facilitate potential contact tracing efforts;
- Pool facilities should develop and implement enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures using EPA approved disinfectants and following CDC guidance that includes frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high traffic areas (restrooms, changing rooms) and major touch points.
- At a minimum, cleaning procedures must include providing sanitizer stations throughout the pool facility and frequent sanitation of any areas open to the public several times daily;
- Prohibit the sharing of furniture and equipment for use at the pool facility, including lounge chairs, pool toys and noodles, kickboards, and other equipment;
- Access to restrooms must be made available; however, foot coverings are required along with social distancing and frequent cleaning;
- Staff and patrons should wear cloth face coverings while not in the pool when social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained unless:
a. doing so would inhibit the individual’s health;
b. cloth face coverings should not be used on children under 2;
c. cloth face coverings should not be used in the water;
d. lifeguards should not wear a face covering while on duty
Board members should review in detail the Department of Health regulations, consult with management, their insurance professionals, pool management professionals, municipal officials, and their attorneys to determine whether the pool can be operated while observing the required sanitization, social distancing, and other requirements imposed by these regulations as well as may be imposed by the State, local health authority, or the municipality. A new cleaning program for the common facilities may need to be implemented at an additional expense, part of which would be to make hand sanitizer and/or wipes available. We recommend that a sign-in sheet for all staff and residents be required and a detailed log should be maintained to confirm what sanitization efforts have been done, by whom, and when. In addition, a pool monitor may need to be retained to enforce social distancing or limitation on occupancy and use requirements. Boards should take into consideration whether to allow guests and remove any pool furniture (and make residents bring their own).
Ultimately, boards will need to evaluate the ability to enforce all governmental requirements, the additional expense of compliance, and the possible lack of liability coverage if a claim is made, in determining whether the pool can safely be opened and at what risk to all members of the community. By evaluating all information available, any reasonable decision made by the board and compliance with these requirements should protect the board’s decision by the business judgment rule.
If you have questions about this or any other issues with your community association, please contact one of our community association attorneys.