Opening Your Community Amenities in 2021
By: Jamie Lyons, Jay Lazega
Can we safely open our amenities in 2021? This is the question on the mind of every community association director, manager and member. This conversation started last year around this exact time, and many communities chose not to open their amenities last summer because of the great risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other communities opened their amenities with greatly reduced capacity and substantially new protocols covering social distancing, disinfecting of surfaces, reservations systems and updated guest policies.
During 2020’s amenity season, there was much uncertainty about the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Georgia Department of Public Health issued guidelines for operating things like community recreational facilities, and Governor Kemp executed new Executive Orders almost weekly imposing obligations on communities that chose to open and operate recreational facilities. While some things remain the same as last year, quite a few other aspects of this discussion have changed in the last 12 months, and some in the last few days.
Here are some things that remain the same. On March 31, 2021, Governor Kemp issued an Executive Order renewing the Public Heath State of Emergency for Georgia until April 30, 2021, which you can view here. It’s not clear if Governor Kemp will extend the State of Emergency after April 30, but many believe that this is likely, even with his relaxation of COVID-19 operating protocols. Also, many community association liability insurance policies continue to exclude coverage for claims related to the transmission of communicable diseases. So, if sued for COVID-19 exposure and illness on association property, associations may be obligated to defend those claim directly, without liability insurance coverage.
However, many things have changed since 2020. On March 31, 2021 Governor Kemp issued a different Executive Order called “Empowering a Healthy Georgia” that began on April 8, 2021 and expires at 11:59 pm on April 30, 2021, which you can view here. The Healthy Georgia Executive Order largely reduces or eliminates prior required protocols for safe operations of recreational facilities and other amenities. Also substantially changing its earlier guidelines, the CDC recently updated its guidelines regarding cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, which you can view here. Additionally, a substantial portion of the adult population has received COVID-19 vaccines, and many more are likely to do so by the customary amenity opening time for community associations.
Many, including Governor Kemp, clearly want communities to open and operate recreational facilities. And, the likelihood is that nearly all Georgia community associations will open and operate their recreational facilities in some fashion during the 2021 season. But, what COVID-19-related practices and protocols should we follow, if any, to minimize both health risks and liability risks for our community? To help evaluate this, let’s look at the current Executive Order and the revised CDC guidelines.
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For more information, watch our expert attorneys address opening community amenities during the L&J Morning Break.
See a full list of documents and articles related to COVID-19 here. Also, head to our YouTube channel to watch other L&J Morning Break webinars related to this topic and our additional educational videos.