COVID-19, the novel strain of the coronavirus that spurred a global pandemic, has created new challenges for everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a U.S. Department of Health publication, has released specific guidelines for individuals and families, schools and childcare centers, senior care facilities, workplaces, community and faith organizations, and healthcare settings. Community associations create a unique environment that combines the individual or family with shared community spaces. It is estimated that 73 million Americans currently live in community associations, and many members are wondering what they can do to avoid and prevent the spread of the virus.
Knowing the common symptoms and emergency signs of COVID-19, according to the CDC, will help individuals make informed decisions. The common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Emergency signs that require immediate medical attention include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, and bluish lips or face. Contact your medical professional immediately if you experience any emergency symptoms or other conditions that are severe or concerning.
Even if you aren’t displaying these symptoms, you may be unknowingly carrying—and spreading—COVID-19. Here are a few suggestions for members of homeowners’ associations to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.
· Personal hygiene. The CDC suggests washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus by contact. When washing your hands with soap and water is not possible, a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will do the trick. If you cough or sneeze, do so into your bent arm as opposed to your hands. Do your best not to touch your face, nose, and eyes during this time in order to prevent the spread of the virus from your hands to your face.
· Social distancing. Another important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19 is the practice of social distancing. According to the CDC, COVID-19 spreads from person to person in close contact. Avoid contact by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoiding elevators and other enclosed spaces.
· Disinfecting surfaces. Take the time to clean more frequently than normal by disinfecting commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, countertops, faucets, sinks, toilets, light switches, handles, phones, keyboards, and remote controllers. Anything that is touched often should be cleaned often. The CDC recommends a bleach solution of 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water or a 70% alcohol cleaning solution. The EPA has published a complete list of EPA approved disinfectants for the use against COVID-19.
· Isolating when sick. If you find yourself displaying some of the common symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC first suggests staying home and away from others, even self-isolating from family members in your home. Call your healthcare provider for further instructions. During isolation, cough into your arm and place used tissues in the trash right away. Wash your hands as described above before touching any surfaces. Avoid sharing items with others. If you must interact with others while displaying symptoms, do your best to prevent the spread of the virus by wearing a facemask. If a mask is unavailable, cover your mouth with a bandana or other cloth item. Be sure to monitor symptoms and report changes to your healthcare provider.
· Staying informed. In addition to all of these practical steps to prevent the spread of the virus, being aware of up-to-date information about CDC recommendations, local warnings, and COVID-19 trends will keep you prepared.
· Canceling social gatherings: Unfortunately, the best thing to do during a pandemic is cancel social gatherings. The CDC has called for a cancellation of all social gatherings of 50 people or more across the U.S. for the next eight weeks. While this may sound extreme, avoiding person-to-person contact is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease. Many gatherings in your community may include less than 50 people, but they should be canceled too unless they adhere to the 6-foot social distancing guidelines and maintain other prevention tactics at all times. Consult your HOA before holding any in-person activities.
· Closing common areas: Common areas that generally house activities of close contact should also be closed. This may include your organization’s pool, fitness center, clubhouse, management office, parks, gardens, and sport courts. Although the closure of these amenities may be frustrating, it is helpful to remember that this pandemic is unlike anything health officials have faced in recent history, and these recommendations will help save lives.
· Self-reporting: Perhaps the most controversial recommendation for communities is self-reporting COVID-19 symptoms and confirmed cases. While sharing personal health conditions with your community may feel uncomfortable, it will also provide the HOA leadership with the most up-to-date information. The more information they have, the more likely they will make the right choices and recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.
In the face of this health crisis, your HOA wants its members to adhere to national and local guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. By following recommendations like the ones distributed by the CDC, you can help keep your home and community as safe as possible.
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