As we continue to struggle with the social, economic, and emotional side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many are now looking towards re-opening and re-starting their lives. Over the course of the last few days, there has been much discussion about the re-opening of businesses and resumption of normal daily activities. There is no consensus as to what level of re-opening is appropriate and what “normal” actually is.
On Monday, April 27, 2020, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties each announce their intent to lift certain restrictions and closures of parks, golf courses, marinas, community pools and boat ramps. As of the moment, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties have issued orders, and it appears that an Order from Broward is soon to follow. Additionally, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he would be revealing a re-opening plan on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Pursuant to Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 21-20, effective April 29, 2020, parks and recreational facilities may be open, but limited to active and passive uses, following current CDC and State Health Department guidelines. Key provisions of Order 21-20 include:
- No groups of 10 or more are permitted to congregate in parks or recreational facilities, and all persons, excepting family must observe social distancing protocols.
- Active uses that are allowed include: walking, jogging, hiking, skating, cycling, nature walks on trails and sports skills practice by individuals or between family members. Organized or competitive play is prohibited, except for singles tennis play.
- Passive use of parks is permitted, provided that social distancing is observed, but table games, picnics and parties are prohibited.
- Facial coverings must be worn, except for children under the age of 2 or persons who have trouble breathing due to chronic pre-existing conditions.
- Parks and recreational facilities must provide a restroom attendant, and restrooms must be cleaned at least once every two hours with CDC approved products. Moreover, restroom use shall be limited to one person or one family at a time.
- Use of the following amenities remains prohibited: bike racks; playgrounds and exercise equipment; dog parks; recreation buildings, picnic shelters, gyms, campgrounds; skate parks; splash pads and swimming pools; mechanical attractions and concessions.Order 21-20 also opens marinas, boat launches, docking, fueling, marine supply and other marina services as well as golf courses under limited circumstances, and under specific protocols. Miami-Dade County has continued the closure of all beaches.Broward County has also commenced reopening some parks and nature trails operated by the County for walking, jogging, biking, hiking, horseback riding, and personal boat launching. However, as of the moment that this article is being written, there is no order regarding other amenities such as tennis and community pools.In Palm Beach County, Emergency Order Number 5, issued on April 27, 2020 provides for the re-opening of boat ramps, marinas, golf courses, parks, natural areas, tennis courts, and community pools, but requires adherence to CDC Guidelines. Specifically, with regard to tennis and outdoor racquet facilities, as well as community pools, the Order Number 5 provides the following restrictions
- For tennis courts, singles play only is permitted; no congregating on the court or sidelines is permitted.
- Locker room and shower facilities are to remain closed. Restrooms must be cleaned and disinfected regularly throughout the day, and soap and water or hand sanitizer and/or disinfectant wipes must be provided in each restroom.
- Pool capacity must be limited to ensure that social distancing in accordance with CDC Guidelines is maintained at all times.
- Pool deck seating or lounging shall be restricted to ensure social distancing in accordance with CDC Guidelines.
- One or more facility staff or management must be present at each facility location to monitor and ensure compliance.While these orders are meant to restore some sense of normalcy, and provide people with outlets for exercise and activity, for many community associations, re-opening may not prove to be feasible as some associations may not be equipped to be able to comply with the CDC requirements and guidelines. Associations must recognize that there is potential liability if they reopen and cannot comply with CDC guidelines and even if they do comply, there could still be liability issues if there is an outbreak in the building as a result. This will be a difficult balancing act as associations could also face challenges from owners anxious to use amenities.Many associations do not have the staff necessary to monitor and ensure compliance with social distancing requirements or the ability to regularly clean (no less than once every 2 hours in Miami-Dade) the restroom facilities. Under these cases, re-opening of amenities may prove to be an undue burden on many associations currently struggling to maintain operations during the pandemic.
If your association is considering re-opening, it is important to review your local emergency orders (municipal and county) to determine whether it is feasible to reopen and comply with CDC guidelines.Eisinger Law is a multi-practice Florida law firm focused on community association law, real estate law, developer representation, civil/commercial litigation, insurance law, estate planning and probate. For more information, visit eisingerlaw.com or call 954-894-8000.