Many community association residents have enjoyed cooling off at pools this summer as more boards opened the amenity in 2021 with appropriate COVID-19 restrictions in place. Other communities have elected a cautious approach to their pool season, looking to state laws for guidance or limited liability protection.
Only about 9% of the 1,000 CAI members responding to a survey this spring said they would delay opening their pools compared to 30% in 2020, but more than a quarter of respondents were undecided about pool operations when surveyed. The biggest factors delaying the decision were fear of legal exposure; inability to meet federal, state, or local public health requirements; and concern about spreading COVID-19.
About half of U.S. states have introduced legislation in 2021 providing limited liability protection to community associations from COVID-19-related claims, with 14 states to date signing these bills into law.
New Jersey and Missouri became the latest states to pass legislation that provides limited liability protection to community associations from civil lawsuits claiming a person contracted COVID-19 while using the pool or other amenities, except in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct. New Jersey’s law went into effect July 1 and expires on Jan. 1, 2022, while Missouri’s law will go into effect Aug. 28 and expire after four years.
New Jersey also released updated guidance in early July with health and safety standards for pool openings during the pandemic. Community associations in the state are now permitted to operate pools at full capacity and are strongly recommended to:
- Train pool personnel on COVID-19 awareness and response as well as routine cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
- Encourage unvaccinated individuals to wear a face covering while on the pool deck and when social distancing of 6 feet from nonhousehold contacts cannot be maintained.
- Create a communication system for self-reporting of symptoms and notification of exposures to COVID-19.
- Use reservation, sign in, advanced ticket sales, or cancellation apps where possible to manage and monitor pool attendance throughout the day.
- Discourage staff and patrons from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect or that are meant to come in contact with the face (e.g., goggles, snorkels, nose clips).
- Stagger the use of shared spaces such as restrooms, showers, locker rooms, and breakrooms to observe social distancing.
Restrictions implemented last year at the height of pandemic remain for many communities during the 2021 pool season. For example, about 77% of survey respondents reported implementing social distancing on the pool deck last season, and that number remains about the same this year. Similarly, in 2020, 60% of survey respondents reported implementing “no guests” policies. In 2021, 47% said this would be a new practice.
>> Read more about communities’ 2021 pool season plans in “In the Swim of Things,” from the July/August 2021 issue of CAI’s Common Ground magazine.
>> Pool Position: Swim Season Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic is free for CAI members and $19.99 for nonmembers.