The globe has been buzzing about the outbreak and subsequent spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. As of March 4, the World Health Organization has confirmed 108 cases in the United States and six deaths. With the potential to spread further, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) have shared some precautionary guidance and advice on how multifamily communities should address the virus, should it continue to become a larger issue.
In a recent press release, the NMHC indicated that a mass outbreak of COVID-19 isn’t certain. However, “to proceed without a plan is a risk your company should not take,” the organization said, adding that firms should have a plan in place and fine-tune it, as necessary. See below for various industry-specific tips on how to proceed.
- Both multifamily organizations agree to direct residents, media, and stakeholder inquiries to primary sources, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for specific guidance and data beyond the general precautionary measures for legal liability reasons.
- Communication between management, employees, residents, and vendors is critical, according to the NMHC. Disseminate contact information to staff and residents and ensure human resources, legal, technology, and operations are all on the same page to mitigate and educate on potential exposure.
- Take precautionary measures to spread any kind of sickness, including frequent washing of hands, proper cough etiquette, and staying home when sick. Other steps, such as placing hand sanitizer in common areas and fitness centers and sanitizing commonly touched elements, are also suggested.
- If the management team confirms a coronavirus case in its building, do not direct facilities management or maintenance staff to the unit. The NAA suggests to immediately notify the local health department and contact CDC for guidance on appropriate measures to take.
- This type of outbreak could cause a spike in absenteeism with employees. Before it becomes severe, establish employee leave protocol and address telecommuting and staggered schedule opportunities to ensure workers are staying home if they are exposed to the virus.
- Monitor the situation closely by staying in tune with local and national authorities and keep track of the “higher risk” sectors, such as airports, convention centers, and sporting events, in the local area. Health officials may give more definitive guidance where the virus is more prevalent.
- Apartment owners and managers should also understand the potential impacts after the outbreak has passed, including evaluating insurance coverage, revisiting human resources policies on back-to-work issues, and paying attention to government aid availability.
Due to the situation’s rapid evolution, the organizations will continue to monitor developments and issue updates specific to the operation of rental housing from health officials as they become available.