As cases of the new coronavirus increase here in the US, the crisis has led to a number of questions from condominium boards to the effect of: What should we do to protect the condominium and its members? What is our responsibility for the clubhouse, pool, workout area, playground, plumbing, HVAC system?”
Condominium boards should be vigilant. However, there are limits on what can be done to fight the coronavirus/COVID-19. While the situation should be taken seriously, there’s much that isn’t yet known about the virus. For instance, there were early theories that the virus might have been transmitted in cruise ships and apartment buildings through HVAC circulation or plumbing systems, but nothing has been proven. Several recent US cases do not seem to have a clear origin, leaving us with no clear direction on prevention methods. We hope that there will soon be better guidance from professionals on the disease and how it is transmitted.
In the meantime, organizations, institutions, and individuals are doing what they can to mitigate the spread of the virus. My daughter’s high school and several high schools around are organizing 'disinfectant programs' with companies to clean and disinfect the schools on a regular basis. The thought behind disinfectant programs is that the virus lives on surfaces for a period of time, so frequent, thorough cleaning of those surfaces may help prevent its spread. I think the high schools feel it is better to do something rather than nothing.
From a legal perspective, mitigation responsibilities will likely fall on familiar lines of ownership; the association controls the condominium’s common areas, while individual owners and shareholders control their private living spaces. With that as a starting point, the association will likely have the following obligations if the coronavirus - or even a stomach bug, flu, or some other contagious illness - becomes more widespread:
More frequent, more extensive cleaning, disinfecting, and wiping down of common areas and common area surfaces. (Your community's legal counsel or management should be able to provide names of companies in your area that are utilizing disinfectant programs.)