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national   /   February 19, 2020

By: Amy Wolff Sorter

Coronavirus: NMHC’s Advice to Apartment Owners and Managers

The coronavirus — officially dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization — is starting to impact the United States, with at least 15 cases reported. Amid much of the news and advice (which is not to panic), The National Multifamily Housing Council released its own set of suggestions and information to apartment owners and managers.

The advice, under the NMHC’s “Emergency Preparedness” subhead, focuses on the following.

Ensure management support. Any plan to mitigate and educate residents on potential exposure to the virus should have the support and involvement of leadership, along with people from human resources, legal, technology and operations.

Focus on communication. Ongoing communications with employees, residents, vendors and even the media is critical. Contact information should be disseminated to staff and residents.

Implement, and oversee, infection control. The usual steps to preventing spread of any kind of infection should include frequent washing of hands, proper cough etiquette and staying home when sick. Other steps, such as placing hand sanitizers in common areas and fitness centers and sanitizing commonly-touched elements, are also suggested.

Establish employee leave protocol. Under the category of “staying home when sick,” the NHMC noted that any kind of severe outbreak could see a spike in absenteeism. As such, leave policies should include telecommuting and staggered schedules, as well as cross-training staff.

Understand legal liability. Resident illnesses, employee exposure to ill residents and evictions should be understood. Apartment owners and managers should also determine whether to direct residents to third-party sources for information, rather than being the source of information.

Consider the aftermath. Apartment owners and managers should understand the human and financial impact of such an outbreak on the company. In the days following a disaster, experts suggest companies evaluate insurance coverage, revisit human resources policies concerning back-to-work issues and pay attention to government aid availability.

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 any firm should have a plan in place, and fine-tune it, as necessary.

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