Self Isolation and Physical Distancing

March 2020

Self isolation and physical distancing are long standing approaches to reducing the risk of contagion.  In an ideal world everyone would periodically follow these practices at times.

Awareness of these practices has grown during the coronavirus pandemic through social awareness, media coverage and government mandate.  In an effort to slow down transmission of coronavirus, and avoid overloading of emergency health services, authorities have closed down most activities. Physically separating people is a method to minimize contagion.

This has not stopped people from congregating where they are still able.  Visiting Costco and supermarkets remain social activities.  Gatherings in malls, parks and playgrounds continue.  Families continue to have gatherings and school closures meant more play dates.

Some communities choosing to emulate this approach have taken actions that include:

  • Closure of all amenities
  • Discouragement of public gatherings in lobby or by the concierge desk
  • Limiting resident access to concierge/security, superintendent, and management office to e-mail and phone only
  • Requiring deliveries, including newspapers and food, to be left at the main desk for resident retrieval
  • Discouraging guest visitations
  • Closure of common area bathrooms except for use by on-site vendors

Not all actions are advisable.  In the absence of government directive or owner vote condo management  may not have authority to close all amenities.  See Closure of Amenities under Pandemic Management for more information.

The importance of physical distancing and social isolation is less clear in communities lacking consistent messaging and action.  While most communities were quick to tell residents how to act and may have partially enforced this by closure of amenities, fewer were clear on what management was doing.  There may have been little or no information on what cleaning and disinfection measures are being undertaken.  Many continued with non-emergency operations such as painting, life safety testing, window cleaning and landscaping.  Such actions convey that physical distancing and self isolation are acceptable so long as they do not become inconvenient.

Where physical distancing and social isolation are recommendations and not government directive, condo directors may advise and suggest but lack authority to enforce.  With many high-rise homes being smaller, and common areas being an extension of the home, communities closing all amenities without consulting owners in the form of a vote, or government mandate, may be beyond their authority.