Landsdowne 2020 Pool Season
Statement read by Jay Dick, Board President at the July 1, 2020 board meeting.
Thank you for joining us to discuss the 2020 Landsdowne Pool Season.
Like our last meeting, before we move to discussing the pool, I want to update you on the current environment given the Governor’s implementation of Phase 3 Covid-19 re-opening guidelines and the board’s decision-making process.
With apologies to those of you who attended our June 16th Zoom board meeting, some of this information will sound familiar, but I feel it is important to repeat for anyone who didn’t attend that June 16th Zoom meeting.
Landsdowne is a non-profit association whose governing body is the Board of Directors. As with any non-profit board, our duties are to ensure that the association adequately functions, that we obey all federal, state and local laws and regulations; and that we execute our fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the association’s funds are spent judiciously and wisely. Because of this, board members develop a more holistic view of any given situation, taking into consideration multiple environmental inputs, as you will see when we get into the details for re-opening the pool.
As you probably know, as of today, we are now in Phase 3 of the Commonwealths Re-Opening Plan. I just put the link to the document in the chat box.
The plan, on pages 21 and 22 gives instruction for outdoor pools. Based on the plan, we, as an association, are required to take the following steps in order to open the pool:
1. We must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices as stated in the plan.
2. We must create and post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of Covid-19, or known exposure to a Covid-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the pool or pool house.
3. We must create and post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high-risk individuals, and staying home if sick.
4. We may open the pool at up to 75% occupancy, provided ten feet of physical distance may be maintained between patrons not of the same household. Free swim is allowed.
5. We may provide seating on pool decks with at least ten feet of spacing between persons who are not members of the same household.
6. We must clean and disinfect all seating (including lifeguard stations) between uses.
7. Employees working in customer-facing areas are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance.
8. We must provide hand sanitizing stations, including at the entrance/exit and where shared equipment is utilized.
9. We must screen patrons for Covid-19 symptoms prior to admission to the pool. Residents will be asked if they are currently experiencing fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) or a sense of having a fever, etc.
10. We must screen children per the CDC guidance for screening children. Anyone experiencing symptoms will not be permitted in the pool or pool area. Screenings must be conducted in accordance with applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
As you can see, this s a long list of requirements which would require the association to:
1. Hire a front desk attendant to screen residents and maintain records.
2. Hire at least one cleaning attendant to constantly clean chairs, bathrooms, high-touch surfaces, etc.
3. Hire a pool monitor to make sure residents are socially distancing.
4. Buy cleaning supplies, a thermometer, signage, etc.
5. If we have more residents than allowed in the pool at any one time, the association will have to invest in some form of a reservation system.
At a minimum of $12 an hour, for 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for nine weeks (Labor Day), that is $22,680 in extra labor costs, plus cleaning supplies and other costs. I will note that we have saved approximately $12,600 in lifeguard fees that we have not paid so far this year.
So, financially, it would cost at least an additional $10,000 to open the pool for 63 days or around $160 extra each day plus cleaning supplies and other costs. This cost increases if labor costs go up from $12 an hour. So, if the labor goes to $15 an hour the costs goes up to $28,350 or an extra $15,750 plus cleaning supplies and other costs.
Note: During the meeting, the property manager informed the board that $12 per hour is not a realistic number, but rather $22 an hour. This would change the extra labor costs to $41,580 or an extra $28,980 minus savings.
Lifeguards cannot provide these services as it is not part of our contract.
Speaking of lifeguards, our pool management company states that they have a very small pool of domestic lifeguards available and cannot get international guards due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and the new U.S. Government order banning visa workers into the country. Despite that, they say they can provide lifeguards with one week’s notice. I am personally highly skeptical of this fact as pools in surrounding neighborhoods have stated that they cannot get lifeguards at all. Island Creek has canceled their pool season because they cannot obtain lifeguards.
I have been asked, why can’t we open the pool without lifeguards and tell people to swim at their own risk like some hotels do. While I appreciate people trying to think outside the box, this is not something we can do. One, our insurance company would not allow this and two, over the past few years, our lifeguards have actually had to save several people from drowning, performed CPR and called an ambulance. I would be devastated if someone died at our pool because we didn’t have a lifeguard.
Residents have stated that some private pools have opened near us – specifically over in Hayfield. I will note that this is not part of any homeowner’s association, but a private pool which charges $500 for a family to use the pool for the season. I have spoken to several people who are either members of this pool or have visited the pool who state that while it is open, it is not currently enforcing any social distancing rules and is not adequately screening people who are entering. I am not sure how they are doing their cleaning/sanitation. In other words, they are not obeying the Commonwealth’s guidelines. So, while they seem to have a higher level of liability tolerance than many homeowners’ associations, they are not operating within the guidelines.
Insurance: Our umbrella insurance policy will not cover a lawsuit/claim filed by a resident who feels that they might have contracted Covid-19 at our pool. While this lawsuit would be hard to prove, our insurance company would also not cover our legal defense fees. In other words, if we were sued, it would still cost us money to defend ourselves even if we were found not liable.
Liability and Legal Update. I have asked our Legal Counsel to provide us with their views on opening the pool. They have addressed two areas:
1. Waivers/Liability: In Virginia, a person cannot waive liability for something that is negligent. For example, suppose Landsdowne organizes a 5K race for our residents and has them sign a waiver saying they can’t sue if they fall. But we design a course that contains multiple hidden holes (or we just fail to make sure there are no holes present, meaning we didn’t make sure the course was safe). A person falls and breaks their leg. The waiver would be null and void as the association’s actions were negligent (either overtly or in avertedly) and we would be liable. So, for our pool, the waiver would not hold up if we did not obey every government rule regarding Covid-19. But, if we could prove that we did everything necessary to comply and obeyed every rule without fail, the waiver would cover us. But again, we would have to demonstrate that we complied with all regulations.
I have heard several residents state that we should allow people to swim if they want to take the risk and people who don’t wish to take a risk don’t have to use the pool. While I understand the sentiment behind this statement, it does not legally protect us. One, a person who says “I assume the risk” can still sue if they catch Covid-19 and two, from a morality perspective, can pass it on to others outside of the pool environment. While not likely, I worry about a Covid-19 hotspot which could end up infecting residents who don’t use the pool which could lead to sickness or fatalities because people want to swim.
2. Indemnify MGN, our pool company. The pool company insists that Landsdowne sign a document stating that they are not liable for any Covid-19 suits and if they are sued, that Landsdowne must pay their legal fees. Our legal counsel flatly stated that we should not sign this agreement. So, say we open, and say we are perfect about enforcing the Commonwealth’s rules. But, a lifeguard does something like coming to work sick with the virus and passes it on to our residents or even other lifeguards. We are now responsible.
The bottom line: Legal Counsel has stated that, in his words: “With so many unknows, so many pitfalls, especially given all of the Governor’s guidelines, it would be very unwise to open your pool.”
That is the new information that I have been able to gather for this meeting.