How should New York co-ops handle COVID-19 masking and vaccinations?

by | Sep 2, 2021 | Co-ops and condominiums |

While so many people were hopeful that mass vaccinations would be the end of Covid restrictions, the increase in cases tied to variants and the ongoing inability to vaccinate children under twelve continue to leave issues and concerns in all fields. Buildings need to know what they are entitled to ask of their residents and employees when it comes to mask and vaccination requirements on both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

Possible Solutions for Guests

The general policy for most businesses in New York has been a mask-wearing policy for any guest who is not vaccinated. Most co-ops and condominiums have taken a similar approach to non-residents in the common areas of their buildings.

Because of practical concerns and limitations in monitoring who is vaccinated, many buildings have been taking an honor system approach as to the vaccine. They have accepted the risk that someone will simply say that they are vaccinated – even if they are not – to avoid having to wear a mask or be denied access to the building.

The honor system has had mixed results, and an increasing number of businesses are requiring proof of vaccination. This option would work better for amenities such as gyms and pools but not as well for common use of elevators and hallways.

An alternative to a policy based on vaccination is a masks-for-everyone policy in all common areas.

These solutions present other problems

These solutions, while convenient and safe in some ways, create new problems of their own.

The policy of requiring proof of vaccination brings in a host of issues with individual privacy questions, including the building’s ability to require personal medical information and its ability to maintain confidentiality.

If there is no question of amenity use but rather whether an owner is entitled to ride in the elevator to their apartment, it is hard to justify proof of vaccination because you cannot deny them entry to their home if not vaccinated.

Further, as the New York Times mentions in a recent article, a proof-of-vaccination policy requires policing. Co-op and condo managers and directors do not want to have their doormen and security people in the position where they have to check every resident in common areas and remove people from the common areas if they are not in compliance.

The requirement that everyone wear masks in public areas brings fewer problems, but it still not perfect and may present political problems for boards who have residents opposed to ongoing safety precautions for a variety of reasons.  There is no clear-cut, short-term remedy available if someone refuses to wear a mask in the common areas of the buildings.