CDC MASK CHANGES: MEETINGS, WHAT DOES MY BOARD DO NOW?
Steven R. Braten, Shareholder
Paula S. Marra, Senior Associate
Michael Casanover, Senior Associate
In June, we highlighted the impact of the end of Florida’s declared state of emergency on community associations’ meetings, including no longer being able to conduct board meetings exclusively through video/teleconference platforms. Now with the “Delta” variant of COVID-19 causing heightened concern among many Floridians, coupled with the July 27, 2021 guidance update from the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC), which recommends fully vaccinated persons wear masks in some public settings, your association may be asking if you must go back to packing your members into the clubhouse or other confined area for board meetings. The CDC’s latest recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of “substantial or high transmission” signals a reversal in the direction of mask wearing.
In reaction to the COVID-19 Pandemic, effective July 1, 2021, the Florida Legislature, amended the emergency powers of community associations under Chapters 718, 719, and 720, Florida Statutes, to allow board meetings to be conducted in whole or in part via video conferencing, but these new provisions are only applicable during a state of emergency. Florida’s declared state of emergency related to COVID-19 ended in June 2021, thus ending your community association’s ability to avail itself of its statutory emergency powers. In light of the spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases attributable to the “Delta” variant, Board members and managers should rightfully be concerned about placing a large number of people in a confined space for board meetings or members meetings. Per the CDC COVID Data Tracker, the entirety of Florida is an area of substantial or high transmission, with Florida reporting its highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in one day on Saturday, July 30, 2021.
So what should association board and managers do? Under Florida law, all board members may attend board meetings via videoconferencing or teleconferencing, such as Zoom, and the owners should be given the same options. However, in light of an owner’s statutory right to attend a board meeting in person, in an abundance of caution, the association should set up hardware necessary for a video conferencing system or teleconference system (i.e., laptop, camera, and microphone or telephone conference speaker) in the location that your association normally would have board meetings (i.e. the clubhouse). Thus, the owners who choose not to participate in the meeting via video conferencing at a location of their choosing can participate at the place you normally conduct the meetings. This board meeting method should satisfy the safety concerns of the persons who do not want to gather in a large group, in a confined space, and those who do not want to participate in board meetings outside the normal place your association conducts board meetings.
Your board should consider the impact of the changing COVID pandemic and guidance from the CDC and other public health officials and monitor updates. For example, the latest CDC recommendations contain information regarding exposure and testing for vaccinated persons; a link to the CDC’s guidance is contained here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html. Depending on the change in circumstances, it may be advisable for your board to implement at least some of the COVID protocols from last year and earlier this year, including for example strongly encouraging mask wearing in common areas. Every community is different, and what protocols your board decides to implement or not implement should be determined by your community’s needs and how to protect your staff and residents. Please contact your association’s attorney if you have questions regarding meeting requirements or mechanics in conducting the meeting.