With the rapid spread of COVID-19 it is entirely possible that someone you know may contract the virus. It is also possible that someone in your community may test positive. In this case, what do you? This brings up many legal issues, which are important to keep in mind.
First, no matter what you do, it is your responsibility to keep the identity the person who has tested positive anonymous. This is the foremost legal concern. You may not disclose the name, address or any other identifying information of the diagnosed person.
That said, we believe it is the ethical and responsible action of the board to notify the community that a case has been discovered in your community. Although it is not required by law that you notify your community, we believe it is in the best interest of all community members to make an announcement. This allows owners and tenants to take extra precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones.
When you do inform your community, do so in a calm, rational way that will not incite anxiety or speculation. Simply state the facts and let the community know that the identity of the ill person must be protected. It’s easy to cause a panic in these times, so do be careful with your words and the way that you inform your tenants and owners. Above all, don’t let the rumor mill take over the information stream. Get ahead of any hearsay by delivering the news first.
In the same announcement, state the guidelines you will follow to protect everyone’s safety. Let the community know how you will keep them safe: extra cleaning and sanitization, regulating non-essential guest, social distancing, limited gatherings, closing common space, etc. The more you can pacify your community and let them feel safe, the more effective your communication will be.
Finally, you must call the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC needs this valuable information to track the spread of the virus and aid them in their work of prevention. You still may not disclose any personal information unless the person has authorized you to do so.
We hope that this has added some clarity and relief to your concerns. As always, we are here to help in these times of need. Contact us if you need legal counsel for the COVID-19 pandemic.