Q: Almost immediately after Governor Cuomo lifted the coronavirus restrictions, my Manhattan collaboration ended its mask requirement in public areas and reopened the gym completely. The new rules state that people who are not fully vaccinated must still wear a mask, but how is anyone supposed to know who is vaccinated and who is not? Should the cooperative require residents to show their vaccination status? Should the board of directors ask buyers at the board meeting if they were vaccinated before agreeing to live in the building?
A: After most of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted, many buildings are relaxing their mask rules and reopening their gyms completely. While people who are not fully vaccinated continue to wear masks, a building is unable to monitor its occupants. "All of this is based on the honor system," said Dan Wurtzel, president of FirstService Residential New York, a property manager. "We're not in the business of keeping medical records."
Let's say the building has decided to have the doorman ask for proof of vaccination. As shareholders in the cooperative, these residents are actually its employers. What if they refuse to answer the question? Or lie? The doorman can't stop her from going into her apartment. "I don't think people want to put the bouncer in that position," said Lisa A. Smith, real estate attorney and partner in the Manhattan office of Smith, Gambrell & Russell law firm. "They're not bouncers at the bar."
In theory, during a board meeting the board could ask buyers if they were vaccinated, but candidates could avoid answering the question or saying they were following a doctor's orders.
Instead, it is up to you to decide how safe you will feel walking into the lobby or gym without a mask. It's not dissimilar if you feel safe enough to hit Equinox again or hop on the subway. You cannot be sure if the person next to you is vaccinated. If you feel unsafe around you, wear your mask.
Some cooperatives may be slower to relax their rules or may continue to require visitors and vendors (such as nannies and housekeepers) to wear masks in public areas. One room that could remain closed for the foreseeable future is the children's playroom. Children under 12 are still not eligible for a vaccine, so these rooms are unlikely to reopen in the near future.
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