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What apartment and condo dwellers should know amid COVID-19 pandemic

People on apartment balconies applaud and make noise in a daily show of support for healthcare workers who are fight the coronavirus, in the West End of Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Staff at many apartment and condo buildings across the country are ramping up their cleaning efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19, as tenants are being advised to be extra cautious.

For those who live in apartment and condo buildings, there are many common touch points between the door to their unit and the outside world: elevator buttons, door handles, handrails as well as shared amenities, like laundry facilities. 

In the last few weeks, many buildings have posted signs in their lobbies, or distributed notices to tenants advising them of extra precautions they should take, like washing hands, sneezing into sleeves and self-isolating for 14 days if they aren’t feeling well. 

Daryl Chong, president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, says staff in all buildings are diligently cleaning and following guidelines from public health agencies in terms of specific products to use.

“We’ve been scrubbing all the high surface touch areas,” he tells Yahoo Canada.

Another best practice that’s being recommended by public health is physical distancing in elevators, with only a maximum of three people standing two meters apart at a time.

When it comes to maintenance by the building within a unit, urgent calls are being met but everything else is being put on hold. Chong says his association is advising buildings to clean in off-hours.

“A resident might not notice that clearers are cleaning at night,” he says. “Rather than at dinner time, when people are getting food and going in and out more frequently.”

Different management companies are creating best practices for laundry rooms, depending on their size. Some recommendations include not shaking clothes before putting them in the washer, using hot temperatures, and advising tenants to fluff and fold at home, rather than in the laundry room.

Shared spaces that are often a draw to apartment and condo living like gyms, barbecues nooks, patios, movie theatres, pools and party rooms have been ordered to close. Andrew Macallum, with the Waterloo Regional Apartment Management Association, says tenants are simply following suit.

“Anything that’s non-essential or where people can gather in groups is being closed down,” he says. “It’s tough because (these spaces are) one of the only escapes people have.”

John Dickie, president of Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, recommends bringing a paper towel and using it on common touch points in buildings like doorknobs and elevator buttons. For laundry machines, he suggests using disinfectant wipes before touching any buttons. Dickie also advises to wait for the next elevator if there’s more than three people in one, which these days shouldn’t take too long. 

“There’s much less demand for elevators these days since less people are going to work, going out shopping, or going out at all,” he says.