20 March 2020

Steps to take when a tenant’s employee tests positive for Covid-19

***Information and guidance in client updates was up to date at time of publication. During the pandemic, information and guidance has been changing rapidly. If you have any questions about the information contained in a client update, please contact the author(s) or your Miller Johnson attorney.***

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in the U.S., building owners and property managers are facing unique challenges when preparing for and responding to COVID-19.  As landlords, building owners and their property managers must consider their duty to provide a safe facility and notice to tenants and occupants of COVID-19-related developments. If you are notified by a tenant that one of its employees has tested positive for COVID-19, here are your next steps:

  • Notify all tenants, building occupants and potential guests that a person who has entered the building tested positive for COVID-19, and communicate in a written notice the steps that the building owner and management are taking in response to the positive test.
  • Post warning signage at multiple locations within the building’s common areas providing notice of the positive COVID-19 test.
  • DO NOT disclose the identity of the person who has tested positive. Care must be taken that any notification from the building owner or management does not reveal the name, a physical description or any other personal identifying information for the affected individual.  However, notifications to tenants and other building occupants may disclose the location in the building where the individual works or visited – for example, the floor the person works on or the areas of the building visited by the affected individual.
  • Evaluate the tenant’s current working and occupancy standards to determine the length of time the affected individual was in the building and exposed to others. Review the tenant’s response plan and ensure they are acting in accordance with the plan, all while keeping the building owner and management informed.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces within the building’s common areas, and ensure that the affected tenant is taking adequate measures to clean and sanitize its premises.
  • Call the COVID-19 hotline for your county and for Michigan as soon as possible to report the positive test. Michigan’s hotline is 888-535-6136.
  • Work with adjacent tenants and provide up-to-date information so affected tenants may make the best decisions for their company, its employees and guests.

General Preparedness:

If your building is still “COVID-19-Free”, you still should be following the following general guidance (with the caveat that, while there is no “one size fits all” general preparedness protocol for all owners or managers):

  • Establish, share and execute a policy for responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and the possibility of a positive test, and ensure all employees, any management company and subcontractors understand their roles in implementing the policy.
  • Close or restrict access to areas within buildings that are designed for common use among tenants and guests if possible.
  • Post signage and other informational materials at multiple locations within the building informing tenants and their employees, visitors and guests about proper hygiene and restrictions on entry for those feeling sick or showing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Implement more regular and thorough cleanings of all frequently touched surfaces and common areas within the building, including all door handles, railings, elevators, lobbies, restrooms and breakrooms.
  • Confirm that each tenant has prepared a planned course of action for responding to a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Communicate to all tenants that they should immediately notify the building owner and building management of any suspected or confirmed cases of COVD-19 among their employees or any known visitors or vendors of the tenant.
  • Reinforce to tenants that large gatherings of individuals within the building are prohibited (e. gatherings of 50 people or more in Michigan) and that gatherings of 10 people or more are discouraged under current CDC guidelines.
  • Maintain regular communication with tenant representatives regarding their understanding of any suspected cases of COVID-19 and their planned response to a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Regularly monitor updates from your local health department, state government and the CDC for the most recent guidelines and restrictions in place for controlling transmission.

All levels of local, state and federal government are rapidly issuing regulations and orders impacting public spaces and private businesses alike. Miller Johnson will continue to closely monitor the situation as it evolves. Please contact your Miller Johnson attorney with any questions.