Why is NAR issuing this guidance?
In response to the growing concerns about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, NAR is providing this guidance to help REALTOR® associations respond to the coronavirus's impact on association operations and the real estate industry. As of March 16, 2020, the United States government has banned all travel from China, Iran, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland into the United States. The United States government has also closed the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico land borders to non-essential travel. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Level 3 Travel Health Notice for all global travel. The situation is rapidly evolving. Be sure to refer to the CDC's website for up-to-date information about travel warnings, as well as information about the coronavirus' current impact in the United States. Daily updates about the coronavirus are also available from the World Health Organization.
What is Coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that has infected more than 1.2 million individuals in more than 200 countries and territories, causing the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify this outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing emergency signs such as difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or bluish lips or face should immediately seek medical attention.
What is the risk of exposure to coronavirus?
Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC urges citizens to monitor your health and practice social distancing. Social distancing means staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible. Visit the CDC's website for latest updates.
How should association staff reports of COVID-19 be handled?
NAR has prepared a Sample Preparedness Plan for Circumstances Relating to COVID-19 that any REALTOR® Association may adapt and implement in your workplace.
What should an association do if an association member reports a confirmed case of COVID-19?
If the member attended an in-person association-sponsored meeting or event within the past 14 days, the association should notify individuals who may have been exposed in accordance with the association’s Preparedness Plan, and without identifying the identify of the individual. If the member did not recently attend an association-sponsored meeting or event, the association should recommend the member report their confirmed case to their broker.
What preventative measures may be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus?
The CDC urges individuals to take these measures to protect themselves and others:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Practice social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Stay home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
Additionally, to help prevent the continued spread of coronavirus, on March 15, 2020, the CDC recommended that for the next 8 weeks, all in-person events consisting of 50 or more people, such as conferences and assemblies, be canceled, postponed or modified to virtual events. Avoiding these in-person gatherings is an effective measure that will reduce your risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.
How should associations address staff travel?
In light of the governmental travel bans and warnings, many U.S. companies have restricted all business travel, both domestic and international until further notice. Consider whether your association should implement similar business travel restrictions, once a determination is made, be sure to communicate the association's policy to staff and a staff contact for travel-related questions. Also, consider how to address staff's personal travel plans, and whether to adopt a policy that requires all staff who have recently traveled to a location with reported outbreaks, or who have been in close contact with someone who has traveled to such a location, to work remotely for a specified period. Before returning to work, employees should confirm they are asymptomatic. If the employee shows symptoms of illness, consider extending the remote work period without penalty to the employee.
Should association events be canceled?
Associations should follow all local and state “shelter in place” orders that impact the closure of non-essential businesses and restrictions on in-person gatherings. If the association has in-person events planned in the near future, the association should consider canceling, postponing or converting it to a virtual event. For events taking place beyond the current recommendations for in-person gatherings in your area, the association should continue to monitor the situation and consider whether and when to cancel the event or convert it to a virtual meeting in order to limit in-person contact. In all cases, associations should continue to monitor updates from the CDC, as well as state and local health authorities for the most up-to-date additional information and guidance on holding events in your geographic area.
What precautions should associations take in the workplace?
Associations should follow all local and state "shelter in place" orders that impact the closure of non-essential businesses to the public. If your office may remain open, the CDC urges individuals to practice social distancing by avoiding close contact, so associations should seriously consider alternative work arrangements for employees, such as maximum flexibility or mandatory remote work, and holding virtual meetings. To prepare staff, distribute the association’s business continuity plan so staff is aware of and familiar with the association's policies and practices in the event they are unable to report to work or the association must conduct its business remotely. Consider scheduling a trial run in which all staff work from home for a "test" day to ensure the association's plan and systems are functioning properly.
Has NAR provided guidance for REALTORS® on coronavirus and its impact on their business?
Yes. Please refer members to NAR's "Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®", dated April 7, 2020.
What else should associations consider?
Be sure to provide staff with regular and clear updates on how the association is responding to COVID-19. This includes informing staff about their rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and how a local and state “shelter in place” order or other executive orders impacts the physical closure of the association’s office. If the association is required to close its physical office, be sure to communicate with staff regarding remote work capabilities and expectations.
Where an association is allowed to remain open, associations should use their best judgment when formulating a plan. In addition to performing regular environmental cleaning with special attention paid to frequently touched surfaces, associations should implement a mandatory "stay-home" policy for any staff member or agent exhibiting any sign of illness. Associations may also want to consider imposing a mandatory or maximum flexibility remote work policy for employees and in some instances, may be required to do so under their state or local orders. In addition, in the wake of the President Trump’s announcement on March 29, 2020 recommending that individuals avoid groups of more than 10 people for the next 30 days, associations should hold virtual meetings when possible, and potentially postpone or cancel in-person meetings or events to limit close contact between individuals.
Finally, stay informed, and use your best judgment. The situation is rapidly changing, so focus on putting policies and procedures in place to keep your employees and agents informed, safe, and to avoid business disruption. The CDC's Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers is a helpful resource.
This guidance was originally published on March 4, 2020, and is being updated regularly. The date this information was most recently updated is at the top of this page.