How do I get my apartment building to require masks?
June 17, 2021 4:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get my apartment to require the residents to wear masks in the shared spaces (stairwells, corridors, laundry rooms). Please help me make a persuasive argument to the management company.

Setting aside what the policy should be, or who should wear masks and questions of vaccination, as I understand it, the King County mask directive is in force until June 29, and according to the FAQ page, it applies to these common spaces:
Public indoor spaces are those that the public routinely enters, such as retail stores, government buildings (including office buildings and libraries), common areas in multi-unit housing, restaurants, and reception areas. Other areas where members of the public do not routinely enter, such as private office buildings, or inventory areas and back-offices in large box stores, are considered private indoor spaces. In private indoor spaces, the state Labor & Industries guidance would apply to employees (see #3).
Following June 29, the Washington Department of Health order is in effect, which I believe should apply similarly:
Every person in Washington State must wear a face covering that covers their nose and
mouth when they are in a place where people from outside their household are present or
in a place that is generally accessible to people from outside their household, subject to the
exceptions below and any face covering requirements and limitations on gatherings and
activities imposed by the Governor or other legal authority.
I don't think people in my building are ignoring the mandate on purpose. I think probably most of them are vaccinated and think they're following the CDC guidance. All I want from my management company is to post signs at the entrance and possibly send an email to residents to remind them that there is still a state and county mandate in effect.

Any advice about the accuracy of my interpretation of the mandates or how to address my communication to them would be appreciated.
posted by Cogito to Law & Government (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
People in our apartment are required to wear masks in indoor common spaces. We do. Nobody else does. There's even reminders in all the public spaces. They still don't. They didn't do it during the height of the pandemic. This is in the California Bay Area. Be prepared for signs and emails to not work.
posted by aniola at 4:25 PM on June 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

From your state mandate link: "The following people are exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering:
• People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, except when in health care settings,
correctional facilities, homeless shelters, or schools"
posted by eponym at 4:27 PM on June 17, 2021 [22 favorites]

Any advice about the accuracy of my interpretation of the mandates [...] would be appreciated.

There is no mask directive with any force in King County for apartments. The actual "directive" is optional with no enforcement outside certain (non-apartment complex) environments: "[e]veryone 5-years of age and older in King County should continue to wear a face covering within indoor public spaces [...] I strongly recommend and urge all people in King County to voluntarily comply with this DIRECTIVE". The directive also doesn't obligate your apartment complex to post any signage.

The state order also does not impose any obligation for your apartment complex to post signs. Further, as stated, "[t]he following people are exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering: people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19".

People who are vaccinated and following CDC guidance are in compliance with both King County and Washington state directives. Whether you agree with that, or whether they are adequate, is a different discussion. However, there is no longer any Washington state or federal government-supported guidance for fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in common residential settings and local King County guidance is advisory/recommendation only.
posted by saeculorum at 4:33 PM on June 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good points all. I suppose it's not a requirement once the country directive expires, but seeing as nobody's checking vaccine status (and I wouldn't want them to anyway), I'd like my building to make that their policy in public spaces.

So, any advice on that route?

I recognize not everyone will comply, but I'd rather have vaccinated people wearing masks than unvaccinated people not wearing them so as not to call attention to themselves as unvaccinated.
posted by Cogito at 4:38 PM on June 17, 2021

Like I said, nearly nobody but us even did it in my apartment during the height of the pandemic. So policy + attractive signs probably won't work. Maybe try humorous signs that makes people laugh and go "fiiiine ok I'll do it."?
posted by aniola at 4:41 PM on June 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Why not just make and put up your own signs?
posted by shadygrove at 4:46 PM on June 17, 2021

Gonna be honest and say don't I think you're going to win this one. Even if your management company makes a rule it very likely won't be enforced. People who are unvaccinated by choice likely don't care about being outed as such and wouldn't wear masks anyways.

Use your energy to protect yourself however you feel is necessary; anything beyond that is going to be pissing into the wind, especially with the flimsy as is mandate expiring in two weeks.
posted by Ferreous at 4:52 PM on June 17, 2021 [42 favorites]

Were there signs previously that have been taken down? I think that's relevant information to discussing strategy, though I too am not optimistic--if they didn't put up signs when there was a clear mandate, why would they do it now?
posted by hoyland at 5:01 PM on June 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

This feels like a big enough ask at this point (more or less, depending on vaccination rates where you are) that I suspect one person's request isn't going to get far. Do you have any like minded neighbors you could get together with to write a joint request? That might get more traction.
posted by Stacey at 5:07 PM on June 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster:
Why not just make and put up your own signs?
Because I don't make policy for the building, and the management company probably wouldn't appreciate me acting like I do, so they'd probably get taken down immediately.
Were there signs previously that have been taken down?
No, there weren't ever any signs. And the more I think about this, the more I'm thinking the effort is probably going to outweigh the benefit. I appreciate all the help, though!
posted by Cogito at 5:13 PM on June 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Masks are effective at stopping the spread, but vaccines are way more effective. Maybe see if the local health dept. has some pro-vax posters and put a few up. You can ask the management company for permission, if you feel it's necessary.
posted by theora55 at 5:45 PM on June 17, 2021 [9 favorites]

How's the ventilation in your shared spaces? Worth requesting improvements to it? Feels like a point you're more likely to win.
posted by humbug at 6:20 PM on June 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Were people wearing them before? Because if they weren’t before, I don’t think anything you do would change behavior now.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:48 PM on June 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

It’s pretty late in the day to fret about masks now.
And I would appreciate *any* attention called to folks who aren’t vaccinated.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:20 PM on June 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think that if there are people that reside in the building that are immune compromised and cannot for reasons get vaccinated, that you can appeal to the management company to help those in the community that legit cannot protect themselves.

Other than a medical reason, I do not see the management company agreeing to this policy at this time.
posted by AugustWest at 9:49 PM on June 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don't know your building, but I might put up a *personal* appeal that we're in this together with unprotected people -- children, folks with various medical situations -- so you are masking on top of vaccination, and hope others will consider it.

(I'm keeping some extra margin until we see how it all goes after full Delta takeover, myself.)

Also! If you are willing, you could include an offer to help out with anyone who would like to get vaccinated and hasn't yet. If you are in a position to help with transportation, wrangling children to cover, finding sites with flexible hours, etc.

Black people in King County are still at ~50% and it's not all 'hesitancy', there's also logistics and the daily grind and the hours in a day.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:13 AM on June 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

A better question is how do you expect the management company to "enforce" it?

I agree that this is a battle you are not likely to win.
posted by kschang at 6:50 AM on June 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

My apartment building's been requiring them since last year and people have consistently torn the signs down from the hallways and elevators every single day. If management isn't on board & a majority of resident aren't, it's frustrating but likely there is really nothing you can do, especially if your state or city has lifted its mask restrictions like mine has.
posted by augustimagination at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2021

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