Pandemics, Preparations and Plans for Summer 2020 Opening
Report on the Sea Colony Community
Tom Olson, Senior General Manager, ResortQuest and Roy Zatcoff, President, Sea Colony Rec. Assoc.
COVID-19 – Few of us could have ever imagined that we would begin 2020 laser focused on getting our facilities in prime condition for summer when without much warning - everything changes! We’ve been eager to make improvements to facilities, hiring for our many summer seasonal positions and laying the groundwork for another great summer here at Sea Colony only to face the realities of a worldwide pandemic. It resulted in closure of all our popular amenities including the Freeman and Edgewater fitness Centers, the tennis Center, pools, playgrounds, as well as our beach.
What did we do in response?
The first thing we did was deep clean and sanitize our facilities. The housekeeping team reviewed CDC regulations, obtained approved cleaning chemicals, and reviewed recommended procedures for cleaning. We then went to work thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing all equipment and facilities. Next, we put procedures in place, along with the appropriate level of staff, to regularly and thoroughly maintain this level of cleaning of all equipment and facilities. We will continue to do this for the safety of everyone who will be at Sea Colony.
All essential employees working in the field were provided personal protection equipment to ensure their ability to perform vital tasks throughout the community while minimizing risks of contracting or unknowingly spreading the virus. This will continue when we reopen our facilities. Employees who have jobs that can be performed from home have been working remotely.
It was also important to set into motion modified financial plans for a different type of summer. We analyzed how to handle required fixed expenses, cost cutting plans, and a plan to reopen once we are permitted to do so. Revenues supporting the Sea Colony operating budget come from owner assessments and from renter sources including rental badge sales, fee based social/exercise programs, tennis, swim lessons, and several other activities. Even when we reopen, we cannot count on 100% of those revenues because of the shorter season and other uncertainties. Many of the reopening decisions are directed from Governor Carney’s office and we are coordinating our decisions with those directives.
We anticipate the owner and renter occupancy will be below normal, and that social distancing will still be required. As a result, it still means that we’ll need to scale back on costs, cancel or postpone many group events like movies on the beach, promenade entertainment, bonfires, and tennis tournaments, to name a few. We will also scale back summer staffing in anticipation of fewer rentals and lower levels of traffic this summer Our goal is to provide as many of our amenities that we can staff and safely operate.
What will Summer 2020 look like?
We all hope that this pandemic will come to an early end, but the reality is that it will likely end slowly, and this summer will not be the same as the ones we have known in the past. Social distancing will be mandated affecting not only group programs traditionally offered, but also how we interact with each other at popular amenities like the beach, pools, tennis, fitness centers, trams and other areas.
Tennis – the good news is that the State of Delaware has recently authorized outdoor tennis, so we are opening our outdoor hard courts over the next few days and our Har-Tru courts over the next couple of weeks after we lay down the materials and prepare the courts. Our staff has also prepared the guidance from the State, as well as the USTA, as to how we will operate tennis in this first phase opening. A separate communication will be forthcoming shortly on those details.
The Beach & Pools – all Sea Colony beach umbrellas will be set up at least 10 feet apart and we will expect people with their own equipment to do the same. Cooperation from all will be required and the best enforcement will be a friendly reminder from those already seated. Seasonal discounts on umbrella packages for owners will be in place acknowledging the shortened season. A smaller amount of pool furniture will be placed on pool decks spaced apart for social distancing, at a level permitted by State orders. There will be limits to the number of guests allowed in the pool areas at any given time.
Trams – families will need to occupy one row each and only every other row will hold passengers to ensure safe distancing. This may cause slower route circuits since they will operate at 50% capacity but also reduced community occupancy.
Group exercise classes – will require 6 foot minimum spacing and limited participation.
Fitness Center – we will be spacing out equipment, moving some to the gym from the weight room, and we will be strictly controlling occupancy numbers to the facility based on the State orders in each phase of reopening.
Cleaning – protocols will be elevated to meet all CDC standards.
Social interaction – All of us will see new requirements for social distancing, and personal responsibility, for interacting in groups.
At this time, we are planning to open the beach with a full complement of guards, all east side pools with guards, the Freeman Fitness Center, some of the west side pools, and all outdoor tennis with revised court usage and spacing. This also includes an increased cleaning protocol of all equipment, facilities, furniture, restrooms, etc. and on a more frequent timeline. Of course, this is all contingent on hiring the staff we require. The good news is that for this reduced level of opening, it appears we currently have the necessary staff commitments. Other options for 100% usage of the facilities will be considered if both money and staffing were to allow for it.
When will summer 2020 start?
Our summer will begin once the pandemic begins to subside and the State lifts various restrictions which will allow us to open in phases. To reach that point, the State requires a steady decline in new cases and hospitalizations which must be measured for a period of time and a comprehensive testing program must be firmly in place along with a tracking system that identifies possible carriers of the virus. Once this occurs, the State Phase 1 restrictions will be lifted, and a similar timing plan is required for lifting Phase 2 restrictions. The State and Federal governments are constantly working on these issues . We monitor progress daily and will be ready to open when permitted by law. When beaches are open and rentals are allowed, you can still expect social distancing and occupancy restrictions at amenities in Sea Colony, as well at restaurants, local businesses, etc.
Our leadership has been in communication with various state leaders, and we are in the loop on the State’s plans and thinking.
There are still questions and uncertainties about how soon we can welcome everyone back to the community facilities. We’re anxious to get summer started and intend to do so as soon as we get the “green light” and can safely provide programs, activities and services. Summer 2020 will require your patience, understanding and cooperation from everyone at the property. We all must adhere to safety protocols and compliance with rules on social distancing, so that a course reversal is not required.
Aside from COVID, were there any improvements completed over the winter?
A number of projects were underway prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new roof is installed on the Edgewater indoor pool, a handicap ramp was added to the south side of the Edgewater pool leading to the beach, and major repairs were made to the Edgewater pool interior and spa. Additional recycling containers have been placed throughout the Tennis Community, LED lighting was added to the Tennis Center indoor courts, West Lake mailboxes and parking are being relocated as a first step in creating the future space for a new permanent pickle ball location, and improved playground areas. All other projects planned but not approved prior to March 1st were postponed due to the pandemic, and until the financial picture is clearer.
Make the most of Summer 2020!
We expect to operate this year with reduced levels of staffing in some areas, a redesigned schedule of programs and activities and other changes that place the health, safety, and welfare of owners, visitors and employees as our highest priorities. These changes will impact some facets of the Sea Colony experience but with your cooperation, understanding and support, we’ll make summer 2020 the best summer it can be with the enjoyment and satisfaction you have come to expect from our top notch amenities. We know you are anxious to get the latest community information as it becomes available, and we will be providing regular communication as we learn it. We expect to have an upcoming virtual town hall meeting so look for that announcement. In addition, we encourage you to check out our website www.seacolony.com regularly. Also, follow the Sea Colony Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SeaColonyDe/) and take advantage of our many other forms of communication. Registering amenity specific Facebook pages, and the Sea Colony app are just some of the many ways to get the latest news on community happenings!
See you soon, and till then stay healthy and stay safe!!