Coronavirus updates: West of Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton, most retirement communities aren’t taking any chances and most are not re-opening facilities.

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If you live in one of the many retirement communities west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, you are going to have to cope with cabin fever for a while longer. Almost all of the 55+ communities have decided to keep their amenities shuttered despite last week’s county ruling that allowed them to reopen with restrictions.


Country clubs and public parks quickly reopened golf courses, pools and tennis courts but most retirement communities say they are not ready to permit even singles tennis or singles-pickleball play. Most long ago closed their clubhouses and pools, and will continue to keep them closed.


The decision has resulted in some pushback on the Next Door web site.


A Cascades resident said she is still waiting for a check from her HOA for "no services for the last seven weeks." Residents of other communities argue the time has come to allow for recreational activity based on new county guidelines that permit only singles tennis and pickleball play. Pools can open but must adhere to social distancing.


At Valencia Isles, west of Boynton Beach, HOA President Bob Goldstein said the problem is with enforcement.


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"We need someone to monitor this at all times," he noted. "That’s an added expense. And the penalties for failing to comply are substantial." He said very few people play tennis singles at retirement communities so it doesn’t make sense to incur that extra cost when so few people play singles anyway, he said.


In addition, Goldstein said there are concerns that reopening might result in the spread of coronavirus. "The last thing we need is a lawsuit."


Vizcaya amenities open with provisions


The council of presidents, which consists of nearly 30 retirement communities, discussed reopening options Thursday. Sources say that none of the communities indicated they were ready to reopen.


One HOA bucking the trend is Vizcaya, a 504-home retirement community off Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Property Owners Association President Jay Meitchik said his email was flooded with requests from residents to open up the tennis courts and the pool on Monday after the county modified its order. Vizcaya reopened Friday morning.


"I would like to think that we thought of everything," he said.


Tennis players must identify their tennis balls and use only those they brought with them when they serve. If another player’s ball winds up on the other side of the court, that player must use his or her racquet or foot to get the ball back to the player serving. The gates lock at 5 p.m. They are left open during the day so no one touches them. Play is limited to one hour, players bring their own chairs and there is no socializing.


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As for the pool, all chaise lounges have been moved off to the side and locked together. Residents must bring their own chairs. Volunteers make sure the rules are followed and that only residents use the amenities.


Mel Silverman arrived at the tennis courts as soon as soon as they opened.


"I have been walking 5 miles day," he said, "but there is nothing like getting out on the tennis court. We are all very grateful. It is up to us now to follow all the rules."


New rules in a new era


Perry Sinnett, a tennis pro who oversees tennis programs at a dozen retirement communities, said the HOA boards are faced with a difficult decision. They are getting pressure from residents who want to get some exercise but, at the same time, they want to do all they can to prevent the spread of the virus. "They (the communities) are clearly not anxious to open now," he noted.


Sinnett said there a lot of things to consider.


"Do we limit singles play to a half hour? Do we make sure there is a time lapse before the next players come onto the court? Do players have to wear masks and gloves?" Sinnett said these are all issues that will have to be addressed.


The HOA at Valenica Reserve said it wanted to "err on the side of caution" when it announced that it would not be reopening at a recent board meeting. It said it wanted to do all it could to prevent another spike. Murray Grendzel, president of the pickleball club at the Reserve, said there is a desire by people to play pickleball again but added that he recognizes the need to continue the shutdown, noting how vulnerable residents older than 60 are to the virus.


At Valencia Cove, the HOA noted that the federal plan considers "vulnerable individuals" as people who are 65 years or older. As a result, it will not reopen any of its amenities but it will develop a plan for a "soft" opening at the appropriate time.


Meanwhile, the retirement communities will be able to review how well the Vizcaya reopening goes as well as the golf-course communities.


At Addison Reserve in Delray Beach, only five of the 12 tennis courts will be used. Members must bring their own tennis balls "to avoid cross contamination" just as Vizcaya is doing. Anyone in the pool must remain 6 feet from one another. Members must bring their own towels.


Addison Reserve General Manager Michael McCarthy said he has been pleased with the way members have abided by the rules. "They have been very conscious of the need to continue social separation," he noted. "As long that continues, we should not have any problems."


One of the few golf-course communities still closed is Wycliffe Golf & Country Club, west of Lake Worth.


"Our board is not interested in playing follow the leader," said Wycliffe General Manager Rob Martin. "We polled our members and the vote was overwhelming not to reopen. This way, we get to see how the other country clubs are doing."


Martin said he is concerned with compliance. All it takes is one or two people to ruin it, he noted.


At Vizcaya, opening day on Friday went well. So far, so good, said POA President Meitchik, but he added:


"I am a tough New Yorker. One violation and I’ll shut this place down in a heartbeat."


Email Mike Diamond at dimes706@gmail.com


For more information:


– Florida Department of Health coronavirus web page


– CDC coronavirus web page


– Florida DOH coronavirus hotline (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday) is 866-779-6121 or email COVID-19@flhealth.gov