For Vie Management, pandemic preparedness started at a restaurant.
This is the fourth in a recurring series of articles looking at how apartment owners, managers and developers have mobilized to protect themselves and their residents from the spread of the novel (meaning new) coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S.
In mid-January, Ari Rosenblum, Co-Founder and CEO at Vie Management, and his partner, Derrick Milam, Co-Founder and COO of the firm, sat down for dinner at a restaurant called Northwest Chinese Food in Hyattsville, Md.
“We had already started hearing about coronavirus,” Rosenblum says. “When we walked in there, there were people with masks on.”
Seeing those masks prompted some alarm and planning that turned out to, unfortunately, be fortuitous.
“We looked at each other, and we’re like, ‘This is coming over here, so we’ve got to get ready,’” Rosenblum says.
Vie began sending communications to its residents in early February and started stocking up on supplies such as hand sanitizers, masks and gloves for all of its communities.
“We bought a month of food for every onsite person at every property by February 15,” Rosenblum says.
Rosenblum explained to his teams that, if the virus forced them to remain quarantined, he wanted to make sure they were stocked. In mid-February, Rosenblum called all of his insurance providers and asked them how Vie should prepare. For a sector that should continuously be looking at risk, Rosenblum was surprised by their answers.
“They said, ‘Nothing’s happening,’” he says.
But they were wrong. Now that COVID-19 has arrived in the U.S., Rosenblum still isn’t getting the answers he wants.
“Now we call them and ask about their policies and procedures for having an infected person onsite or if half of our residents leave because we have an infected person onsite,” Rosenblum says. “All the insurance providers say, ‘There’s no coverage. We can’t help you.’”
Preparing for the pandemic, Vie developed a protocol for potentially infected residents that involves providing a COVID-19 hotline, facilitating transportation to a medical center, informing all other residents that an infected person was onsite and then doing a deep clean of the property.
“We already have contingency plans in place, which we’ve put into effect as it relates to having the staff operate the properties,” Rosenblum says. “We put together a skeleton onsite staff who lives at the property, and they’re prepared to work through any kind of lockdown or quarantine.”
Vie owns both student and conventional apartments. As business offices closed around the country, Rosenblum says his residents were practicing social distancing.
“Everyone has seen on the news the spring-breakers and college students behaving irresponsibly,” Rosenblum says. “The residents at our complexes seem to be taking this seriously and behaving much more like adults, which is great to see.”