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Returning to In-Person Troop Meetings and Activities: COVID-19 Guidance for Volunteer

This guidance is being provided as of March 22, 2021.  Girls Scouts of Gateway Council may modify this guidance as circumstances remain fluid in regard to COVID-19.

COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus that spreads easily in the community. Take all reasonable precautions to limit potential exposure for girls, volunteers, and families.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change as infection rates rise and fall in different areas. There may be regional differences or developments within the State of Florida and we will continue to update our guidelines accordlingly and remain consistent  across the council. Please continue to follow local and national directives and discuss these plans with your families.

Use these questions and reminders to help decide how and when to return to troop activities.

Girl Scout Programs and Events.

In keeping with guidelines from the CDC, local governments and GSUSA, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council allows both in-person and virtual events, programs and camping experiences. 

Our camp properties — Fernandina Beach Little House, Camp Kateri and Camp Kugelman — are open at 75% occupancy. 

As we continue to return to our regular Girl Scout experience, GSGC has put in place the following guidelines for other in-person activities.

Troop Meetings .

Troop meetings and activities resumed in-person (and virtual) in October 2020, increased in size in November 2020 and will continue to occur both virtually and in-person.  When larger troops meet it is recommended to work in smaller groups/pods to limit group interaction.  Outdoor spaces where social distancing can be maintained are strongly recommended for meetings. Get advance permission from the property owner or the jurisdiction that provides the location. 

For meetings held at public facilities, contact the facility ahead of time and ask:

  •  Is the space cleaned, and touch surfaces (i.e., tabletops, light switches, chairs, etc.) sanitized, at least daily?
  • Who else uses the space (how often, what size is the group)? Is the space cleaned between groups? 
  • What type of faucets / soap dispensers are available in the restroom (sensory or manual)?

Then, consider whether you can supplement any practices that are less ideal. For example, if you will arrive after another user group, plan to bring sanitizing wipes to get the space ready for your troop. Another example: if faucets are manual, take some time to show girls how to shut them off with a paper towel. Use paper towels for doorknobs whenever possible.

Meetings may not be held in fitness centers or gyms, where a greater risk for contracting the virus may exist. Schools or churches may not permit outside groups on premises, so always check and confirm ahead of time.

Troop Meetings in the home.

GSGC strongly suggests no meetings in the home out of concern that there would be greater risk of exposure to other family members.  The recommendation is to stay away from in-home meetings if possible.  However, if home is the only place that a troop can meet in person, the troop leader must submit a request to meet in one’s home to customercare@girlscouts-gateway.org.  Anyone that resides in this home 18 years of age or older also must be a member of Girl Scouts and background checked. Gateway Council must approve in home meetings prior to occurrence.

More GSGC-specific guidelines can be found here.

Transportation

Individual parents should drop off and pick up their own girls from meetings. Carpooling and public transportation should be avoided, where possible, to maintain social distancing.

Virtual meetings. 
Meeting options may need to be flexible based on the fluid nature of COVID-19 risk. Troops that are able to run online meetings as needed (or wanted) should do so. GSUSA recommends maintaining a virtual to in-person ratio of at least 20/80, which means to maintain virtual troop meetings at least 20% of the time to keep tech skills and virtual meeting habits fresh. Use the virtual troop meetings checkpoint in Safety Activity Checkpoints to guide your meeting plans. When possible, provide virtual options for those that can not meet in person if your troop is also meeting in person.

Day trips and activities. 
In conjunction with Safety Activity Checkpoints, follow the same guidance as troop meetings. Call ahead to the facility or vendor to confirm that they are following CDC and state health department guidelines. If activity or sporting equipment is being provided, ask the provider if they wipe down equipment in between uses, similar to equipment at the gym. Make whatever appropriate accommodations are necessary. For example, bring extra sanitizer and disinfectant wipes if none will be provided for public use at the activity location. More GSGC-specific guidelines can be found here.

Travel and overnight stays. 
Overnight and out-of-state trips are now permitted.  Troops will be approved to travel out of state on a case by case (Trip Application) basis.  Troops will NOT be approved to visit a state that is still in Phase 1 or potentially Phase 2 of re-opening or where the majority of businesses are still closed.  Trip applications must be submitted for any and all travel (within or outside of the state) and will be approved at the discretion of the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council and our safety practices. International Travel continues to be banned until further notice. More GSGC-specific guidelines can be found here.

Property reservations: UPDATED

Reservations for GSGC properties remain open. Members may reserve space at Fernandina Beach Little House, Camp Kateri and Camp Kugelman for troop and group activities and overnights.

  • Camp Kateri and Camp Kugelman will only be open for summer residence camp June, July and the first week of August.
  • Members may make reservations only for day use or troop overnights.
  • Camp Kateri: 75% occupancy by Unit and camporees can be scheduled though max occupancy of the camp is 165 people.
  • Camp Kugelman: Continues at a max of 24 total people (12 per side of the lodge). Also, even if a troop of 24 reserves the property they must function as smaller groups of 8-12 while on property for activities in and outside. Covid restrictions in the state of Alabama remain stricter than Florida.
  • Renters are required to follow all CDC, local government, GSUSA and GSGC safety guidelines for in-person events.
  • No large group gatherings over 50 people. And if a larger group is gathering then work in smaller pods/groups for activities. 
  • Maintain 3-6 feet from other individuals; wear masks when social distancing is not feasible.
  • Remain with your own troop for all activities.
  • Remain in your unit; do not share space with other members/troops camping at the same time.
  • GSGC property staff will clean activity areas (e.g., archery) as needed between groups.
  • All food handling and dining must be done within your unit. The dining hall at Kateri and kitchen at Kugelman are open for use but under stricter guidelines limiting amount of people allowed in this area.  Ask for more details when submitting a trip application.
  • A full list of safety guidelines will be provided to all renters and program attendees ahead of on-property events.

GSGC community camporees may continue to be scheduled into 2021-2022. Please reach out via the webform to submit dates for your communities’ camporees.  Campers will be required to follow the same guidelines established for all Gateway properties.

Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation.
Follow the resources developed by credible public health sources such as CDC or your local public health department. Share these with girls and volunteers and ensure that they are practiced during meetings and activities. Place signs in the meeting or activity space to remind girls and volunteers to engage in everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Signs should include:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash or sanitize your hands. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Wash hands if you do touch.
  • Volunteers, girls and parents should be reminded to make sure temperatures are taken prior to group interaction to confirm the individual is not running a fever and temperature is a normal 98.6 degrees Members with fever or temperature higher than 98.6 should skip the in-person gathering until their temperature is normal.  

Personal contact.
Hugs, handshakes, “high-fives,” and even activities like the friendship circle or squeeze can transmit COVID-19 from person to person. Refrain from these gestures for the time being. Create a safe way for girls and volunteers to greet and end meetings instead (like tapping elbows).

First Aid Supplies. 
Troop first aid supplies should include COVID-19 prevention items including hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), tissues, disposable facemasks, and disinfectants. Trash baskets or bags should be supplied for meeting and activity spaces, if not already available. Make sure that the trash baskets (or bags) are easily accessible for girls. Disposable or no-contact thermometers may be added to supplies if available and not cost-prohibitive, however, parents should be checking temperatures and allowing their girl(s) to join group activities only when temperatures are normal.

First Aid / CPR Training.
Keep skills up-to-date for any emergency. Talk to your council about alternative methods of training that may be available during this time.

Disinfectants and Disinfecting. 
Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched (i.e., table tops, markers, scissors, etc.). Use a household cleaner, or see the EPA’s list of effective cleaners approved for use against COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

Household bleach is effective against COVID-19 for up to 24 hours when properly diluted. Check that the bleach is not expired and determine if it can be used on a given surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.  

To prepare a bleach solution, mix:  

  • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 
  • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

See the CDC’s website for more on cleaning and disinfecting community facilities.

Face Coverings. 
Volunteers should remind girls that Girl Scouts wear face coverings (masks) not only to protect themselves but to protect others. Face coverings are a civic responsibility and a sign of caring for the community.  Girls can bring their own face coverings. Have disposable masks on hand for those who need them. Volunteers can teach girls how to handle their face coverings so that the coverings are effective. Some girls or volunteers may not be able to wear masks, due to medical conditions such as asthma. Contact your council for guidance on how best to handle these exceptional circumstances as they arise.  

Reporting and communicating a positive COVID 19 test. 
In the event of a COVID-19 positive test result, do NOT contact the parents or troop members. Promptly contact your council in this situation.  A council staff member and NOT volunteers, will be responsible for:

  • Confirming and tracing the positive tester,  
  • Contacting the parents of anyone who may have been exposed (or other volunteers),  
  • Notifying a facility or homeowner where a troop has met
  • Alerting the state department of health.  

Let other volunteers know that council staff, NOT volunteers, will notify parents and others about a positive test result and that the tester’s identity is confidential. Remember that girl and volunteer health information is private and strictly confidential and should be only shared on a need to know basis with a council staff member.