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GSCSA’s COVID-19 Guidance for Girl Scouts

Troop Meetings, Activities/Programs, Health & Safety Practices

Edition Date: June 8, 2022

An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists when people are together in-person. By participating in Girl Scouting, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.

Girl Scouts’ number one priority is the safety and well-being of our members and the families and communities we serve. We encourage all members to follow local public health guidance and are delighted that COVID-19 levels are reducing in our country and our 46 counties. We appreciate our girl and adult members who are so vigilant about civic duty and safety practices.

UPDATED Face Coverings. GSCSA continues to follow CDC and public health guidance. Given the CDC's recent changes in mask recommendations, we are also modifying our council-wide guidance. A growing number of our counties are now designated at medium or low community levels of COVID-19. County levels will be updated by the CDC on a weekly basis. Therefore, because we have 46 counties in 3 states at all three levels, we are highly recommending, but are not requiring, masks indoors or in crowded outdoors settings. We are strongly recommending masks in those counties that are designated as having high community levels of virus transmission.

GSCSA understands that COVID-19 is an ongoing presence in our country and recommends social distancing and masking based on individual and community situations. Girl Scouts should respect individual and family decisions about masking or not masking and apply the Girl Scout Law and Promise in their interactions with others.

Positive COVID Cases. Given the widespread nature of COVID-19 across many of our communities, GSCSA will limit notifications to known close contacts as defined by the CDC. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a COVID-positive person for 15 minutes cumulative over 24 hours. For those events where attendees are moving around and not in smaller groups, we will not be able to contact trace.

  • If an attendee at a Girl Scout activity develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 within 48 hours of the Girl Scout activity, the volunteer should try to identify close contacts with the COVID-positive person (or the caregiver).
  • To report a case of COVID-19 that occurs within 48 hours of a Girl Scout activity, contact Melissa Berry, Chief Administrative Officer, at (865) 387-1679 with close contact information and description of the event (e.g., were people able to socially distance, how long were people together, is there a way to identify close contacts). The nature and size of the event will determine whether we are able to contact trace. For example, a troop meeting or overnight allows for contact tracing more than an open house, roller skating party, or outdoor event does.
  • To protect medical privacy, the existence of a positive case will only be shared with those persons (or caregivers) identified as close contacts.
  • The identity of the person with COVID will not be shared by staff or volunteers. However, as in all aspects of pandemic life, the person or household with COVID is encouraged to notify known close contacts themselves in addition to contacting the troop volunteer.

As always, we urge all members of the Girl Scout community to monitor themselves and their households for symptoms, to seek testing if symptoms are observed, and to isolate/quarantine as recommended by public health or medical providers.

This page provides COVID-19 health and safety guidance for Girl Scout volunteers. The guidance which follows is separated into three categories:

  1. Troop Meetings
  2. Activities and Programs
  3.  Health and Safety Practices

Troop Meetings

Troop Meeting Size/Persons. Utilize social distancing practices and follow preventative guidance. Troop/Service Unit volunteers must keep lists of persons present at activities for possible contact tracing.

For large troops, stay connected with girls if waiting for a safer time for everyone to gather. Large troops are wonderful, so we encourage you to stay together. To keep girls engaged when they cannot meet in large groups, consider the following:

  • Host virtual troop meetings (see below).
  • Gather up in smaller groups—such as age-level groups, patrols, or groups of girls with a particular badge they’d like to work on.

Large Gatherings. For larger gatherings of 50 persons or more, confirm the number of people that are permitted in a facility and be mindful of proper girl-to-volunteer ratios. Make sure families are aware of the restrictions of meeting in-person, and what rules are in place to keep everyone safe. For example, if you are limited by how many adults can attend, make sure parents/caregivers know that before they arrive. Be sure to get GSCSA’s prior approval before planning any gatherings of more than 50 people.

Troop Meeting/Gathering Spaces. Outdoor spaces where social distancing can be maintained are strongly recommended when the weather permits. Volunteers must receive advance permission from a private property owner or the jurisdiction (if needed) 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)?
  • Does the facility have good air filtration and ventilation?
  • What is the troop leader’s responsibility after the meeting is over? Always make sure you abide by the rules of the partner/owner/facility whose space you are using.

For everyone’s safety, supplement any practices that are less ideal. For example, if your troop arrives after another group, bring sanitizing wipes to get the space ready for your troop. If faucets are manual, take some time to show girls how to shut them off with a paper towel and to use paper towels for doorknobs whenever possible.

Meetings may not be held in fitness centers or gyms because the atmosphere in sports facilities makes them a higher risk for contracting virus.

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 continue to do if desired. 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 and on the ready.

Use the Safety Activity Checkpoints for Virtual Meetings to guide your meeting plans. Contact GSCSA for other helpful resources to support virtual troop meetings and virtual activities, including gsZoom licenses and the Getting Started Guide and FAQs.

Activities and Programs

Day trips and activities. The guidance details here should be used with Safety Activity Checkpoints as volunteers plan any day trips or special activities for troops. Call ahead to the facility or vendor to confirm that they are following CDC and local/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 wipe downs in between uses for equipment at the gym. Make whatever appropriate accommodations that are necessary. For example, bring extra sanitizer or disinfectant wipes if none will be provided for public use at the activity location.

Travel and overnight stay. As always, regardless of COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers must follow guidance in Safety Activity Checkpoints. Volunteers must seek GSCSA prior approval before planning any overnight activities and continue to practice the Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidance outlined in this document.

Transportation (carpooling). It is imperative to take all safety precautions when girls are travelling in motor vehicles. If possible, girls from different households should not carpool. Coronavirus transmission risk is highest when people are in close proximity which means less than six feet apart. The risk increases when people are in an enclosed area or indoors for longer than 10 minutes. When transporting girls, always space out the girls to avoid crowding, girls are recommended to wear a mask and the windows should be partially open to provide ventilation. Make sure parents are aware ahead of time if girls will be in a car together.

Individual parent drop-offs and pick-ups are also an option.

Remember:

  • Girls and adults are recommended to wear masks when inside of a motor vehicle. Keep car windows opened, at least partially, to circulate fresh air.
  • Consider the personal situation of your girls: Does a girl live with an immune compromised person that she can put at risk? If so, perhaps make other accommodations for her with her parents.
  • Prescreen all passengers for symptoms or exposure to COVID-19.

Public Transportation. Public transportation should be avoided whenever possible as large groups of people, indoors, for longer than ten minutes are typical of most public transportation and increases transmission risk. Also, maintaining six-feet social distance is often difficult or impossible with public transportation.

However, when public transportation cannot be avoided, as long as GSCSA has approved travel by public transportation, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid peak hours.
  • Allow extra time to wait and avoid crowded buses or subway cars or capacity restrictions.
  • Space out girls to avoid crowding (but keep to the buddy system)
  • Consider grade level, age and maturity level of girls.
  • Wear a mask if social distance or transportation policy require it.
  • Obtain parental or legal guardian permission, make sure they are aware.
  • Clean hands before and after public transportation travel.

Cookie Booths. For in-person cookie sales, always opt for outside booths whenever possible. Also think about the structure of booths. Consider building in a protective barrier to act as a sneeze guard and help to prevent girls and customers from breathing the same air before it can circulate. Try to create contact-free ways to accept payments, especially cash, while maintaining a safe distance. Also consider operating cookie tables vertically instead of horizontally to ensure a greater distance is kept between girls and customers. Reach tools can be used to hand off cookies to customers. Remember that first aid, personal protective equipment and disinfectant should be in supply and easily accessible.

Health and Safety Practices

Vaccinations for girl members and volunteers. Members are strongly encouraged to vaccinate, but they are not required to do so as part of Girl Scouting.

Volunteer awareness. Always remember that COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus that spreads easily in the community. It is important to take all reasonable precautions to limit potential exposure for girls, volunteers, and families. It is an important time to be a safety- minded Girl Scout and demonstrate Girl Scout values.

It is also important to regularly check and follow real-time local and national safety directives and to survey your girls’ families for their comfort level with respect to returning to troop meetings.

  • Girls and adults may wear masks.
  • Outdoors is preferred to indoors, whenever possible.
  • Always maintain 6 feet distance between households.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching the face.
  • Limit sharing of utensils and supplies; disposable items are best.
  • Carry disinfectant and make sure girls are using it as appropriate.
  • Girls should bring their own snacks and supplies whenever possible.

Pre-screening and Symptoms Check. Prior to any in-person Girl Scout activity, all participants should ensure:

  • they are healthy and that they have not experienced symptoms that are associated with COVID-19 in the previous 72 hours;
  • that they have not knowingly been in contact with someone who has exhibited symptoms or has been confirmed positive with COVID-19 or a person waiting to see if they are positive; and
  • that they have not been to high-risk geographical regions particularly those regions that require a specific quarantine period.

Note: The CDC defines “close contact” as follows:

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more cumulative in a 24-hour period.
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them).
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils.
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.

Hygiene guidance you can share with your girls and families as follows:

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 these areas and other items that may not be sanitized.
  • 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 (at or more than 100.4 degrees per CDC). Members with a fever should skip the in-person gathering until their temperature is normal.

Personal Contact. Hugs, handshakes, “high-fives,” and even activities like the friendship circle can transmit COVID-19 from person to person. Create a safe way for girls and volunteers to greet and end meetings instead (like tapping elbows). Note: Use culturally appropriate messages, materials, and resources.

Singing. If you normally close your meetings with a song, make certain girls and adults are all socially distanced greater than 6 feet, particularly when indoors or enclosed settings. Singing and shouting both project germs farther than talking, so ask your girls to either hum their closing song or sing quietly. In areas of high transmission, face coverings are recommended.

First Aid Supplies. Troop first aid supplies should include COVID-19 prevention items including hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), hydrogen peroxide wipes, tissues, disposable facemasks, and disinfectants. Trash baskets or bags should be supplied for meeting and activity spaces, if not already available. Disposable or no-contact thermometers may be added to supplies if available and not cost-prohibitive.

First Aid/CPR Training. Keep skills up to date and certified for any emergency.

Disinfectants and Disinfecting. Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched (i.e., tabletops, markers, scissors, etc.). Use a household disinfectant 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.).

See the CDC’s website for more on cleaning and disinfecting community facilities. FDA Warning. The FDA has advised consumers not to use certain hand sanitizers due to unsafe ingredients. The CDC provides an updated list of products that should never be used. Be sure to check FDA updates on hand sanitizers consumers should not use and stay away from products deemed unsafe.

Food, Dining and Snacks. Be careful when handling and serving food and have girls be careful with each other when eating. Safety recommendations for food, dining and snacks include:

  • Encourage girls to bring their own foods to eat (bag lunch or dinner).
  • Encourage girls not to share their food after having touched it, such as a bag of chips.
  • Individually wrapped items are recommended.
  • If providing snacks, especially if unwrapped, have one person, wearing gloves, hand out items to each person, such as with cupcakes or cookies.
  • Use a serving spoon or scoop rather than reaching into a bag or bowl of snacks.
  • Use a buffet line only if staffed with a safely protected server with mask and gloves.
  • Avoid “serve yourself” buffets if possible.
  • If serving family style, have one person, wearing clean gloves, serve everyone on clean plates.
  • Use disposable plates, forks, napkins, etc. when possible.
  • Encourage girls to bring foods they can easily cook themselves (a prepacked foil pack) or hotdog for outdoor cooking.
  • Ensure everyone handling or serving food, washes their hands (even if they will be wearing gloves) prior to any food prep or meals, following CDC handwashing guidelines.
  • If sharing outdoor cooking utensils (roasting forks), they should be washed and sanitized between each use or bring enough utensils so that each person gets their own.
  • Continue recommendation for six (6) foot spacing during meals if in area with high transmission designation.

Restrooms. Be careful in public restrooms. Many public restrooms will regulate the number of people using the restroom at the same time, depending on the size. If there is no regulator or signage, have volunteers ensure girls take appropriate turns to maintain social distancing. It is ideal to have automatic flushers and sensory faucets to wash hands. If these are not available, girls and adults should get in the habit of using tissue or paper towel to open doors and latches, touching as little as possible. If the restroom is large, have girls use every other stall and avoid using stalls with a person in the stall next to them at the same time. Restrooms and toilets are fraught with germs normally, and more so now considering the contagion of coronavirus.

 

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