Lynne Lawson Fugate
Chief Executive Officer
Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians
GSCSA Addresses COVID-19 Concerns (March 12, 2020)
Dear Girl Scouts,
Girl Scouts’ motto is to “be prepared.” The COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) situation is changing rapidly, and the reality is no one knows what will happen from day to day. We are basing our recommendations in response to available information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state, city and county health authorities, school districts and other community partners. We are working hard to ensure that our decisions and guidance reflect Girl Scouts’ commitment to prevent the spread of coronavirus in our community. I am reaching out today to update you on actions we are taking in response to CDC and other public health guidance. We are making recommendations through April 15, 2020 and will assess and update on an ongoing basis.
Guidance for every Girl Scout
We are asking every girl and adult member and partner of our council to do their part:
- Follow CDC hygiene best practices that include regular hand washing for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, and covering your cough or sneeze.
- Use non-contact forms of greeting instead of physical contact such as shaking hands.
- Keep at least 3 feet of distance between individuals at meetings and events whenever possible.
- Do not attend Girl Scout or other public events if you are ill or believe you have been exposed to a contagious disease like coronavirus.
- Consult your healthcare provider if you (or a member of your family) is at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 before attending a Girl Scout or other public event. Most children and adults under 60 are not at risk of serious illness from coronavirus. However, adults over 60 and those with a compromised immune system or an underlying health condition may be at greater risk.
- Use the resources on our Raising Awesome Girls site with girls who may have questions or concerns about coronavirus.
Girl Scout troop meetings and trainings
Most Girl Scout events are similar to school events, and it is a best practice to follow school district guidance around closures and activities. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and parents in our 46 counties and three states will often become aware of a school closure before it is posted online. At present, girls and volunteers can continue to participate in most Girl Scout events and activities such as troop meetings and local field trips. They can continue to take part in council-sponsored trainings. Based upon the guidance above, we ask that individuals who are ill or at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 infection not attend council events, meetings, or trainings unless cleared by a physician. If you are traveling to an event or training in an area that is affected, you should not go. If you live in affected area you should not go to events or large gatherings in unaffected areas. State and local county health departments are resources to determine local COVID-19 impact.
Based upon current guidance from the American Camp Association and CDC, council-sponsored events at our camp properties are continuing through April 15 at this point. Our camp team is following heightened disinfection protocols at all camp properties, pending the availability of disinfectant products. This includes deep cleaning all cabins and other buildings between groups. Camp staff are being given enhanced training on how to implement protocols to limit the spread of communicable disease at camp. We encourage all those attending weekend camp events to sanitize and follow CDC protocols.
Individuals and groups with camping reservations in April have the option of coming to camp as scheduled, postponing their event to a later date (based on availability), or cancelling their reservation for a refund. For camp reservations in April and beyond, we will update you on cancellation and/or postponement options at least two weeks prior to your event. Based upon the guidance above, we ask that individuals who are ill or at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 infection not attend camp events unless cleared by a physician.
Large council gatherings
In response to recent CDC guidance that recommends adjusting or postponing large school gatherings, we have made the decision to postpone or cancel all large council events through April 15. This impacts Cookie Creations, previously scheduled for March 24, 2020 at The Turnbull Building in Chattanooga. This event has been cancelled and those who have already purchased tickets will receive a full refund. We have been informed by Southern Adventist University that they have closed their campus, therefore our South area High Awards Ceremony previously scheduled for March 22 has been postponed. We are working on finding an alternative date and will let attendees know as soon as a new date is confirmed. For large events taking place after April 15, decisions to postpone or cancel any events will be made a week prior to the event or sooner if possible. For Girl Scout events managed by outside vendors (i.e., Girl Scout Day at the Chattanooga Zoo) please check with the vendors directly regarding cancellations or refunds.
The CDC continues to update recommendations to avoid international travel to certain regions, including China, Korea, Iran, Europe, Hong Kong, and Japan. The CDC also recommends avoiding cruise ship travel worldwide, particularly for vulnerable populations. Because the path of coronavirus infection remains uncertain, no international travel, including cruises, will be approved for Girl Scout groups through April 15, 2020. Groups with existing international travel reservations are being informed that these trips are no longer approved by Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians. Groups who choose to travel without council authorization will not be covered by Girl Scouts’ insurance and travel at their own risk. In order to financially protect yourself, we always recommend purchasing travel insurance for any type of travel in the event of unforeseen issues that prevent or interrupt travel plans.
Avoiding domestic, non-essential airline travel is one step that we can all take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses and nonprofit organizations, including Girl Scouts of the USA and our local council, have restricted airline business travel for employees in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In line with this guidance, no trips requiring domestic plane travel will be approved for Girl Scout groups through April 15, 2020. For domestic travel by car outside of our council jurisdiction, approvals will be made on a case-by-case basis through April 15, 2020. Groups who choose to travel without council authorization will not be covered by Girl Scouts’ insurance and travel at their own risk. In order to financially protect yourself, we recommend purchasing travel insurance for any type of travel in the event of unforeseen issues that prevent or interrupt travel plans.
Trips within Council geography are allowed at present, but we caution you to consider local county health departments’ recommendations from your starting point to your destination and all points in between.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program will be extended through April 5. Please check your local cookie cupboard hours. As mentioned before, please follow the CDC’s hygiene best practices (e, g., hand sanitizer and at-risk populations) at booths.
Other things to know
- At this time, our service centers will remain open. We will monitor the situation on a daily basis. Please check our web site or call to check our status before coming to the service center.
- Girl Scout staff who are ill are being told not to report to work. We are expanding work from home options and more flexible use of sick days and other paid time off where possible.
- Check the council calendar for updates to other activities and events.
The best advice is to stay informed and monitor your local health department’s guidance and recommendations. Ultimately, parents should use their best judgment and make decisions that are best for their girls and troops. As mentioned before, the situation is fluid and can rapidly change. Rest assured, we are assessing and monitoring on a daily basis and will continue to update you on our website and social media channels. On behalf of the Girl Scout movement, I want to thank each of you for being part of our collective action to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Yours in Girl Scouting,
Lynne Lawson Fugate