Council Response to COVID-19
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Council Response to COVID-19

Updated 08/1/2020

Supersedes guidance provided on July 1, 2020

GSUSA has provided COVID-19 safety and health guidance for councils to share with their volunteers, recognizing that the timing of resuming in person troop meetings and activities will vary from state to state and even county to county in certain regions. This guidance is intended to be used for volunteers in conjunction with Safety Activity Checkpoints and according to each council’s individual state and local COVID-19 circumstances which remains fluid.

This guidance is being provided as of the Edition Date above from GSUSA (when a vaccine has not been made readily available). Girl Scouts Heart of the South may modify this guidance, from time to time as circumstances change. Please refer to this document from time-to-time to determine recommendations on Girl Scout activities around COVID-19.  Given the constantly changing guidelines in the 3 states and 59 counties that GSHS serves, volunteers should frequently visit this document to stay informed on the most recent recommendations.  Each update supersedes any previously posted information.

Volunteer Awareness. 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.   It is an important time to be a great Girl Scout and demonstrate Girl Scout values.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change as infection rates rise and fall in different areas. There may be regional differences or developments since this guidance was published. Continue to follow local and national directives. Discuss plans with families.

Restrictions by State. Before implementing these national guidelines, first and foremost: Check local restrictions for small gatherings in the council home state. They could vary greatly from state to state, county to county, or even from town to town. As of this Edition Date state restrictions are still changing. AARP publishes an excellent overview of restriction by state which is updated daily: AARP Coronavirus Restrictions by State. Check your state Department of Health (DOH) to ensure your jurisdiction is in compliance with statutory norms and laws.

The council’s Leadership Centers and Trefoil Trunk Shops are currently closed to the public, but council staff remain ready to serve members and their families. 

If you need assistance there are multiple ways to contact us:

  • Phone: 800-624-4185
  • Email: info@girlscoutshs.org
  • Chat: visit our homepage and look for the icon on the bottom right of the page

Returning to In-Person Troop Meetings and Activities Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Volunteers

Troops and Service Units who wish to resume in-person meetings and activities must submit an Acknowledgement of GSHS COVID-19 Guidelines prior to in-person gatherings taking place. 

Our team has also developed a COVID-19 Member Participation Waiver for any troops who would like a little more peace of mind. This form is not required by the council for in-person activities, but troops are welcome to use it.

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

Troop Meeting Space

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, when)? 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, churches and other organizations may not permit outside groups on premises, so always check and confirm ahead of time. If you need help locating a new, safe, meeting space for your troop, check with your Service Unit Team and/or Member Support Specialist.

GSUSA suggests no meetings in the home out of concern that there would be greater risk of exposure to other family members. In certain exceptional situations and due to the current COVID-19 risk restricting public meeting options, councils may wish to evaluate in-home meetings on a case by case basis, particularly for those troops in rural areas who have regularly and successfully met in the home, have no elderly or immunocompromised family members in the home, have been deemed safely beyond a final phase of re-opening and do not have access to a virtual option.

 

Troop Meeting Size

The current suggested maximum is ten people (eight girls and two unrelated adult volunteers). However, check your local restrictions for small gatherings. If more restrictive, follow the local restriction. Restrictions vary greatly from state to state, county to county, and even from town to town--and frequently change. If a state allows more than ten to gather, utilize all social distancing practices and follow all preventative guidance (such as face coverings). 

If you have a large troop, stay connected while you wait for a safe time for everyone to gather. Large troops are wonderful, so stay together! Some ideas: 

• Host virtual troop meetings (see below). 

• Gather up in smaller groups—such as grade-level groups, patrols, or groups of girls with a particular badge they’d like to work on. 

Transportation

It is strongly recommended to adopt a zero-transportation policy (no carpooling girls) until the county, town or region is safely past its final phase of re-opening.

Until then, individual parents drop off and pick up their own girls from meetings and carpooling or public transportation should be avoided and not encouraged in order to maintain social distancing.

Once a county or region is fully past its final re-opening stage, carpooling may resume as necessary with precautions. For example:

- Girls and adults should wear masks when inside of a motor vehicle

- Keep the car window opened, at least slightly, to circulate fresh air.

- Consider the personal situation of your girls:

  • Do they live with an immunocompromised person that they can put at risk? If so, perhaps make other accommodations for her with her parents.
  • Have the families been isolating, and free from contagion? If so the troop may essentially be a safe bubble.

Remember, sustained contact within less than six (6) feet for longer than ten (10) minutes within an enclosed area creates high risk for virus transmission, so be very careful with carpool decisions.

CDC guidance for ride shares and drivers for hire may be helpful as an additional reference when evaluating motor vehicle transportation or carpooling: Ride Shares and Drivers for Hire

 

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 Safety Activity Checkpoints for Virtual Meetings, to guide your meeting plans.

Large Gatherings

If your jurisdiction permits larger gatherings, confirm the number of people that are permitted and remind volunteers to allow for proper girl-to-adult ratios. It is strongly recommended to meet outdoors as opposed to indoors, and only when social distancing can be maintained. For more people or large gatherings, when the time is safely appropriate, follow the CDC guidelines: Large Gatherings and Community Events.

Volunteers should get council prior approval before planning any gatherings of more than ten people. Council staff may consider larger group gatherings greater than 10 people after considering the norms in the local region. Answers to the following questions will help guide this decision:

- Has a successful final phase of reopening been completed? (several weeks after)

- Do state and local law permit larger gatherings? How many people are permitted?

- Have schools been re-opened for in-person classes?

- Is the event indoors or outdoors? (outdoors is safer than indoors provided social distancing is maintained)

- Can social distancing be maintained?

- Always follow CDC guidance and all GSUSA guidance available in this document pertaining to large in-person gatherings.

 

Troop Day Trips and Activities/Outings

In conjunction with Safety Activity Checkpoints, follow the same guidance as Troop Meetings and Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidance in this document. 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 that are necessary. For example, bring extra sanitizer if none will be provided for public use at the activity location. 

Follow the same recommendations on Troop Meeting Size for gatherings or activities open to the entire family, for “Invite-A-Friend” events, etc.

 

Travel and Overnight Stays

Overnight trips are not permitted until after the home state is successfully past Phase 3 of its re-opening process. The timeframes will vary from state to state and even from county to county in some cases. As always, contact your council for prior approval before planning any overnight stays and follow guidance in Safety Activity Checkpoints

 

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. For the time period that in-person training is not available, volunteers can receive online training with a council-approved training provider. These are listed in the Safety section of Volunteer Essentials. Once possible in your jurisdiction, volunteers will need to resume in-person skills assessment.

 

 

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. 

 

FDA Warning

The FDA advised consumers (6/19/2020) not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol (wood alcohol), a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. FDA has identified the following products manufactured by Eskbiochem:

  • All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-002-01)
  • Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-007-01)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
    (NDC: 74589-008-04)
  • Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-006-01)
  • The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-010-10)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
    (NDC: 74589-005-03)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol
    (NDC: 74589-009-01)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol
    (NDC: 74589-003-01)
  • Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-001-01)

Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects. Stay completely away from sanitizers containing methanol.

Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.

 

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. 

 

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.

- Public dining only as permitted in your local jurisdiction.

- 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 food, those serving, girls, adults, wash 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 6 foot spacing during mealtimes.

 

Restrooms

Be very careful in public restrooms. Most 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 and that they wear their masks in the restrooms. 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 towels 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.

 

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, and 

• 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. 

 

Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool

This current interactive map published by Georgia Tech College of Sciences is a planning tool for troop meetings, service unit meetings and Girl Scout events. Volunteers can insert the size of a meeting (number of attendees) on the sliding scale to the left and then click on the destination state and county on the interactive map. Once the map link is clicked, a likelihood percentage appears which indicates the risk of COVID-19 exposure or the likelihood of contracting COVID at a gathering given the levels of infection, by county, nationwide. Find out more information on this interactive tool by visiting the Georgia Tech college of Sciences homepage.

CDC One-Stop-Shop Toolkit

The One-Stop-Shop CDC page offers an array of topic specific COVID-19 guidance.

There are many topics to review. This One-Stop-Shop site is updated regularly as situations arise and was most recently updated on July 21, 2020.


Continue Girl Scouts at home with Girl Scout Digital Experience

Even though your girl’s daily routine may have changed, there are many ways she can still participate in Girl Scout activities and earn awards, even at home! Through Girl Scout Digital ExperienceGirl Scout Digital Experience we're offering Virutal Badge Labs, STEAM Series, trainings and at-home challenges and activities.

The following are available on the Girl Scout Digital Experience:

  • Virtual Badge Labs
  • Virtual STEAM Series
  • Virtual Trainings for Girls
  • Video Tutorials and Activities
  • At Home Challenges
  • Scavenger Hunts

 We invite you to follow us on Facebook where we are posting fun and free activities families can do together while at home.


Ways you can stay connected with your troop

It is unfortunate that COVID-19 is interfering with Girl Scouts’ ability to meet and learn together. Thank you all for taking steps to ensure the safety of girls in this difficult time. While we cannot endorse or support specific online meeting tools for your use, we are aware of several tools troops and service units are using for virtual meetings. See below for a list of free and low-cost tools that could be useful to you. We encourage troop leaders to look at these and alternative options and discuss with parents and girls to determine what the best solution is for your troop’s needs.  Be sure to review the Safety Activity Checkpoints for virtual meetings.

While all of these options have a free version, please note you may be prompted to consider their upgraded versions for a subscription fee.

Chat and Collaboration Tools with free versions

Additional low-cost tools for collaboration and conferencing to consider if the above options do not meet your group's needs.


Be a Source of Comfort and Calm for Girls

Girl Scouts of the USA has developed a helpful resource for How to Talk to Your Girl About COVID-19 to help minimize stress and worry in your Girl Scout’s life and give her a sense of calm and control.

Thank you for your help in keeping Girl Scouts a safe, fun space for everyone! If you have questions about how COVID-19 may impact Girl Scout activities, please reach out to us at info@girlscoutshs.org.

Additional information and resources about the Covid-19: