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COVID-19 Updates

GSWNY COVID-19 guidelines for in-person Girl Scout meetings and activities 

COVID-19 Guidance for Volunteers | Edition date:  9/1/21

Thank you to all of our volunteers for your dedication to ensuring safety standards.  The safety of our girls, volunteers, members, families, and staff is our #1 priority.

September 1, 2021 Update

Leading in-person activities during COVID-19 is optional. Volunteers should first decide if they are comfortable offering in-person GS activities for their troop before proceeding.

Leaders should share these guidelines with troop families, and make a collaborative decision with families based on comfort level, accessibility, and desired level of engagement.

GSWNY continues to review and assess CDC, NYS and county guidelines and may make changes based on new information.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change as infection rates rise and fall in different areas.  Continue to follow local and national directives.

COVID-19 poses a serious health risk and so adhering to safety guidelines is critical for any in-person meetings or activities.  Please note that the CDC advises that older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Each family should evaluate and assess their risk in determining whether or not to participate in in-person Girl Scout activities.

GSWNY recommends COVID-19 vaccination for anyone eligible, and this decision should always be made in consultation with your healthcare provider.

Meeting/Activity Guidelines

Outdoor meetings/events

There are no COVID-19 restrictions for outdoor meetings or events; however, troops are still prohibited from holding meetings or events at private residences, including backyards.

Indoor meetings/events

Masks

All girls, volunteers and members must wear face coverings (masks) while indoors, covering nose and mouth, and follow safety guidelines as outlined by the CDC.

  • Masks do not need to be worn when eating or drinking.
  • 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 they are effective. 
  • Girls and adults who identify a medical exemption can contact customercare@gswny.org to request a reasonable accommodation.
Physical distancing
  • Troop-only meetings: At least 3 feet of distance must be maintained by girls when indoors, when it is the same group/troop of girls meeting regularly (similar to cohorts).
  • Service Unit/Council events: Distancing requirements when cohorting is not possible are based on community level of transmission of COVID-19:
    • Level 1 – low and moderate community transmission – at least 3 feet of distance must be maintained by girls when indoors
    • Level 2 – substantial community transmission – at least 3 feet of distance must be maintained indoors when girls can remain with their troop/cohort.  If cohorting is not possible, then at least 6 feet of distance must be maintained.
    • Level 3 – high community transmission – at least 6 feet of distance must be maintained when indoors
    • If you do not know the community level of transmission in your area, contact customercare@gswny.org for guidance
    • You can also keep track at the CDC website
Gathering size

Girl Scout meetings/activities may have a maximum of 250 indoors and 500 outdoors.  Girl Scouts may participate in events with a higher maximum, but should keep themselves separate from the larger group and follow all Girl Scout guidelines.

Transportation

Public transportation is permitted, please continue to wear face coverings, social distance, and follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Carpooling is permitted with the following guidelines:

  • Refer to Volunteer Essentials Travel Safety guidelines and ratios
  • All passengers must wear a CDC-recommended face-mask covering nose and mouth at all times as well as limit contact throughout the ride.
  • Driver may not pick up additional, unapproved passengers outside of attendees within one's household.
  • Each passenger should handle their own personal belongings.
  • When transporting girls, always space out the girls to avoid crowding and keep the windows partially open to provide ventilation.
  • Remember to use proper hand hygiene.
Meeting spaces
  • Outdoor spaces are recommended when possible as the safest option.
  • Troops and service units may meet indoors following COVID-19 protocols (please see below guidance for regular troop meeting space). 
  • At this time, GSWNY prohibits Girl Scout troop or service unit meetings or activities to take place in private homes. This prohibition will remain in place until further notice.
Troop meeting locations

If your previous troop meeting place is no longer available, reach out to your service unit or GSWNY Customer Care at customercare@gswny.org to identify other possibilities.  GSWNY properties are available for booking for troop meetings.

If, due to lack of availability, a troop is using an interim meeting space, that space is NOT considered a field trip and does not require a First Aider or permission slips.  To ensure safe usage, troop leaders should consider the following questions in their interim space:

  • Space is compatible with adherence to COVID-19 Guidelines for In-Person Girl Scout Activities
  • If applicable, connect with building management to learn about their cleaning procedures, and supplement procedures as needed to meet guidelines.
  • Safe is secure, clean, properly ventilated, heated (or cooled, depending on your location), free from hazards, and have at least two exits that are well marked and fully functional.
  • A member of the troop leadership team must have a cell phone and service, or there must be quick access to a public phone.
  • Troops should have first-aid equipment on hand, including supplies to meet COVID-19 guidelines.

Meeting spaces may request a document outlining the steps your troop will take to be safe.  You may share this document to fulfill that request.

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)?
  • Is it well-ventilated, or are you able to open windows?
  • Girls and volunteers must come prepared with masks or the troop must provide them.

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.

Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation

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 (100 degrees or over). Members with fever or temperature higher than 100 should skip the in-person gathering until their temperature is normal.
  • Parents and volunteers should consider these screening questions before attending each Girl Scout meeting or event (updated effective September 1, 2021): 
    • Have you or anyone with whom you live experienced any of the following symptoms within the past two weeks?
    • Have you or anyone with whom you live experienced any of the following symptoms over the past 24 hours?
    • To your knowledge, have you been in close, sustained contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with anyone showing any of the above-referenced symptoms, or anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

Also, volunteers should include these questions in each email confirmation they send to parents for meetings and events.

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.

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. 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 (the same guidance applies to volunteers).

First Aid / CPR Training. Keep skills up-to-date for any emergency. Troops must have a volunteer with current First Aid/CPR training to take a field trip.

Disinfectants and Disinfecting. Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched (e.g., 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 (concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

Household bleach is effective as a cleaning agent 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.

Property Rentals and Camping

Under the following guidelines, effective September 1, 2021, we will be allowing Troops and Rental Groups to stay overnight on GSWNY properties: 

Sleeping Capacity

Seasonal Units (cabin tents/platform tents) can be utilized at full capacity, but individuals in beds should be arranged head to toe. Flaps should remain slightly open to allow airflow. 

Lodges (winterized buildings) can be utilized at half capacity. Renters should strive to have six feet between each bed. Please note that the new unit at Seven Hills falls into this category.

Food

We are now allowing full-use of our kitchen spaces. To the greatest extend possible; minimize the number of individuals handling/serving food. Some suggestions include:

  • Utilizing individual servings.
  • Designating one server per table, rather than passing platters to each individual.
  • Larger groups should consider decreasing the number of individuals eating in indoor dining spaces at one time by splitting/rotating groups.
Health Checks

As per our Council Guidelines, groups should be administering health checks prior to arrival. Additionally, checks should be continued throughout your stay. We highly suggest that groups take temperatures in the morning and again in the evening.

If anyone displays symptoms of COVID-19, please follow the below steps:

  • Depart- Individuals displaying symptoms should arrange to leave the property as soon as possible.
  • Isolate- If the individual is unable to immediately depart, than they should be isolated in a well-ventilated room with access to a bathroom.
    • If the individual is a minor, then they will still need adult supervision. An adult should wear a mask and gloves and remain within site of the child.
  • Test- Individuals should be tested as soon as possible. If the case is positive, please follow the guidelines laid out on this page.
Field Trips and Travel
Day trips and activities
  • In conjunction with Safety Activity Checkpoints, follow the same guidance as Meetings and Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidance in this document. Consult the NYS Forward website for information on currently allowed activities. 
  • Call ahead to the facility or vendor to confirm that they are following CDC and state health department guidelines.
  • If an 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.
  • Carpooling is now allowed. Public transportation is permitted, please continue to wear face coverings, social distance, and follow COVID-19 guidelines.
Travel and overnight stays
  • If the families of your troop are in agreement to travel, and understand the inherent risks, overnight camping and travel is allowed with these stipulations:
  • Current GSWNY COVID-19 guidelines for Girl Scout activities must be followed.
  • Council approval is required for ALL travel and overnight activities by completing the GSWNY Intent to Travel. Please email girl.experience@gswny.org for any assistance. For travel less than 250 miles outside of Council jurisdiction, the Intent to Travel form must be submitted at least one month prior to travel. For travel of more than 250 miles, the Intent to Travel form must be submitted at least three months prior to travel.
  • Carpooling is now allowed. Public transportation is permitted, please continue to wear face coverings, social distance, and follow COVID-19 guidelines.
  • No International travel is allowed at this time.
  • Troops are expected to research and plan to meet all safety requirements.
  • Continue to practice the Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidance for all travel.
  • Implement modifications to travel plans that make social distancing practicable; for example, unvaccinated travelers from separate households practice social distancing when indoors, following the guidance outlined for troop meetings and activities. Again, sustained contact within less than six (6) feet for longer than fifteen (15) minutes within an enclosed area creates high-risk for virus transmission. For travel that includes girls and adults from multiple households who must be in close proximity (e.g., sharing transportation or accommodations), we recommend breaking the group up into smaller cohorts, in addition to the pre-screening and symptoms checks, which should take place before all in-person activities.
  • Prior to departure, wellness checks must be made on all travelers including temperature checks and an assessment as to current symptoms of illness or exposure to a positive person during the last three days. If any of the questions on the assessment are answered in the affirmative, that individual may not go on the trip.
  • GSWNY currently recommends shared sleeping quarters should be a minimum of 6 feet between beds, with the understanding individuals are fully vaccinated and/or showed no symptoms within 3 days of travel. Sleeping quarters must also be in accordance with Safety Activity Checkpoints.
  • While indoors masks MUST be worn at all times except when eating and drinking, and for overnights, except when sleeping and showering.
  • Daily health/temperature checks must be taken.
  • Handwashing and hand sanitizing stations must be made available.
  • GSWNY COVID-19 Waiver of Liability must be signed for all participants.
  • Additional insurance should be purchased for non-members.
Advice for a successful trip
  • Travel plans are often arranged several months in advance and contingencies must be planned ahead of time for re-scheduling, cancelling, or pivoting to a virtual activity. For all planned trips, create a timeline and identify a final date when decisions must be made about whether or not to move forward with the planned trip, based primarily on the safety of our girls, along with financial commitment deadlines and/or other factors. 
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance and read all fine print and ensure COVID or pandemic related cancellation is covered; it is often excluded. Decisions about whether or not to approve troop travel or proceed with planned council-organized travel will be based on all current health and safety guidance available in our jurisdiction as well as for the destination jurisdiction to ensure the safety of girls.
  • Please note: If an approved troop-organized trip gets cancelled due to COVID, Girl Scouts of Western New York is not responsible for rescheduling or reimbursing funds expensed by the troop or families unless it is a trip that GSWNY is solely operating (ie. no vendors or outside parties).  GSWNY monitors public health guidance and will continue to make changes to these guidelines if any new restrictions or guidance is issued by authorities. 
Media/Photo Guidelines

We understand that families and troops want to take photos to document girls’ participation in Girl Scouting and that photos are treasured memories, and also can showcase girls’ accomplishments. 

Due to the risk of COVID-19, all photos must comply with the above guidelines. GSWNY reserves the right to refrain from posting any photos that do not align with safety guidelines, and also remove public photos, including photos submitted by troops and families to local media. 

Girls in photos with other non-family members of the troop must be wearing a mask when indoors. Girls in photos with only their family members do not need to wear a mask indoors.

For photos indoors, girls can stand close together as long as they follow the mask guidelines listed above.

There are no COVID-19 restrictions for photos in outdoor settings.  

Reporting a Positive COVID-19 Test

In the event of a COVID-19 positive test result, contact Girl Scouts of WNY at the contact information below.

Due to health confidentiality laws, do NOT contact the parents or troop members. Promptly contact your council in this situation. This is important for medical confidentiality compliance.

Call Customer Care during business hours at 1.888.837.6410 and the Emergency line after hours at 1-800-882-9268.

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 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.

Thank you for all that you do, and please contact Customer Care if you have any questions: customercare@gswny.org or call 1-888-837-6410. In an emergency, please call 1-800-882-9268.


As a reminder, GSWNY will give full refunds for any in-person program or property rental for GSWNY events, activities and properties that are cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

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.  

Exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk; any interaction with the general public poses an elevated risk of being exposed to COVD-19. Please note that the CDC advises that older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Each family should evaluate and assess their risk in determining whether or not to participate in in-person Girl Scout activities.