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COVID-19 Updates

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

COVID-19 Guidance for Volunteers

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.

March 1, 2022 Update

Due to the continuous downward trends in COVID-19 positivity rates throughout Western New York, and following public health recommendations, we are now ready to make some adjustments to our council’s safety guidelines.

Starting on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, masks will now be optional for all indoor meetings and events regardless of vaccination status. This shift aligns with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance, and New York State K-12 school guidelines.

The CDC has updated COVID-19 Community Spread Levels on their website. The Community Levels are determined by new COVID-19 related hospital admissions over the previous week, the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous week.

The Community Levels are categorized as high, medium, and low. Universal masking indoors is recommended by the CDC when community levels are listed as high. Currently, as of 3/1/22, Cattaraugus County is listed as low, and all other GSWNY counties; Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming are listed as medium.

Following this guidance, GSWNY will not require masking indoors when our nine counties are listed as low or medium. However, be prepared that if GSWNY counties are listed as high, that masking indoors will once again be required. Please note that the CDC recommends that anyone at high risk for serious illness consult with their healthcare provider about wearing a mask and any other health precautions.

It’s important to be aware of a few things:

  • The Community Levels could change at any time, which could also impact our council’s safety guidance
  • Updates to GSWNY’s COVID-19 Safety guidance ONLY include the wearing of masks. Our council will still practice all other safety measures including social distancing for the time being
  • If you are attending a troop meeting or a program where the vendor and/or facility requires a mask, you must adhere to their guidelines
  • Anyone who is experiencing symptoms should not attend GSWNY programs or activities and should contact their doctor immediately for guidance
  • The CDC is still updating their guidance including social distancing based on recent changes, and GSWNY will continue to monitor, assess and communicate any additional changes to our guidelines
  • The CDC recommends vaccination for COVID-19 for all who are eligible; GSWNY encourages all members to consult with their healthcare provider for decisions on vaccination

We are expecting additional public health recommendations over the next few weeks regarding social distancing, isolation, and quarantine guidelines. COVID-19 is still a serious health risk, and we will continue to monitor recommendations and are prepared to make additional changes if needed.

For now, please click here for our updated GSWNY COVID-19 safety guidelines, which again is in alignment with public health guidance. We have also included conversation starters for you and your family to help navigate everyone in our council through this transition.

Please also understand every girl, member, volunteer, and staff member will need time to process this change. We know that some will choose to wear a mask, some will not, and some are still unsure what they will do. We also understand that some may choose to wear a mask when they are in close proximity to others or when in a large crowd.

We want to remind everyone that harassment or pressure about an individual’s choice to wear or not wear a mask will not be tolerated. Everyone should feel welcomed and comfortable making their own individual choice.

Please feel free to contact us at customercare@gswny.org or call 1-888-837-6410. In an emergency, please call 1-800-882-9268.

Thank you again for your dedication to ensuring safety standards and for all you do!

Have you been exposed to COVID-19, but testing negative yourself? Please refer to the most current CDC guidelines found here.

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

Face coverings (masks) are no longer required for indoor meetings or events, and will now be optional, unless it is required by the meeting space or vendor. 

There are varying personal positions regarding masks and we realize there will be families and volunteers who wish to continue wearing a mask. GSWNY will respect the decision made by our members regarding personal mask use. We will not tolerate harassment or bullying of a child or volunteer for their decision on mask use.

Volunteers may not require girls or other adults to wear masks. Based on comfort level, GSWNY members may choose to prioritize outdoor or virtual meetings and of course, choose to wear their own mask.

Physical distancing (please note that the CDC is currently updating distancing recommendations and GSWNY will update this section once those are released – the below is still in effect until that time) 
  • 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 using the COVID-19 by County tool on 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. While GSWNY no longer requires the use of masks for Girl Scout activities, please continue to follow local guidelines regarding the use of face coverings, social distancing, and other COVID-19 guidelines on public transportation.  

Carpooling is permitted with the following guidelines:

  • Refer to Volunteer Essentials Travel Safety guidelines and ratios
  • 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/service unit meetings or activities with girl participation 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: 

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.

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
Troop Travel

If the families of your troop are in agreement to travel, and understand the inherent risks, overnight camping and travel is allowed if the following guidelines are followed.

  • Current GSWNY COVID-19 Guidelines for Girl Scout activities must be followed.
  • Council approval is required for trips more than 250 miles from troop meeting place or longer than 2 overnights by completing the GSWNY Intent to Travel.  This form must be submitted at least 3 months prior to travel. Please email girl.experience@gswny.org for any assistance.
  • For additional guidance on when to submit an Intent to Travel please review the GSWNY Travel Right Requirements located in the GSWNY Troop Travel Guide.
  • For all travel of more than 250 miles from troop meeting place or longer than 2 overnights troops must complete the GSWNY Troop Travel Covid Trip Summary Plan 8 weeks prior to departure.
  • GSWNY is now accepting international Intents to Travel. Travel to countries that have designated “Level 4” Travel Advisory in place by the US Department of State is NOT PERMITTED.
  • Cruises at this time are NOT PERMITTED.
  •  For international trips all travelers must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCD PCR test to troop leaders 72 hours before departure.
  • For international trips, there will be a required staff check in 45 days prior to departure to review the travel advisory for the destination.
Please use the below checklist to evaluate if you are ready to submit an Intent to Travel:

COVID-19 incidence rates: 

  • Have you checked the COVID-19 rate in your local area, AND in the travel destination? Is it relatively high or low?

STOP: If the COVID-19 rate is high at either location, consider rescheduling. If the US Department of State has a “Level 4” Travel Advisory in place, Girl Scouts do not travel to that location. 


COVID-19 related requirements for vaccination or testing in the destination: 

  • Are vaccines, testing, masking or other COVID-19 mitigation measures required at the location?
  • For international trips, what is the plan for testing required to return to the US? How will tests be obtained and who will cover this cost?

STOP: If a group cannot comply with all COVID-19 regulations at the destination, or GSWNY COVID-19 Guidelines , consider rescheduling.


Financial considerations:

  • What is the deadline for final payments to be made, and have you worked with vendors to push payment deadlines as far out as possible?
  • What is the cancellation policy of the hotel/accommodation? Best to find 24/hour cancellation policy locations, when possible.
  • Is the airline offering full refunds or just changeable tickets? Can the troop afford to purchase refundable tickets?
  • Do all travelers understand the financial implications if the entire trip is postponed or cancelled at the last minute, or if an individual participant(s) must cancel at the last minute? Exactly how much money would each person lose?
  • If a participant must leave the trip early due to an exposure and necessary quarantine, will any of the activities be refundable? Has this been communicated to parent/guardians?
  • What is the plan for accommodations/hotel if any members of the group have to isolate for illness or quarantine during the trip, or after the planned last day of the trip? How will this be paid for, if needed? (see #5 for more information).

STOP: If a group is not able to make a viable plan for these financial risks, consider rescheduling.


Activity considerations and trip logistics:

  • Is the trip primarily outdoor or indoor?
  • Is it possible to socially-distance from those outside the group, or will the group be visiting mostly crowded, indoor locations?
  • What are the sleeping, transportation, and eating arrangements?

STOP: If a trip does not meet any particular requirements outlined in the GSWNY COVID-19 Guidelines   for these areas, consider rescheduling.


Illness, exposure, and quarantine considerations:

  • What is the immediate plan if a member of the trip exhibits COVID-19 symptoms? Will that person be immediately tested? Have parent/guardians given permission for this, and do trip leaders have tests on hand? Who covers the cost?
  • What is the next step for any individual who tests positive for COVID-19? (Note current CDC guidelines . As of 2.25.22, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for a minimum of 5 days and not travel for a minimum of 10 days. These guidelines may differ on international trips – check local guidelines.) Which adult(s) on the trip will supervise any participant who must be isolated for a positive case, and at what point (24/48 hrs?) must parents/guardians arrive on-site to take custody of their children?
  • What is the next step for individuals who are exposed to COVID-19? (Note current CDC guidelines . As of 2.25.22, exposed individuals who are vaccinated and boosted OR have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days do not have to quarantine . They should mask for 5 days and take precautions for 10 days. However, unvaccinated individuals who have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days must isolate for 5 days and not travel for 10. These guidelines may differ on international trips – check local guidelines.) Which adult(s) on the trip will supervise any participant who must be isolated for exposure, and at what point must parent/guardians arrive on-site to take custody of their children?
  • Do all participants and parent/guardians understand and agree with the above plans? Have parent/guardians been advised that they must be contactable during the entire trip and willing to finance their own travel to pick up their child?  If trip is international, does a parent/guardian of each child have an up-to-date passport?
  • What is the plan if adult chaperones fall ill?
    • Will the trip have additional adults beyond ratio-requirements? (Strongly recommended)
  • Will all adult chaperones be fully up to date on vaccines? (Strongly recommended. Not only does this decrease risk of illness, but vaccinated and boosted chaperones MAY be able to continue with the program if exposed; unvaccinated chaperones would have to quarantine.)

STOP: If a group is not able to make a viable plan for these risks, consider rescheduling.

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.

Mask Conversation Starters

Supporting Our Children through Change

Our children are capable of tremendous resilience in the face of change. As we prepare to support them through the shift to a mask-optional environment, it is crucial that our Girl Scout families feel prepared to make decisions and are ready to model and provide suggested ways their girls can comfortably engage with others. Our council's goal is to create safe spaces for all of our girls, volunteers, members, and staff. We have included some conversation starters to help navigate our girls through this change.

Considerations for Families/Caregivers:

Share clearly what your expectations are around mask-wearing for your household and why. Our troop leaders and staff are not able to enforce individual mask-wearing expectations of girls and their families, so it will be important to share the why behind your approach with your girl before attending a troop meeting or event. Consider clear messaging such as:

  • “We feel that you should/should not wear masks right now because...”
  • "We expect that you will follow our expectations because...(share data or personal connections and reasoning)."

Share what other perspectives might be. Consider:

  • “Some girls or troop leaders may choose to still/not wear masks right now because we all have different and unique situations. Some have health concerns or different beliefs, and that is alright. We respect everyone's right to their own decisions.
  • Share that people may make different choices at different times based on their own unique circumstances. “Your friend may not wear a mask some days but may wear them other days. It is important to respect their personal choice and privacy on this.”

Focus on kindness and respect. Consider:

  • “We all want our Girl Scout community and spaces to be a place where everyone feels safe and valued.
  • “Sometimes we may not agree on different topics, but we can always be respectful.”
  • “You can still be friends or partner with others, even if you disagree about their masking choice right now

It may help to make connections with other medical/health circumstances that support a safe and functional day for individuals. Consider:

  • “Some friends and adults wear glasses/braces/hearing aids/etc.”
  • “Like anything else, we don’t make fun of people because of what they are wearing”

It may help to give some specific language they can use. Consider:

  • “What do we say when someone asks ‘Why are you wearing a mask?’ or ‘Why aren’t you wearing a mask?’”
  • “My family wants me to/My family told me I don’t need to.”
  • “My family is/is not wearing masks right now.”
  • “It’s a personal decision I/we have made.”
  • “Okay, thanks for understanding.”
  • “I respect your decision, and I hope that you can respect mine.”

Encourage our girls to talk to a trusted adult or troop leader if they are experiencing discomfort so that support can be provided and a sense of well-being can be restored.

This is a chance for our Girl Scout community to unite and move forward together. Kindness and respect will bring us through this next transition. 

Previous Updates

December 1, 2021

The safety of our girls, volunteers, members, families, and staff is our highest priority. As a reminder, virtual and at-home programming remains the safest way to participate, and there is no requirement to meet in person—any in-person meetings or activities are optional.

On November 30, 2021, Monroe County declared a state of emergency due to rising COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations, and the COVID-19 rates in Western New York are the highest in New York State.

COVID-19 is a serious health risk and we will continue to monitor public health guidance and are prepared to make changes to our safety guidance if needed.

GSWNY COVID-19 safety guidance that was issued September 1, 2021, remains aligned to public health guidance including wearing masks indoors and social distancing indoors, and there are no changes to GSWNY safety guidance at this time.

Girl Scouts are always prepared, so please continue to follow the current GSWNY safety guidelines and be watchful for GSWNY communications in case we need to increase COVID-19 restrictions on in-person activities.

As a reminder, GSWNY will give full refunds for any cancellation by you or GSWNY of an in-person program or property rental for council-sponsored GSWNY events, activities and properties during the pandemic.

For locations and vendors that you are working with directly, we recommend that you contact any troop meeting locations and program vendors in advance to ensure they are still open and allowing on-site activities.

In-person programs and events can be a wonderful outlet for our girls, however they are always optional. There are many ways to participate in Girl Scouts at home with virtual meetingsBadge in a Box, and at-home activities. At-home is the safest option. Always follow your own comfort level, and if you participate in person, please follow all safety guidelines to reduce the risk.

We are actively monitoring guidance from NYS and if there are any changes to GSWNY safety guidance, or if we need to suspend in-person activities in the future, GSWNY will notify all members by email and on our social media pages, and update our website.

Please feel free to contact us at customercare@gswny.org or call 1-888-837-6410. In an emergency, please call 1-800-882-9268.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and members for your dedication to ensuring safety standards. Thank you for all you do!


September 1, 2021

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.


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.