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

From the start of the pandemic, Girl Scouts have proven themselves to be strong community supporters, going above and beyond to keep themselves and others safe. COVID-19 remains an extremely contagious virus that spreads easily in the community. Volunteers should take all reasonable precautions to limit potential exposure for all members and their families, and to prevent additional community transmission.

Effective September 15, 2020, Girl Scouts Michigan Shore to Shore has established the guidelines below for troops and service units who are ready to meet in person.

  • These guidelines are based on measures shared by the State of Michigan as part of the Michigan Safe Start Plan, and are subject to change
  • In additional to the guidelines listed, all Girl Scout policies and procedures must be followed, including Safety Activity Checkpoints, when applicable.
  • Troop leaders and families should thoughtfully discuss if they are ready to meet in-person. Families who are not yet comfortable with activities in-person should be provided a way to stay connected to the troop.
  • In-person troop meetings are not required. Each troop/family should weigh their participation based on their own health concerns and tolerance for risk. Members and troops who prefer to continue with virtual meetings and activities may continue to do so.
Use these questions and reminders to help decide how and when to return to troop activities.

Permission Slips

Prior to resuming in-person troop meetings, an Annual Permission and Health History Form must be completed and signed by a parent/guardian for each girl who will be participating. The troop leader must retain the permission slips.

COVID-19 Response Form

Prior to resuming in-person troop meetings or activities, a COVID-19 Response Form must be completed by a parent/guardian for each girl who will be participating. The troop leader must retain this form.

Transportation

Individual parents drop off and pick up their own girls from troop meetings. Carpooling and public transportation must be avoided, to maintain social distancing.

Troop Meeting Size

The most recent Executive Order currently limits indoor gatherings to 10 people throughout Michigan. Outdoor gathering limits range from 100 to 250 people. Social distancing practices and preventative guidance (such as face coverings) must be followed at all times. It is important to keep informed on changes the Governor makes in regards to gathering sizes. As gathering sizes increase, you may increase the number of people involved in your meetings. 

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:

1. Is the space cleaned, and touch surfaces (i.e., tabletops, light switches, chairs, etc.) sanitized, at least daily?

2. Who else uses the space (how often, what size is the group)? Is the space cleaned between groups? Can you clean the space yourself prior to your meeting?

3. 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 than 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. Also, schools or churches may not permit outside groups on premises, so always check and confirm ahead of time.

Troop Meetings at the Home

GSMISTS strongly recommends no meetings in the home at this time out of concern there would be greater risk of exposure to other family members. Due to the current COVID-19 risk restricting public meeting options, GSMISTS will allow troops to meet in open areas at a volunteer’s home, such as your backyard, on the patio, under an open tent. Social distancing practices and preventative guidance (such as face coverings) must be followed at all times. Review Guidelines for Girl Scout Meetings/Activities in the Home for more information on obtaining permission for meeting at the home.

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).

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Social distancing practices and preventative guidance (such as face coverings) must be followed at all times.

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 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. Make sure girls wash hands and use hand sanitizer after leaving the restroom.

Day Trips and Activities

In conjunction with Safety Activity Checkpoints, follow the 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. Remember girls should be transported by their family to the activity and not through the use of carpooling to ensure social distancing.

Travel and Overnight Stays

GSMISTS is currently not approving overnight stays in hotels, condos, inside personal homes, or other enclosed locations where more than one non-related person would be sleeping. Tent camping may be approved if individual tents are used. When considering travel or overnight stays please remember girls should be transported by their family to the activity and not through the use of carpooling to ensure social distancing. All overnights must be approved by GSMISTS. Review GSMISTS Activity and Trip Planning Guide for more information.

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 GSMISTS Manager of Human Resources and Governance Stephanie Miletich, smiletich@gsmists.org, 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
  • 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.

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.

Social Distancing

To practice social distancing, stay at least 6 feet from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

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.

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.

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.