6/14/21 – As we all have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials have frequently updated guidelines and mitigation efforts designed to reduce the spread of the virus. As of May 31, 2021, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania discontinued all previous limits on capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has announced that fully vaccinated individuals are no longer are required to wear a mask or physically distance (except where required by law, rule, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance). As of June 28 (or when 70% of adults are fully vaccinated), Pennsylvania’s mask-wearing order will be lifted for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently updated its guidelines for summer camps and this new information will be integrated into our Council’s plans for summer programs, as well as our guidance for unit activities. We also rely on information from the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America in formulating our guidelines. We actively follow guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the CDC so that we can respond quickly to any changes in their recommendations.
Why Have Any Guidelines at All for Scouting?
If public health authorities have already removed mandates, or have signaled that other mandates still in place (mask-wearing) will be ending soon, doesn’t that mean a full return to normal, pre-pandemic Scouting life?
Not entirely. Please consider the following:
- Vaccines are still not widely available for Scouting youth of all ages. This is very important to keep in mind. Children younger than age 12 are not currently able to receive vaccinations, so many of our youth members are not immunized.
- Within Scouting, there is a diversity of beliefs and concerns about how best to conduct Scouting activities during the pandemic. In general terms, we follow the guidance coming from the PA Department of Health, while listening carefully and considering the concerns of those who feel additional measures should be taken. Units are permitted to establish stricter standards for their unit meetings and activities. We want everyone to feel safe and comfortable.
- Community spread of COVID-19 and daily new positive cases continue while the prevalence of youth contracting the virus has grown. While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared with adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread the virus to others and can have severe outcomes. Children who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms can still spread the virus to others.
After consulting with our health supervisor, our Council is updating our guidance for face coverings, physical distancing, and other best practices.
- Vaccines are strongly encouraged for all who are currently eligible (anyone age 12 or over). Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final require dose.
- Individuals may choose to continue wearing face coverings even when it is not required.
- Individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and close contacts must still follow state guidelines for testing and isolation.
- Some local and community orders may supersede these guidelines.
Unit Activities & Council Events
- Units must obtain permission from their chartered organization and meeting host (if different than your chartered organization) for all in-person meetings and Scouting events.
- Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear face coverings or practice social distancing as per guidance from the PA Department of Health and the CDC.
- All unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing (six feet between individuals) during indoor activities. This requirement will be revisited closer to the time Pennsylvania’s masking requirements are lifted.
- Given the evidence of limited transmission of COVID-19 outdoors, CDC has updated their guidance for outdoor mask use among people who are not fully vaccinated. In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. However, people who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated. If unvaccinated Scouts and others cannot continuously maintain physical distance during an activity, masks should be worn.
- All participants should follow posted capacity limits of indoor spaces. Avoid crowded or poorly ventilated indoor activities.
- Outdoor activities and meetings are encouraged wherever possible.
- Participants should isolate if they are sick and should not attend any activity/meeting/event if they, anyone they live with, or anyone that they have recently been around feels unwell.
- Participants should not attend any activity/meeting/event if they or anyone they live with has been tested for COVID-19 or another illness and does not have the results back yet.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- While the CDC has determined that the risk of contracting COVID-19 by touching surfaces is low, appropriate hygiene measures before and after meetings remain appropriate. Please coordinate with your chartered organization or the meeting host location to follow all appropriate cleaning procedures.
- Screen meeting and activity participants before they enter the meeting location regarding fever, chills, or other COVID-19 symptoms. Do not allow anyone with these symptoms to enter. A good resource developed by the BSA for units to use to screen participants prior to events is available.
- Transportation – encourage transportation by members of the same household, limiting carpooling where possible. If carpooling with any unvaccinated members outside of the same family, masks should be worn.
- When camping, align mats or beds so that campers and leaders/parents sleep head to toe.
- Discourage the sharing of items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect. Consider using disposable food service items (utensils and dishes). Self-serve buffet meal service is discouraged – designate one person to be the server.
Summer Camp COVID Guidelines
The CDC recently published (May 28, 2021) updated guidance for overnight and day camp programs and we are working to integrate these guidelines into our plans. We will be updating units attending our summer camp programs directly and will post summer camp guidelines on our website.
Note: This article was updated on June 14, 2021.