Over much of the past two years, we’ve heard numerous public health officials say something akin to “We may be done with COVID, but the virus is not done with us.”
Since the Omicron variant was first detected several weeks ago, public health authorities have expressed growing concern about this highly-transmissible variant, whether it causes more severe illness or not, and will it cause our health care system to be overrun with seriously ill patients needing hospital care. These are valid concerns, and the answers will only come over time. The Delta variant has also fueled rising case numbers and hospitalizations in our area.
Since the pandemic’s beginning, our Council has followed the direction from the Pennsylvania Department of Health in formulating our guidance for Scouting activities. As of now, Scouting activities may continue with appropriate precautions. Our camps are open for use, and we hope that will not change in the weeks ahead. We will continue to monitor the directives of public health experts and government officials in the future, and we will update our guidance based on any changes in those directives.
For now, we are not making any changes to our current guidelines for unit meetings, activities, and outings. We know and appreciate a diversity of beliefs and concerns about how best to conduct Scouting activities during the pandemic. These are challenging times, and we all long for the return of pre-pandemic life and enjoying Scouting programs without thinking about COVID. The most important thing we can do to benefit all involved in Scouting is to prioritize health and safety.
COVID cases involving Scouting activities have occurred. Given the prevalence of COVID transmission in our area, that’s not surprising. I want to share some observations from those incidents that may help reduce the spread of COVID through Scouting.
- First and most important, please emphasize that Scouts and family members should not attend Scouting functions if anyone in their household is not feeling well. Since COVID’s symptoms are similar to other illnesses, it’s easy to assume someone has a cold or allergies and then find out later that person (and others in their family) tested positive for COVID. We’ve seen this scenario happen multiple times.
- If your unit has someone test positive shortly after participating in a Scouting activity, please contact your District Executive or District Director as soon as possible. We can then help guide your unit with contact tracing and appropriate notices to others who may have been in close contact or at that activity. Our Council is required to submit COVID incidents to the Boy Scouts of America within 24 hours of notification.
- Free and effective vaccines are now widely available to all adults and youth of Scouting age. The BSA strongly encourages all who are eligible for vaccinations to do so. The Centers for Disease Control is also recommending that anyone over age 18 get a booster shot either when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after their initial J&J vaccine.
- Follow those familiar public health recommendations as much as possible at Scouting activities. These include social distancing, mask-wearing, good ventilation, and hand hygiene. I’ve seen a number of experts suggest that wearing higher-quality masks (KN95 or N95) offers better protection than a simple cloth mask. All of these efforts help to create the safest environment possible for our Scouts and their families.
I’d like to thank all our volunteer leaders, parents, and Scouts for their vigilance and concern for everyone in the Scouting community throughout this pandemic. Your thoughtfulness aimed toward keeping everyone safe and healthy has made an important difference throughout this pandemic.
Like you, I hope and pray that the threat from COVID will fade dramatically in the new year. Thanks for everything you’re doing to keep Scouting alive and well in the New Birth of Freedom Council. There are better days ahead.
Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season!
Scout Executive & CEO