Updated COVID-19 Guidelines for Unit Meetings, Activities and Outings

03/02/22 – Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eased mask recommendations for the vast majority of the United States under a new framework to monitor COVID-19 that immediately affects about 70 percent of Americans.

Instead of focusing on eliminating the transmission of the virus, the new framework is aimed at preventing hospitals and healthcare systems from being overwhelmed and protecting people at high risk for severe illness.  This new framework incorporates new metrics for the number of new hospital admissions with COVID-19, and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, in addition to case counts, in every county.

Under this new approach, many parts of the country that were considered to have high or substantial levels of the virus are now reclassified as having low or medium levels of COVID-19.  People in communities with high levels of the disease, including schools, are still being urged to wear masks in indoor public places.  For people who have symptoms, if they have tested positive, or if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it’s important to wear a mask.

The CDC has implemented a tool on its website (cdc.gov) that provides information on community disease levels under the new framework and prevention steps by county. As of February 28, four of the counties in our council area (Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, and Perry) are classified as having medium community disease levels, and two counties (Adams and York) are shown as having low community disease levels.

People in parts of the country deemed to have “low” levels of the disease no longer need to wear masks indoors.  People in counties with “medium” levels of the disease should wear masks if they are at a heightened risk of severe disease, but others may forego wearing masks indoors.

Throughout the pandemic, we have followed guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health in formulating our guidance for Scouting activities.  We also rely on information from the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America in formulating our guidelines. 

Accordingly, we are updating our guidance for Unit Meeting and Activities, as well as Council events, to mirror the CDC’s guidance regarding mask-wearing.  If your unit’s members are from counties with “low” or “medium” levels of the disease, masks are not required for individuals who are not at risk for severe disease.  If an individual chooses to continue wearing a mask, that is perfectly acceptable.  While we all remain hopeful that COVID will continue to decline as a threat to public health, if community levels in a county return to “high” levels, then individuals will need to return to wearing masks indoors.

Special Considerations for Use of Council Camping Facilities

If a unit plans to use indoor facilities at one of our Council-operated camps at this time, the question of whether unit members should wear masks or not is determined by the community disease levels back home.  For example, if a county moves from “medium” to “high” community disease levels, units from that county must wear masks indoors at our camps and during travel to our camps.

Safety Remains our Top Priority

  • The safety of our Scouts, volunteers, employees, and communities continues to be our top priority.  The CDC’s change in guidance doesn’t mean there is no longer any risk from COVID. We must continue our vigilance to assure that youth and their families are safe while they enjoy the many benefits of Scouting.
  • We continue to reinforce the guidance from expert agencies and follow the measures that have become second nature to many – getting vaccinated, hand hygiene, masks, distancing, meeting in cohorts, and remaining at home if you have symptoms or feel bad.
  • Units are permitted to establish stricter standards for their unit meetings and activities.  We want everyone to feel safe and comfortable. 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 to confirm that everyone is comfortable following the CDC’s latest guidance regarding mask-wearing indoors.
  • Given the evidence of limited transmission of COVID-19 outdoors, in general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors.
  • 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 that felt 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.

 Note:  This article was updated on March 2, 2022.

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