For over 70 years, AFS-USA has prioritized the safety, health, and well-being of our participants in conducting its intercultural programs. We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our lives and that we must take precautions that we may not have previously considered. We look forward to teams being able to resume in-person orientations, when appropriate, taking into consideration the guidance below. Recognizing the range of requirements across the United States, AFS-USA recommends local teams take the following information into consideration in order to promote safe practices and help reduce the likelihood of spreading illness at orientations and other program related events.
Above all, we ask that volunteers follow local, state, and territorial guidelines and requirements regarding in-person gatherings.
- Consider the level of risk when deciding to host an event. (Are school clubs, recreational sports teams or other local youth-based groups meeting in person? What is the local and state guidance?)
- Whenever feasible, hold the event/orientation outdoors.
- Offer virtual attendance options in addition to in-person attendance for those that are not comfortable attending or cannot attend in-person.
- Consider avoiding overnight events to further reduce the risk of exposure and spread of illness.
- Promote healthy behaviors and maintain a healthy environment during the event to reduce risk.
- Identify steps that will be taken ahead of time if someone gets sick during or after the event.
- Continually assess, based on current conditions, whether to postpone, cancel or reduce attendees at in-person events.
- Review the resources and references available via the links provided at the end of this document for additional information.
This guidance is meant to supplement- not replace- any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
Prior to the Event
Volunteers should consider implementing several strategies to help maintain healthy operations.
- Be aware of local or state regulatory agency policies related to gatherings to determine if events can be held.
- Be aware of any site-specific requirements and inform and verify that the team/attendees are able to comply with them.
- Reduce Risk of Exposure
- Consider limiting event attendance to those who live in the local area to reduce the risk of spreading the virus from areas with higher levels of COVID-19.
- Consider offering more than one orientation date so that attendee numbers are limited to a small group.
- Offer a virtual option for those not comfortable attending or not able to attend in-person.
- Inform attendees that they will be expected to follow all local and state guidelines regarding in-person gathering, mask use, and social distancing during the event.
- Advise attendees that they should not attend if they or a member of their household has tested positive for COVID-19 and are still within their quarantine period, are waiting COVID-19 test results, are showing COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have had close contact with a person who has tested positive for or who has symptoms of COVID-19.
- If applicable, advise attendees that they will be subject to a temperature check and symptom screening prior to entering the event venue.
- It is important to keep in mind that temperature screening and screening for symptoms alone may not prevent someone from attending the event who has COVID-19. Send out a reminder to everyone to err on the side of caution and stay home if they suspect that they have been exposed or are developing symptoms.
- Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to attendees.
During the Event
Promote healthy behaviors that reduce spread.
- Adequate Supplies
- Ensure adequate supplies are available to attendees to support healthy hygiene. Supplies include soap, water, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, and masks (as feasible).
- Recognize Signs and Symptoms
- If feasible, conduct health checks (e.g., temperature screening and symptom checking upon arrival) and prevent any person experiencing symptoms from entering.
- Volunteers may consider using examples of screening methods in CDC’s
- Physical (Social) Distancing
- Remind attendees upon arrival to stay at least 6 feet away from people who don’t live with them.
- Discourage attendees from greeting others with physical contact (for example, handshakes).
- Mask Use
- Enforce any local guidance regarding mask use and strongly encourage or require attendees to wear well-fitting masks that fit completely over their nose and mouth if the event is indoors, and physical distancing is not possible.
- Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
- Encourage attendees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol during the event.
- Avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.
- Maintain list of attendees and their contact information for potential contact tracing needs.
- Remind attendees to limit the number of people who occupy the restroom at one time or post signage indicating the same.
- Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example, by opening windows and doors.
- Make sure that there are signs to remind attendees of social distancing guidelines and any mask requirements per local and state guidelines. If the venue does not have signs please make sure the meeting requirements are conveyed to the attendees.
- Organizers should frequently sanitize commonly used surfaces.
- Food Preparation and Service
- Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stations.
- Consider having pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee. Sharing utensils can pose a risk of contamination.
- Limit food and beverage service in areas where people are most likely to congregate.
In Case Someone Gets Sick
- Isolate Those Who are Sick
- Immediately separate attendees with COVID-19 symptoms at the event. People who are sick should go home or to a healthcare facility depending on how severe their symptoms are.
- People who have had close contact with a person who has symptoms should be separated, sent home, and advised to self-isolate.
- People who have been exposed to someone with known or suspected COVID-19 should follow state or local guidance regarding quarantine.
- Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts
- In accordance with state and local laws and regulations, volunteers should notify local health officials of any case of COVID-19.
- Report the situation to AFS as soon as possible at (800) 237-4636 ext. 9.
- Respecting confidentiality, advise those who have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home and quarantine, self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
After the Event
What to do if anyone becomes sick after hosting or attending a gathering or event.
- If an attendee develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure (see references below). Collaboration with the local health department is important to facilitate case investigation and contact tracing for attendees.
- Immediately contact and notify the people they were in close contact with, AFS , and the event organizers.
- If diagnosed with COVID-19, they can expect to be contacted by a public health worker. The public health worker will perform health checks, record, and determine contact history and where they’ve spent their time. Information is kept confidential.
(Adapted from CDC Guidelines)
- CDC Events and Gatherings: Readiness and Planning Tool
- Healthy Hygiene: How to Protect Yourself and Others
- Stop the Spread of Germs - can be used as poster
- When to Quarantine
- Health Department Directories
- Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility
- Steps to Prevent the Spread of Covid If You Are Sick
- How to order AFS Hand Sanitizers
- CDC General Business FAQs
- Sample COVID-19 Signage