RESPONDING TO COVID-19
Squads Abroad is excited and eager to welcome back volunteers into our Program Countries this summer. After more than a year of suspended operations due to Covid-19, we are taking every precaution to reopen our doors with the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and community members at top of mind.
Our Panama programs will reopen June 13th, 2021 and our Guatemala programs will reopen July 4th, 2021.
During Phase 1 of reopening in-country programs we will have very limited capacity for each program for total number of chapters, and total number of volunteers per chapter, so we encourage your chapter to confirm your squad dates as soon as possible with your Program Associate to reserve your spot.
After careful deliberation with our in-country partners, we have decided that only fully vaccinated volunteers are able to participate in-person this summer. Vaccine roll out in our Program Countries is slow and variable, and we have made this decision for the health and safety of our local staff and vulnerable community partners. We highly encourage all volunteers who wish to participate in-person to seek vaccination options as soon as possible. Any volunteers who will not be vaccinated by this summer are encouraged to join a TeleSquad program, or begin planning their squad for the 2021/2022 school year.
*Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, all squad re-start plans are subject to change. Check with your faculty leader or Program Associate for the latest information regarding your squad.
Now more than ever, our community partners count on your continued support to ensure we can empower them to meet their health and economic goals. We want you to know that because of your past and current support, we continue to look toward our future with great hope and optimism knowing that our work with community partners will overcome these obstacles. Squads Abroad has persisted through many global crises over our history and persevered by creating innovative solutions to weather unanticipated events. In addition to now offering TeleSquads for volunteers, read more below on how our teams are adapting programs to best position our partner countries for continued impact regardless of in-person participation of volunteers.
For additional information, please feel free to review the following resources:
Frequently Asked Questions
We appreciate the trust you place in our teams, both nationally and internationally when you participate in our programs. Please review the following frequently asked questions for more information about how we are responding to Covid-19 and how we are preparing for the re-opening of in-person squad operations. If you have any additional questions please feel free to reach out to email@example.com
What is squad’s assessment process in deciding when to resume operations in a country?
Squads Abroad and it’s parent organization Global Brigades has developed stringent criteria which need to be met prior to considering the resumption of brigade operations in a particular country. These criteria were developed by a committee made up of Squads Abroad and Global Brigades’ leadership team and in-country executive directors and operations staff, using a variety of resources including travel guidelines from the State Department and local US consulates as well as in-country business reopening guidelines and guidelines imposed by local governmental bodies. These criteria include but are not limited to:
- Lifting of entry restrictions for international travelers;
- Lifting of any mandatory quarantine requirements upon arrival for international travelers;
- Resumption of normal daily international flights from major carriers;
- Local lockdown measures and restrictions on movement have been lifted;
- COVID testing is widely available, without restrictions;
- There is a sustained drop in local ICU and hospital admissions;
- Normal tourist activities have resumed locally and without restriction.
When in person volunteer operations resume, what additional precautions will be taken in light of Covid-19 to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and community members?
Squads Abroad is taking a number of precautions to mitigate the risks of COVID transmission on its programs, including but not limited to the following:
- Operating all in-country programs at 50% capacity and observing these capacity limits for all transportation and lodging.
- Periodic COVID testing and health screening of all staff.
- Imposing mandatory mask/face covering requirements for all brigade participants, staff and community members.
- Observing social distancing measures at all brigade sites, including lodging facilities and community sites.
- Requiring all participants to take a COVID test within at least 72 hours of departure and provide Squads Abroad with proof of a negative test. Should a participant test positive they will be unable to participate as scheduled.
- All participants will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to departure and on each day of the program.
- Daily temperature checks.
- Staggered meal service to limit capacity.
- Daily sanitation of all vehicles and lodging facilities.
- Enhanced precautions on squad days: health screening of community members, sanitization of community sites, social distancing guidelines, and mandatory use of PPE.
When in person volunteer operations resume, will I need to obtain a negative Covid test prior to my participation?
Yes, prior to departure all participants will need to obtain proof of a negative COVID test which has been administered within 72 hours of departure for your brigade. For those individuals who are participating on a squad to Panama, you are required to obtain proof of a negative COVID test administered within 48 hours of departure in order to enter the country. In Ghana, you are also required to take a mandatory quick COVID test on arrival at the airport.
When in person volunteer operations resume, will I need to quarantine upon entry to the country (Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Greece, Ghana)?
No, provided you have obtained proof of a negative COVID test which has been administered at least 72 hours prior to your departure (48 hours for Panama), and you do not present with any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 upon arrival.
In the event that you arrive at the airport with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and within the last 14 days have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or traveled to a country with confirmed cases, you may be isolated in a medical centre or at a designated hotel for monitoring by the Ministry of Health for up to 14 days.
What is the protocol if a volunteer presents symptoms of Covid while on a squad program? What insurance coverage do they have?
In the event that a volunteer presents symptoms of COVID-19 while on the squad, they will be separated and quarantined at the lodging facility and monitored by a local staff health care professional, while a COVID test can be arranged for. Upon consultation by a local physician if the symptoms are mild, the volunteer will remain quarantined and under observation at their lodging facility. If the symptoms are serious and the volunteer is at higher risk of complication due to pre-existing conditions, they will be transported to a medical facility in the capital city as recommended by their treating physician. The duration of quarantine will last between 10-14 days depending on severity and the recommendations of the medical team.
All volunteer participants are automatically covered under a base travel insurance policy for the duration of their program, and have the option to upgrade the policy limits for an additional fee. The base policy covers medical expenses for emergency medical treatment related to a diagnosis of COVID-19. The policy does not cover any expenses due to evacuation, trip interruption, or trip cancellation due to COVID-19, nor does it cover expenses incurred due to mandatory quarantine. Squads Abroad is currently in the process of securing coverage for volunteers for an additional fee, which would cover trip cancellation and trip interruption claims filed due to COVID-19, including costs incurred during a quarantine period.
In the meantime, all volunteers looking to secure additional travel insurance coverage are encouraged to do so through third-party providers such as Square Mouth.
Is Squads Abroad going to provide PPE for volunteers and community members? Do we need to bring masks/equipment with us?
Yes, Squads Abroad will have PPE (masks and gloves) available for volunteer participants as well as community members. However to ensure these resources are plentiful we would also encourage all volunteers to bring their own supplies of PPE, particularly masks.
What happens if the postponement period is extended and my squad is postponed again due to Covid?
In the case that Squads Abroad determines that criteria have still not been met in order to restart in-person squad programs, your Program Associate will work closely with you to provide options on rescheduling your squad, either to an in-person squad at a later date or switching to a virtual squad program (TeleSquad). In the case that your chapter had previously been issued flight tickets, your Travel Team Member will work with you to request a flight credit or flight voucher from the airline, which can be applied towards purchasing a flight for a future squad. Flight credits and vouchers are subject to policies and regulations as established by the airline.