COVID Safety Plan and Protocols Annual Sessions 2022

This policy and protocols may be modified as conditions change; please check back for revisions (which will be marked as such).

All Friends attending Sessions on campus at Castleton must commit to observing this policy and protocols. 

Introduction

This COVID Safety Plan and Protocols for NEYM Annual Sessions 2022 has been developed in consultation with many concerned parties, based on a range of policies used in similar contexts, including multiple COVID Safety policies used successfully for NEYM-sponsored in-person events during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been approved by the Yearly Meeting Secretary. It will serve to offer the authoritative framework for NEYM implementation and decision-making related to COVID safety before, during, and after Annual Sessions 2022.

Guidance, Input, and Consultation

This policy was developed using the baselines of the State of Vermont public health guidance, the policies and requirements of Castleton University, and the current guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

To develop further layers of prevention and response, input has been sought from NEYM staff responsible for those events, including events for children and youth, young adults, families, and Friends of all ages, and one day, overnight, and multi-day events, as well as local meeting approaches to COVID safety.  While this policy differs in some ways from some previous protocols and approaches, Friends involved in developing, implementing, and evaluating those approaches had significant input on these protocols. 

Quakers who are medical professionals with experience in COVID care for both adults and children have also been consulted, as have people responsible for COVID safety for other yearly meetings and Quaker organizations.

Process for Revision  

Consistent with the approved policy of the Yearly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting Secretary is charged with developing, approving, and directing implementation of policies and protocols involving safety, security, liability, and pastoral care at Annual Sessions, and for approving COVID safety plans for all Yearly Meeting-sponsored events held with in-person components during the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Because of the uncertainty involved in the ongoing public health situation in our wider region and conditions and guidance in Vermont, and in consultation as needed, the Yearly Meeting Secretary may determine that there is a need to make changes to this policy before or during Sessions. In these cases, changes will be shared as quickly and widely as possible with registered Sessions participants, and will be updated in the official policy posted online, with an updated approval date.

Questions about this policy? Concerns?

We will continue to review, update, and adjust these plans as we get closer to Sessions. We want Friends’ time together at Annual Sessions 2022 to be a healthy and positive experience for you and all who participate.

Friends serving to host Annual Sessions on behalf of the Yearly Meeting are grateful in advance for your support, patience, and cooperation as we seek to care for the whole community gathered for Sessions, and to be mindful of our impact on the people and communities hosting us, and in which we make our homes.

If you have questions or concerns about any provisions in this policy, please contact [email protected].

Baseline Requirements

From the State of Vermont/Castleton University 

While masking is not required indoors by the State, NEYM will be requiring masking indoors for NEYM Sessions (see below). Proof of vaccination or an antigen test is required when arriving on campus. Re-testing is not required for asymptomatic attenders, since Sessions participants are staying less than a week. Castleton University and/or the State of Vermont may revise required protocols; we will update this plan based on those when available.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

“Up to date” means all eligible people (aged 5+) should be at least two weeks out from their second vaccine dose, plus one or more boosters depending on eligibility, according to CDC guidelines.

The CDC uses a Community Spread Tracking tool that will be used as a key reference for NEYM in implementing this plan. Other information and guidelines regarding COVID-19 are available here.

Yearly Meeting Requirements, Prevention, and Response

Vaccination

All in-person participants at Annual Sessions must be fully vaccinated and “up-to-date,” according to CDC guidance, unless ineligible for vaccination for medical reasons (age or otherwise).

  1. The definition of “up to date” will use the CDC definition (see above): at least two weeks out from their second shot, plus a booster if eligible.
    1. Persons 5 years and up should be fully vaccinated and have one booster shot, consistent with CDC authorization (5/19/2022)
    2. Persons 50+ should be fully vaccinated and have two booster shots, consistent with CDC guidance (5/20/2022)
    3. NEYM will accept a “grace period” of 90 days for those unable to be “up-to-date” in time for Sessions due to recent changes in authorization, eligibility, and access to vaccination/booster shots.
  2. Medical exception: Participants must provide a letter from their health care provider stating that it is medically advised that they not be vaccinated and/or boosted at this time. 
  3. One or the other type of documentation (vaccination record or letter from health care provider), or affirmation that the person (child) being registered is under 5 years old, and therefore ineligible for vaccination, must be provided before registration will be considered complete. 
    1. Documentation may not be provided on site at Sessions; but must be provided  in advance.

Consent to COVID Safety Protocols

  1. As part of Sessions registration, all Sessions registrants will be required to affirm that they understand and commit to abide by all COVID safety protocols and expectations.
  2. Reminder of Sessions protocols and expectations will be sent to all in-person registrants 72 hours before Sessions begins.

Testing 

  1. A negative antigen or negative PCR test (self-facilitated or -administered) is required to attend Sessions for all eligible attenders, regardless of vaccination status. 
  2. Castleton requires proof of a negative antigen test upon arrival for all unvaccinated participants. 
  3. The COVID Safety Coordinator or their delegate will update a log verifying that they reviewed the negative test
  4. All participants are required to test (PCR or antigen) prior to traveling to Sessions, and to affirm that they have tested negative (PCR within 72 hours, or antigen within 24 hours) of arriving at Sessions.   
  5. Sessions attenders will be encouraged to bring their own antigen test kits; a limited number of additional tests will be available on site as well.
  6. If not tested at home, or if desired, attenders of any vaccination status may take an antigen test upon arrival; signage will be posted near registration directing people to testing location.
  7. All unvaccinated participants will be required to take an antigen test on arrival. 
  8. Anyone testing positive upon arrival will not be able to participate and will need to depart from Sessions as soon as possible. 
  9. Antigen testing for participants under 2 years of age has not been approved by the FDA as of 6/1/2022, and so will not be performed or required. 

Masking

  1. Face coverings, well-fitting and covering both the nose and mouth, are required in all public indoor spaces.
    1. High-filtration (N95 or KN95) or surgical/medical/procedure masks are preferred, and available on site.
    2. For children, or for all ages where a high-filtration or medical mask doesn’t fit well, double-masking (preferably where one layer is a surgical mask) is recommended. 
    3. Young children may wear any mask that fits them (covering their mouth and nose fully), and that they will reliably keep on, at the discretion of their parents/guardians. 
    4. Masking is not recommended for children under 2, as it may impair breathing. Parents of children ages 2 to 4 whose child has difficulty with masks should contact youth/child care staff, who may be able to make appropriate accommodations. 
    5. Masks with built-in valves are not acceptable for any age participant.
  2. While all participants will be asked to bring their own masks, NEYM will also have additional high-filtration masks available on site.
  3. Masking is not required in private dorm rooms.
  4. In shared suites, residents housed in those suites may, with the agreement of all residents, set an agreement about masking within that suite.
    1. This applies only to those living in the suite; Friends visiting a suite in which they are not staying must remain masked while visiting, and all present must mask during the visit.
  5. Presenters, speakers, and facilitators may remove their masks while speaking.
    1. This is to improve hearing by Zoom participants and those with hearing impairments.
    2. This should be announced to the group in advance so that Friends who wish to physically distance may position themselves accordingly.
  6. Masking is not required in the dining hall while eating, but will be required while waiting in food lines indoors. 
  7. While not required, Friends are encouraged to mask whenever it would increase their own comfort, including outside if desired.
  8. Note: According to current VT state regulations, Castleton staff may not be required to wear masks in all spaces on campus, but will be advised of our protocols. Fine Arts Center/tech staff will mask, and masking will be required for Castleton staff entering child care program spaces when children under 5 are present.

Close Contacts/ Contact Tracing

  1. When someone tests positive during Sessions:
    1. The person will need to leave Sessions, and will be supported to make these arrangements as soon as possible.
    2. If necessary, they may quarantine short-term in the designated space on campus until appropriate travel arrangements can be made.
    3. NEYM will notify the Castleton public health contact.
    4. The COVID Safety Coordinator will work with the person who has tested positive to identify their recent close contacts. As much as possible, Friends with whom they have had significant contact (e.g., home group, youth program, dorm suite-mates) will be notified by COVID Safety Coordinator, with support from staff as needed.
  2. Contact tracing expectations will be communicated by email at the end of Sessions, for the week after Sessions:
    1. Anyone with COVID symptoms within 5 days after the event will get a test and communicate positive results to COVID Safety Coordinator.
    2. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, shortness of breath.
    3. If there is a positive test after Sessions, the COVID Safety Coordinator will communicate this to the public health contact at Castleton University, and to Sessions attenders, consistent with “Communications,” below.

Air Flow

  1. Castleton has replaced/upgraded filtration systems in several places, including the auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. 
  2. Friends are welcome to bring personal air purifiers or fans, if desired.
  3. We encourage Friends to open windows and doors in rooms, while mindful of alarm systems on campus building entrances/exits.
  4. We encourage Friends to spend as much of Sessions as possible outside, including in several tents and shade structures on campus.

Physical Distancing

  1. Consent for physical contact and proximity should always be requested before initiating contact with another person.
  2. Some people may wish to offer or receive hugs or handshakes;  some may wish to avoid such physical contact, even when otherwise in proximity. Care should be taken to respect a variety of comfort levels with physical contact, even outside.
  3. Those leading programs involving physical contact will lay out spacing requirements for these activities, with these protocols as a baseline (e.g., no removing masks in indoor public spaces, consent always required)   
  4. We encourage spacing in the dining hall and under tents or lawn outside the dining hall, to allow for social distancing.
  5. Open windows and doors during meals, if possible, to increase airflow.

Food Service Precautions

  1. Following Castleton food service guidelines
  2. Verbal or posted hand-washing/hand-sanitizing reminders before each meal or snack

Cleaning

  1. Bathrooms and shared spaces and surfaces will be cleaned by Castleton staff, consistent with Castleton protocols 
  2. All participants will dispose of masks appropriately in waste receptacles, consistent with Castleton protocols
    1. Avoid overloading trash cans or masks being discarded loose on campus; discard in bins with active collection

Communications

  1. COVID Safety expectations will be shared as part of registration, and agreement will be required in order to complete registration.
    1. These records and consent will be maintained separately from other registration information, using a secondary system with access as needed only, consistent with NEYM data privacy policies.
  2. Registration will not be considered complete until vaccination or medical exception documentation has been uploaded or otherwise documented by NEYM.
  3. 72 hours before Sessions, all registrants will be sent an email reminding them of the commitments they have made regarding COVID safety, including:
    1. testing before departure 
    2. bringing masks (and test kits if desired)
    3. not coming to Sessions with symptoms
    4. not coming after known close contact exposure in a timeframe requiring quarantine (according to CDC guidance)
  4. During Sessions, participants agree to notify the COVID Safety Coordinator at [email protected] or by phone, and take an antigen test if experiencing COVID symptoms.
  5. At the end of Sessions, all in-person participants will be sent a reminder encouraging them to test the following week, with guidance on how to report a positive COVID test in the week following Sessions. 
    1. These can be reported to [email protected] 
  6. If at least one positive test is reported within five days post-Sessions, a further email will be sent to all who attended in person, advising all participants that they may have been close contacts and to consider taking appropriate steps in their own home context, consistent with CDC guidelines and their vaccination and health status.

Measures to help implement this plan

The Yearly Meeting will:

  1. Appoint a COVID Safety Coordinator (CSC) on Sessions staff to:
    1. Assist and advise the Yearly Meeting Secretary and relevant parties (including morning meeting) to make decisions about safety pre-Sessions and during Sessions
    2. Help explain rules, implement practices, keep track of COVID details so that other staff and leadership can focus on their responsibilities during Sessions
    3. Reflect on how we did with safety post-Sessions, assess for next Sessions and other events going forward
    4. See role description for further detail.
  2. Establish and staff two “health tents/centers/huts”
    1. ideally with close outside access/under a tent, to serve as an accessible central location for COVID testing, questions, and information. 
    2. one on each side of campus (or a sub-site, attached to the info desk, on one side of campus, with a more robust site in a central location)
  3. Publicize COVID/health phone contact on participant name tags to make sure people can call rather than come to location
  4. Publicize a list of COVID symptoms, and clarify what people with any COVID-related symptoms should do
  5. If a person needs to take an antigen test based on symptoms, or simply wants to take a test, person should mask immediately, even while outside, call the health number, and mask as they approach the health center or follow COVID Safety Coordinator guidance to receive a test
  6. Establish a backup plan/backup coordination in case the Safety Coordinator gets sick or has a COVID contact before Sessions
  7. Open registration as early as possible and close registration with plenty of time prior to arrival to plan for supporting the group that will be attending
  8. Except in special approved circumstances, we will not process “walk-on” registrations
  9. Ensure a substantial volume of antigen tests, high filtration masks, and hand sanitizer on hand at Sessions
  10. Provide clear and timely communication with participants about risks, protocols, and known exposures before, during, and after Sessions
  11. Encourage participants to bring appropriate outdoor gear so they can comfortably endure time spent outdoors, including in cold and wet conditions if needed
  12. Youth staff, with Yearly Meeting Secretary approval, will develop and enact additional protocols and expectations applying to youth program participants and staff, especially the Childcare Program (because of current vaccination authorization and concern for the wellbeing of our youngest children, see Appendix 1 below).
  13. Prepare a limited-capacity designated quarantine/isolation space that can be reserved and used as needed for short-term isolation/quarantine only, until people are able to depart safely and with care

What happens if….

  1. Registered participants have COVID symptoms the week prior to Sessions:
    1. In order to attend Sessions, a person must be symptom-free, and at least 48 hours fever-free by the start of Sessions, and have a negative antigen test.
    2. Unvaccinated people with identified close contacts within five days prior to Sessions may not attend Sessions, regardless of negative test result.    
  2. Someone starts experiencing COVID-19 symptoms during Sessions:
    1. Isolate/quarantine as soon as possible. 
    2. Give rapid test on site immediately.
      1. If test is negative, they may remain on campus, as long as they continue to test negative daily while symptoms persist.  
      2. If test is positive, the person testing positive will leave Sessions. The COVID Safety Coordinator will interview the person about close contacts and will notify close contacts as soon as possible, so that they can test. The Coordinator will inquire if they would like to request a refund of any part of Sessions fees paid, acknowledging costs already incurred by NEYM.
      3. As notified, the COVID Safety Coordinator will track those needing a daily test, for follow-up or support if needed.
  3. During Sessions, someone learns they have had a COVID-19 exposure of a close contact prior to arrival:
    1. If CDC guidelines would require quarantine, the close contact will need to leave Sessions.    
    2. If CDC guidelines would not require quarantine, and the person has a consistent daily negative test result, they may continue to attend Sessions, but must test daily.

Reflection questions for gray areas and unexpected and time-sensitive decisions:

  • Have I/we held this decision in prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
  • Would I/we be able to explain my/our decision-making to participants, their families, and the wider communities that might be affected?
  • How might this decision affect the individual, the whole group, and the wider communities of which we are a part?
  • What precedent does this decision set?
  • Have I/we consulted, as able, with those with the most relevant knowledge or context about how this decision might unfold?
  • Have I/we weighed the foreseeable trade-offs, to the extent I’m able given other constraints and present knowledge?
  • Who needs to approve this decision? Who needs to be notified?

Appendix: Youth Program-Specific COVID Protocols

Child Care (infants-4 year olds) Program-Specific COVID Protocols

Why we have special protocols for Child Care: Parents will be constantly navigating decisions about their children’s health while their children are in their care during the rest of Sessions: i.e. who holds their child, what they can eat and where, and how close they are to others. When their children are in the Child Care program, they are relying on the Yearly Meeting and all attending to do all we can to keep them safe and healthy. This responsibility, which we accept with joy and deep care, means we are implementing additional safety measures while children are in our program.

Note: All of these child care specific protocols are still under review by medical professionals and early childhood educators, and may be modified based on further guidance and/or changing public health conditions. If you have questions about how this might affect your family and your decision to attend Sessions, please contact [email protected]

Staffing

  • All youth staff must be fully vaccinated and up to date on boosters.
  • All youth staff will commit to following the program’s COVID safety protocols
  • The Child Care Coordinator is responsible for monitoring the staff to children ratio. If there are too many staff on at any time, one or more will be asked to leave to decrease children’s exposure risks.
  • One staffer for each shift will serve as the Healthy Friend. This person will be responsible for:
    • Monitoring Cleaning practices
    • Monitoring Physical distancing practices 
    • Ensuring child care staff complete daily symptom surveys
    • Working with Child Care Coordinator to ensure best practices and to problem-solve questions or concerns that arise during the week.

Visitors

  • All visitors must make arrangements ahead of time with the Child Care Coordinator, only visit in outside spaces, wear a mask, and carefully remain over 6 feet from children. 
  • Parents who remain inside to help a child transition, or just to play, will be masked, and will avoid being closer than 6 feet to children other than their own.
  • All visitors must be fully vaccinated and boosted in order to visit.
  • The Child Care Coordinator may make the decision to limit or not allow visitors to the program.

Testing/Symptoms

  • Child Care Staff will take an antigen test, and should have a conclusive negative result daily/upon arrival for their shift, regardless of symptoms.
  • The Child Care Program is not equipped to care for sick children, whether the child is ill with COVID or another illness. Other arrangements will need to be made to care for children with possible COVID symptoms or other highly contagious childhood illnesses.  
  • While at Sessions, should a child experience symptoms that then dissipate, they should be symptom free for 24 hours before attending Child Care. If eligible for an antigen test, the child must test before returning. 
  • In addition to the standard COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever/chills, headache, fatigue, sore throat, new loss of taste/smell, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, congestion or runny nose, and muscle or body aches), additional symptoms in young children have recently included abdominal pain, poor appetite/poor feeding, neck pain, bloodshot eyes, rash.

Physical Distancing

  • As much as possible, the child care program will use outside spaces.
  • When inside, staff and parents will be mindful that reduced density is recommended to reduce the spread of COVID- 19. The Healthy Friend and the Child Care Coordinator will continually review and adjust the use of space, group size/room - especially sleeping and eating spaces - to increase spaciousness.
  • Children’s bedding/resting spaces will be labeled, used, and stored individually

Cleaning Practices

  • Child Care staff will review and follow best practices including a minimum twice daily wipe-down of all surfaces, toys, equipment; tables and chairs to be cleaned before and after all snacks.
  • Safe diaper changing practices will be followed, including washing hands before and after, wearing gloves, and cleaning & sanitizing diaper-changing stations between each child’s use. 
  • Frequent hand-washing will be practiced by everyone, including every time they enter the child care space, as much as possible.