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COVID-19: Council News & Updates

Safety First

Updated: March 3, 2021, 1:47 p.m.

The spread of COVID-19 has put an unprecedented strain on our community, the nation and the world and we are all doing our best to navigate this health crisis. There is nothing we take more seriously than the safety and well-being of our girls, volunteers and council staff. We hope that you, along with your families, friends, neighbors and co-workers, are staying healthy and safe. Please follow the recommended CDC guidelines and maintain social distancing when out for essential needs.

As national, state and local health and safety protocols continue to evolve rapidly, we are reacting as quickly as possible. We are keeping this blog post updated as situations change, so please check back if you are looking for the most up-to-date information.

To receive text updates from GSWCF, please text BEPREPARED to (855) 980-0305. You can also opt in by logging into the MyGS link at the top of this page, clicking Family Profile, selecting edit, and then checking the box next to "text opt in". If you need assistance making the change to your status, contact our customer connections team.

(New) Troop / Service Unit Meetings

Virtual meetings and activities are the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, troop leaders may collaborate with families to decide whether they are comfortable with hosting in-person troop meetings of up to 50 people*. Troops that choose to meet in person must adhere to our COVID-19 In-Person Meeting Guidelines (which includes all adults and girls completing designated COVID waivers, documenting attendance, maintaining social distance of 6 feet from anyone they don’t live with, and wearing masks, unless prohibited by a health challenge.) Please review and adhere to the full Meeting Guidelines document prior to planning any in-person meetings or activities.

Please note: In order to ensure there is adequate space for troop members, tagalongs (non-Girl Scout members, including younger siblings and adults who are not registered volunteers) cannot attend troop meetings. Non-troop members should remain in a separate location from the troop meeting.

*At this time, the 50-person rule does not apply to gatherings at our camp properties. Please refer to the “Camp Properties” section below.

All troops should monitor local restrictions for gatherings. Restrictions can vary greatly from county to county, and even from town to town, and frequently change. If your area is more restrictive, you must follow the local requirements.

In order to help facilitate troop meetings during a time where many meeting locations like schools, churches, community centers and other facilities are closed or highly restricted, GSWCF is permitting troops at all levels to meet at approved private residences. Each volunteer who wishes to host meetings in their home must have a Residential Meeting Agreement on file, adhere to the directions noted in the COVID-19 In-Person Meeting Guidelines, and follow all standard safety ratios and requirements for leading a troop. If you have additional questions, please review our Membership Q&A or contact your service unit manager. 

We know this is a difficult time for families, and especially – our girls. That’s why we have developed a number of resources to support virtual meetings and at-home experiences so that you can continue to connect girls, even when in-person activities are not safe. But we understand that this risk varies across our geographic footprint spanning eight counties, and we want to offer options to help our troop leaders and families navigate their different comfort levels for in-person activities. 

Participating in Large Gatherings and Events (including parades)

Troops and Service Units that chose to participate in large events or gatherings should follow CDC guidelines which may vary greatly from county to county, or even from town to town. 

(New) Troop Camping, Travel and Overnight Stays.

If your troop is in agreement to travel, and understands the inherent risks, troop camping, travel, and overnight stays are permitted, however prior approval is required for travel and overnight activities. Service units can approve travel for trips up to two overnight stays, while council approval (obtained through your Community Membership Manager) is required for trips lasting three nights or longer. No international travel is allowed at this time. Troops should continue to practice good hygiene and COVID-19 risk mitigation guidance while traveling. Girls and adults in separate households should travel separately or in small family-approved groups that eat and participate in activities together, preferably outdoors.     

We recommend that sleeping arrangements be made so that members of different households are in separate quarters.

When arranging travel plans in advance, troops should plan ahead and create contingencies should there be a need to re-schedule, cancel, or pivot to a virtual activity. For all planned trips, create a timeline and identify a final date when decisions must be made about whether or not to move forward with the planned trip. This decision should be made in a way that puts the safety of our girls first, followed by consideration of financial commitments, deadlines, or other factors.   

Consider purchasing travel insurance. If you do, read all fine print and ensure COVID or pandemic-related cancellation is covered as it is often excluded. Decisions about whether or not to approve troop travel or proceed with planned council-organized travel will be based on health and safety guidance currently available in our jurisdiction, as well as guidance available in the destination jurisdiction.

Follow the guidance for pre-screening and symptoms check. Always implement modifications to travel plans to make social distancing practicable and to keep travelers from separate households socially distanced. Again, sustained contact within less than six (6) feet for longer than ten (10) minutes within an enclosed area creates high risk for virus transmission.   

For travel that includes girls and adults from multiple households who must be in close proximity (for example, because they are sharing transportation or accommodations), additional precautions should be considered. Things like breaking the group up into smaller family-approved groupd or instituting pre-trip quarantine and testing requirements will help ensure girls' safety. These items should be in addition to pre-screening and symptoms checks that should take place before all in-person activities. Check the CDC Domestic Travel Guidance details about various types of travel, risk factors, and steps to mitigate risk.

Best Practices for eating meals while traveling :​

  • Avoid configurations that require diners to use shared utensils, such as buffets, salad bars, self-service, counter food service, etc. ​
  • Use "grab-n-go” services or boxed meals in which meals are pre-packaged or assembled on a tray for diners to retrieve.​
  • Maintain physical distancing between individuals while in line for meals.​
  • Dine outside or in open air facilities​ whenever possible

(New) Public Transportation  

Avoid public transportation whenever possible. Large groups of people gathered in an enclosed space for longer than ten minutes is typical of most public transportation. These factors are known to increase transmission risk. Additionally, maintaining six feet social distancing is often difficult or impossible on public transportation. However, if it is not possible to avoid public transportation in your travel plans, you may seek council approval. When applying for approval, be sure to take in to consideration the following specific safety guidelines for public transportation circumstances:  

  • Avoid peak hours  
  • Allow extra time to wait and avoid crowded buses, subway cars, or capacity restrictions  
  • Space out girls to avoid crowding (but be sure to use the buddy system)  
  • Consider grade level, age, and maturity level of girls  
  • Always wear a mask  
  • Obtain parental or legal guardian permission, and make sure they are aware of your plans
  • Clean hands before and after public transportation travel.

Family Camping

Family camping is the safest camping experience due to the fact that families have already been quarantined and exposed to each other. Families are allowed to camp at public campsites, such as state parks.  If Girl Scouts opt for family camping, only one household per site should camp where safety hygiene, distancing and all COVID-19 protocols are followed completely. Families should to stay in their own safe “pod”. If using public campgrounds, each individual family site is insulated from other families.

Safety Activity Checkpoints' section on camping starting on page 47 provides additional guidance to keep your camping experience safe.

Recommendation for family camping at public campsites: One person in the family should have current BOLT certification. 

Requirement for family camping on Girl Scout property: One person in the family must have current BOLT certification.  Learn more.

What about carpooling? 

Remember, sustained contact within less than six (6) feet for longer than ten (10) minutes within an enclosed area creates a high risk for virus transmission, so be very careful with carpool decisions.

  • Girls and adults should wear masks when inside of a motor vehicle
  • Keep car window opened, at least slightly, to circulate fresh air
  • Routinely disinfect the car handles, seats and any touchable surfaces
  • Wash hands before and after the trip 
  • Consider the personal situation of your girls and have an open discussion with the families to make an informed decision: 
    • Do they live with an immune compromised person that they can put at risk? 
    • Have the families been isolating, and free from contagion? 

Troop Activities at Camp

Troop meeting space at GSWCF camp properties is currently available by reservation; however, the capacity of each troop meeting space varies by facility. Any requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis based on number of attendees (note that we may not be able to accommodate any groups larger than 20 at this time.) Troop leaders are required to sanitize all surfaces prior to allowing girls to enter the meeting space and again after all girls have left. This should include any areas that are used beyond the reserved meeting space (bathrooms, etc.).

If you are interested in hosting your Girl Scout meeting at one of our camp properties, you can find more details and the link to reserve on our Troop Camping page. Before you can meet at camp, please review the in-person meeting guidelines and complete this agreement formPlease note: Tagalongs (non-Girl Scout members, including younger siblings and adults who are not registered volunteers) cannot be brought to these troop meetings.

Adult trainings are available at our camp properties. You can register for these by logging in to your MyGS account and selecting the gsLearn option.

In-person program opportunities and troop day activities at our camps can be found on our Events page and in social media.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have increased our cleaning protocols to follow CDC guidelines by disinfecting with a bleach solution or Clorox wipes for common surfaces such as doorknobs and activity tables.

On a positive note, the rangers at each property have been taking advantage of the months without any visitors to beautify our camps and tackle some of the bigger projects on their to-do lists. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to see the wonderful work they’re doing. You can learn more at our Camp News page.

Leadership Center

The Leadership Center is currently closed to outside visitors but you are available to visit the Girl Scout Store during its operating hours, and our Resource Center by appointment.  

Programs and Events

In-person programs with our local program partners are available.  You can learn more and register for upcoming events here.

We will continue to expand virtual programming opportunities with our partners and will share those on our council events page as they are made available. If you have any questions about a cancelled event, please contact our Customer Connections Team.

We are working on a plan to safely conduct program activities at the Leadership Center as soon as possible and will update you when we have more information.

Visit our Girl Scouts At Home page for virtual programs and activities for the whole family anytime. You can find even more fun Girl Scout activities at GSUSA’s Girl Scouts At Home page.

The Girl Scout Store

Both the Tampa and Wildwood Girl Scout Stores are open for in-store shopping and pre-scheduled curbside pickup. You can find store hours for both locations at The Saturday Shops at Camps Dorothy Thomas and Wai Lani will remain closed until further notice. 

For curbside pickup at the Tampa and Wildwood Girl Scout Stores, please call or email your preferred location at least three hours in advance to place the order, pay for your items and schedule a pick-up time. Upon arrival, you should call the store so the order can be brought out to you.

You can also opt to have your order shipped directly to you. Call 813-262-1793 or email us at the Tampa Girl Scout Store with your order. Payment must be taken over the phone. All orders of $75** or more will be shipped FREE. Any orders under $75** will be shipped in a flat rate box ($8-$15). Flat rate to be determined at the time of payment, prices vary depending on size of box needed for shipping. 

**Total order value before tax.

Here are the shipping rates for the online store:

  • Orders $.01-$98.99 ship at a flat rate of $2.95
  • Orders $99+ recieve free standard shipping.
  • 1, 2 and 3 day shipping is available (additional fees apply).

GSWCF Staff and Member Support

We are still working to deliver the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and support our members. Our staff is available to you via phone, email, social media or our website from 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Please visit our Girl Scouts At Home page for Journey and Badge Programing, resources from our program partners, fun videos from staff and so much more to keep families engaged and active.

Tips to Stay Safe and Healthy

We advise that everyone follow the steps outlined by the CDC:

  • Wear a facemask-  The CDC recommends wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people when in public in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Clean your hands often- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Use social distancing-  Try to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others when out in public. It is especially crucial to avoid close contact with people who show visible signs of sickness (sneezing, runny nose, cough, red eyes, etc.).
  •  Stay home if you’re sick-  Except to get medical care. Please take care of yourself and get well soon.
  •  Cover coughs and sneezes- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them with soap and water before using a commercial disinfectant (like Lysol wipes). Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

For additional information and resources about COVID-19, we recommend the following: