Click link or copy and paste into browser search. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/youthguide.pdf

Dear Scouts and Scouters,

In response to requests for updates and more information regarding the loosening of restrictions relative to the Coronavirus Pandemic:

I have spoken with a “specialist” at the Minnesota Department of Health hotline.  After nearly an hour of searching the database the specialist was unable to give me any specific guidance on new rules or regulations from the Governor’s office pertaining to youth serving organizations.  I did discover that there has been an update to the Youth Guide I have referenced in previous protocol letters from the Counci Risk Management Committee.  The update was as of May 27, 2021 and a link is here for your convenience. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/youthguide.pdf

Please be reminded that, though we serve several counties in Wisconsin and Michigan, we have continued to follow the guidelines set forth by the Governor of Minnesota as baseline for policies the Council has set.

Given that the Governor has not addressed youth serving organizations in his two most recent addresses, we are referencing our (the Council’s) updated plan letter dated May 5, 2021 for part of the policy and the update Youth Guide for the rest.  The basics of good hygene and keeping everyone safe remain in practice.

Unit Meetings

So far as we can determine, the rules regarding unit meetings have not changed.  I will go so far as to say this refers specifically to den, pack, troop, crew, and post regular meetings.  The latest available guidance from the Governor of Minnesota was an allowance for up to 25 people per room (physical distancing of at least 3 feet) and up to 50 people per pod or “cohort” outside. Units must follow any additional or more restrictive guidelines that stem from their Charter Organization or meeting location.

The recent removal of face covering restrictions only apple to those who have been fully vaccinated. Since vaccines are only available to those that are 12 years of age and older, we STRONGLY RECCOMEND that ALL Scouts wear a face covering indoors. (While some Scouts may be fully vaccinated the majority are not. We are concerned about creating a class system within the youth.) For outdoor gatherings, face coverings are optional, yet we still recommend using a face covering when you are not able to be socially distanced.

All Other Situations

The Youth Guide is geared strongly toward camping situations, yet it does an adequate job of maintaining guidance on most situations.  I recommend that you make copies of the May 27 update available to leaders and parents.

The May 5, 2021 Council Covid-19 Plan addresses transportation and camping and overnight programs.  Please continue to follow those guidelines with the following exceptions:

Adults who are fully vaccinated may now enter buildings on VAC property without a facecovering if so desired.  Again, though there will begin to be more and more Scouts with full vaccination, for the time being we request that ALL SCOUTS wear a face covering when entering and participating in activities or overnight sleeping arrangements in a building on VAC property.  Face coverings can be removed when sleeping.

Please continue to monitor the Council website at www.vac-bsa.org for continuing updates.  With the accelerated pace of changes in restrictions, we will be sending out Covid-specific messaging at least weekly – even if there are no substantive changes.  This is in the interest of making sure Scouts, families, and volunteers know where we stand on a contiuous basis.  If there are meaningful changes we will do our best to get that information out to the membership immediately.            

Best regards,

Michael Jenkins – Scout Executive

Stacey Dennee – Council Risk Management Chair

The Voyageurs Area Council has been monitoring developments regarding Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.  Letters, memos, and protocol updates have been issued at least 20 times since Covid-19 was proclaimed a world-wide health emergency and pandemic.  We want to provide you with the latest guidance based on currently available information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and State and County Health Departments.  This information is fluid and continues to change as more people are vaccinated, and other public situations change.  We recommend that every Scout, Scouter, family, and Scouting partner continue to stay up to date on all public announcements and changes in regulations in order to provide for the safety and welfare of all involved.

As a Council, we are moving toward a more active and inclusive program year and making plans for the safety and welfare of all of our Scouts.  Many of the activities, events, and programs that had to be cancelled in 2020 are back on the Council calendar, are being staffed by quality volunteers, and are anticipated to be successfully completed this year.

 Note:  Should public health authorities or government officials recommend additional preventative measures, we will act accordingly.  Please refer to the Council website for updates on postponement or cancellation of upcoming events, activities, or meetings in your local area.

Our Council’s Response:  A Scout is Clean

We encourage everyone attending our properties and programs to follow health authorities recommendations to prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses:

If you have a fever, cough, or other symptoms associated with Covid-19, or if you believe you may  have been exposed to Covid-19, you should not attend a Scouting activity, meeting, or event.       People who think they may have been exposed to Covid-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

 Attending Scouting Programs

The Council has tools to help ensure that all participants at Scouting activities and events are healthy and unlikely to participate in the spread of the virus.  Programs that are run by the Council or one of its Districts will follow strict protocol including:

Unit Meetings (depending on Charter Organization approval)

In our protocol letter dated February 5, 2021 we stated the following which was confirmed by a health department official for the State of Minnesota:  “Within the program, create consistent groupings of the same staff, volunteers, and participants.  The maximum number of participants is 15 people per group or room for indoor and outdoor activities.”  While this guideline for indoor activities remains in place, the standard for outdoor activities is now up to 50 people in a group.  (This is based on the Governor of Minnesota’s order 21-11.)

While we recognize that different states have different statutes, we believe that these regulations can all be satisfied by adhering to the policy as stated in the preceding paragraph.  We ask that all Voyageurs Area Council units abide by these standards until otherwise notified.

Note: rules have been set forth for any unit believing they need the Council to consider an exception to any of these regulations.

Transportation

Transportation to and from Scouting programs is one area where the spread of the virus could be of greater concern.  Parents and guardians should be certain that their child is healthy and free from communicable diseases before permitting them to participate in Scouting events and meetings.

Camping/Overnight Programs

Overnight programs are another source of concern regarding the spread of respiratory illnesses.  In general, we are in favor of BSA camping programs and camping facilities as they have to go through a rigorous certification process.  Overnight programs at other venues are more of a concern.

It is difficult to anticipate all possible circumstances that may arise from Covid-19 or any other health concern.  We are anxious that all of our Scouts and other participants be safe and healthy so that they can enjoy our great Scouting programs.  Council leadership is available to answer questions, help with review of a policy or venue, or respond to any concerns any unit leader, Scout, or family member may have.  We can be reached by calling the Council Service Center at 218-729-5811.

We are all responsible for the prevention of communicable diseases, and your proactive steps are a critical component.  Thank you for doing your part.  Keep in mind Scouting’s guiding principles regarding communicable diseases include:

Best Regards,

Michael Jenkins, Scout Executive

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Boy Scouts of America

Printable copy 2021 COVID-19 Plan Letter

Last week the Governor of Minnesota issued a new Emergency Executive Order, 21-07.  This order made some significant changes to existing protocol that can affect what we are doing in Scouting.  The order became effective as of Feb. 13, 2021.

The order states that, with the exception of the circumstances listed below, all other provisions of the previous order currently in place will remain in place.  The changes we can see that would affect Scouting relate to “celebrations and receptions”.  Scouting examples would include recognition events and celebrations such as Eagle Scout Courts of Honor, Blue and Gold Banquets, Recognition Dinners, and other similar events.

The order states that indoor venues may “host private celebrations, receptions, parties, or other private events” where a Covid-19 Preparedness Plan is in place and be limited to a room capacity of 25% with a maximum of no more than 50 people.  Occupancy of outdoor spaces is not to exceed 250 people. 

Other provisions of this executive order do not seem to be applicable to most Scouting activities.  Commercial venues and gymnasiums where Scouts may visit are covered by the order and will establish their own conditions whereby Scouts may participate in activities at their location.

In accordance with these changes, and in compliance with other state’s regulations, we are approving a change in these specific circumstances for Scouting.  All VAC Scouting units may now begin to plan and hold courts-of-honor, blue and gold banquets, recognition dinners, etc. in accordance with the rules listed above in the third paragraph.

All other Council Scouting protocols currently in place will remain in place.

Any changes presuppose the continued exercise of good judgement and following good hygiene practices:

Rules for travel, camping, and use of Council properties and buildings remain as currently issued. 

Local laws and restrictions may be more strict than these guidelines, which would supersede them.  Additionally, localized outbreaks may occur.  As these occur, we would expect local Scouting leaders to use their best judgement about limiting meetings and activities until the threat from the outbreak has passed.

We want to express our thanks to all our units, Scouts, and families for the proper care you all have exercised in keeping everyone safe and healthy.  We continue pray and hope for significant changes that will allow all of us to put the strictest regulations behind us and return to the great outdoors where we might meet one another and have some great Scouting adventures.

Sincerely,

Michael Jenkins, Scout Executive

Stacey Dennee, Council Risk Management Chair

In communication with the Council Risk Management Committee and unit leaders around the council we believe it is important to publish an update our protocols regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.  To date, there have been no outbreaks of Covid-19 attributed to any Scouting activity in the Voyageurs Area Council and we want to maintain that level of vigilance.

The Governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan continue to monitor the situation and, at present, have maintained executive privilege to impose restrictions on the public to maintain order and seek for the best good of the citizens and states.  As vaccines, therapeutics, and other treatments become more widely available and used we expect these restrictions to lessen.

Since the VAC is headquartered in the state of Minnesota, we are under all legal obligations to that state.  This is important in determining our continued course of action, rules and regulations.  The leadership of the Council is concerned about maintaining strict organization and in not trying to regulate through three sets of rules or circumstances.  The rules and regulations we have in place are intended for every unit in the VAC regardless of whether they are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan.

As a reminder of where we stand:

In our communication with the Department of Health the following document was referenced:  https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/socialdistance.pdf .  The document is dated 12/16/2020.  Page 3 of the document states:  “Within the program, create consistent groupings of the same staff, volunteers, and participants.  The maximum number of participants is 15 people per group or room for indoor and outdoor activities.”  This is the operational guideline we would like all Scouting units in the Voyageurs Area Council to follow.

Additionally, it is important to recognize that all of the standard protections remain in place.

Namely:

Rules for travel, camping, and use of Council properties and buildings remain as currently issued. 

As an addition to these rules and regulations, we want to allow for special opportunities for promoting Scouting and it aims and methods if they can be done within governmental guidelines and can be done safely.  If any given unit has a plan to hold such and activity, and the activity falls outside of the current rules and regulations of the Council, and the unit believes that guidelines and rules specific to where their unit is chartered are significantly different and would allow for the activity – the following must happen at least two weeks in advance of the activity.

We want to express our thanks to all our units, Scouts, and families for the proper care you all have exercised in keeping everyone safe and healthy.  We continue pray and hope for significant changes that will allow all of us to put the strictest regulations behind us and return to the great outdoors where we might meet one another and have some great Scouting adventures.

Sincerely,

Michael Jenkins, Scout Executive

Stacey Dennee, Council Risk Management Chair

On December 16, 2020, the Governor of Minnesota once again addressed executive orders related to Covid-19 restrictions, policies, and protocols.  We have reviewed all of the information presented and the supporting documents.  Additionally, we have spoken directly with a representative from the Minnesota Department of Health.

In our communication with the Department of Health the following document was referenced:  https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/socialdistance.pdf .  The document is dated 12/16/2020.  Page 3 of the document states:  “Within the program, create consistent groupings of the same staff, volunteers, and participants.  The maximum number of participants is 15 people per group or room for indoor and outdoor activities.”  This is the operational guideline we would like all Scouting units in the Voyageurs Area Council to follow.

Additionally, it is important to recognize that all of the standard protections remain in place.

Namely:

Rules for travel, camping, and use of Council properties and buildings remain as currently issued.  In the November 19, 2020 letter from the Council we outlined use of the Council Service Center.  Those rules will remain in place through the extension of the Governors order which is January 10, 2021.

Lastly, we recognize that we have Scouting units that fall under the jurisdiction of Wisconsin and Michigan.  Some of the local rules are different.  We are asking that all of our units continue to follow a common set of standards for the protection and safety of all of our Scouts and their families.

Happy Holidays to all!

Sincerely,

Michael Jenkins, Scout Executive

Stacey Dennee, Council Risk Management Chair

On November 18, 2020, the Governor of Minnesota issued a new executive order related to Covid-19 protocols. 

We have reviewed that order and the accompanying documents and support materials related to it and have the following updates on our policies to share with the Council.

Please be advised that the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies that are tracking data on the pandemic have issued warnings to the public because of dramatic rise in the number of reported cases of infection.  These warnings and advisories are what are driving government officials to issue new executive orders.  We are interested in doing all we can to support the general public health and be a leading institution in honoring and obeying the law.

You may look at the attached link to see what has been said about “Youth and Student Programs”. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/socialdistance.pdf

While we are confident that our regulations and policies to this point have been in keeping with public policy and guidelines, and we are confident that those practices have allowed us to be without any infection events so far, we recognize that now is not a time to be divisive.  We must be humble and participate in changes for the public good.

The new order issued by the govenor of Minnesota is in place for the next four weeks.  That time frame leads into the Christmas holiday.  For all practical purposes we would be talking about programming, meetings, and events for the rest of the 2020 calendar year.

Please be advised:

 Additionally:

We are confident that these challenges will pass.  We look forward to exciting new opportunities in 2021 and to putting this pandemic behind us.  Let’s do all we can in the here and now to be a good community partner and to support our local leaders.  Let’s show that we are prepared and that we have learned to do hard things.

We wish you all our best.  We are interested in the Council success, in your success, and in what is best for our communities and we are praying for you.

Sincerely,

Michael Jenkins, Council Scout Executive

Stacey Dennee, Council Risk Management Chair

Covid Protocol Update -2

The Governors of both Minnesota and Wisconsin have addressed new Covid-19 concerns this week in light of the significant rise in positive cases and hospitalizations due to the virus. The Governor of Minnesota announced new guidelines related to “social” gatherings, and the Governor of Wisconsin talked about responsibilities citizens have to help slow the spread of the virus. He made some recommendations about how citizens should act and what each person and family should consider.

We were very interested in the specifics of these communications and their collective impact on Scouting here in the VAC. Additionally, many of you have contacted us to inquire about how this would impact your Scouting in your Pack or Troop.

Here is a link to the state website regarding protocols for “Youth and Student Programs”:
https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/socialdistancepdf. Having discussed this issue with leaders from other councils in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we believe that the specific rules related to
Scouting programs have not changed.


In light of that information, we want to suggest a few things for your consideration:
• You should always start by considering how an activity or program will affect the health and safety of your Scouts and the people they interact with (extended family and friends).
• You should continue to monitor temperatures, contact tracing issues, current health, and any other fact that may lead to a Scout participating or choosing to self isolate.
• You should continue to follow all hygiene issues that have been magnified by this pandemic: distancing, washing of hands, disinfecting of surfaces, the wearing of face coverings, etc.

Additionally, we are going to require that units not serve food or drink indoors at meetings or activities for the time being. Cooking and having food outdoors can still be a part of your activity. This will lessen the need to remove face coverings in group settings indoors.

Lastly, it is our hope that you all will be blessed with health, safety, and the knowledge that your Scouting family is with you. A hallmark of Scouting is that Scouts learn to do hard things. We will all admit we are learning at an accelerated pace right now.

All my best,

Michael Jenkins – Scout Executive

Covid-19 Protocol Update 11.13.20

Here are 3 important documents that you must have at every event, meeting, or outing in Scouting held at a VAC property. Thank you for doing your part to keep everyone safe.

Directions For Use

COVID Health Check Questionnaire

VAC Event Health Check Report (Revised)

As we approach the coldest months of the year it seems appropriate to give you all an update as to where we stand on meetings and activities.

The most recent Covid-19 letters – the letter produced on August 4, 2020 regarding re-opening plan step 3 and phase 3, and the memo produced on August 21 clarify the number allowed inside at 15 and not 25 – are still in effect for units chartered and meeting in Minnesota and Michigan.  Those letters can be reviewed on the Council website at www.vac-bsa.org.

The governor of Wisconsin has recently changed the rules related to indoor meetings in that state.  For units that are chartered and meet in Wisconsin the following regulations apply:  1.) If the building has a known capacity (defined as in the definition of the facility on file with the municipality), you may meet in up to a 25% capacity of the facility, still obeying distancing guidelines.  2.) If the building does not have a known capacity, you are limited to meetings of 10 people or fewer.  This policy currently has an expiration date of November 6, 2020.

These are government guidelines and we cannot be less restrictive than these.

Another subject of concern is the use of Council properties during the winter.  We understand that many units want to use our properties for outings.

We recognize that we cannot anticipate every possible scenario that may arise in these unusual circumstances.  We are doing our best to stay aprised of new developments, rules, and regulations and share that information with you.

We hope that you have found ways to use these circumstances to teach Scouting ethics and ideals.  There are many opportunities in front of us and we can become an even greater organization if we take advantage of them.

At all times, remember the Scout Oath and Law and be diligent in the way you follow them.

Sincerely,

Michael Jenkins, Scout Executive                                

Stacey Dennee, Council Risk Management Chair