Jan 25, 2022 (see below for modifications)

Historical Log of Modifications

Sept 21 – Comprehensive update to reflect the historic protocols used during the summer of 2021
Jan 25 – Acceptable pre-trip Covid-19 test type(s) expanded to include approved, laboratory verified rapid antigen tests.
Jan 25 – Pre-trip Covid-19 testing window decreased from 5 days to 48 hrs before arrival in the British Virgin Islands.

What follows is an overview of the risk mitigation protocols and procedures which, at the time of writing, we expect to use during the summer of 2022.

We know that rules, regulations, and best practices will change over the course of the fall and spring, so while the specifics may change, we anticipate that our protocols for summer 2022 will be developed around the following over-arching strategies:

  • Reduce the possibility of an infected person joining the program.
  • Once aboard, limit opportunities for a student or staff member to become infected for the duration of the program.

Current Protocols

COVID-19 Vaccination

We currently require all students to be fully vaccinated* for COVID-19 before the program start date, irrespective of program location or whether the student has previously recovered from COVID-19.

As most international communities begin the delicate balance of relaxing their border restrictions against the potential spread of COVID-19, a travelers’ vaccination status has become the determining factor for entry eligibility and arrival protocols. Our current vaccination requirement is in response to these protocols.

Many countries are adopting policies requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to fast-track quarantine requirements or even enter their Territory. These policies protect their population (many of whom may not receive the vaccine for some time) while restarting their tourism economy.

We respect individuals’ right to choose whether a COVID-19 vaccination is appropriate for them, and we will continue to review and update our policies regularly as appropriate. Yet, until countries disregard travelers’ vaccination status upon entry, we don’t see a viable way to maximize the program experience for everyone when traveling with groups of students with mixed statuses.

*Fully vaccinated – current definition
The CDC considers individuals fully vaccinated for COVID-19 greater than or equal to 2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, etc.), or greater than or equal to 2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson [J&J]/Janssen).

It’s possible that this definition may change with the recommendation of “booster shots” and will be updated in our protocols accordingly.

Pre-Trip Protocols

The goal of our pre-trip protocols is to reduce the possibility of an infected person joining the vessel

1. 10-day Pre-Program Precautionary Period

We ask that all students consider the 10 days leading up to the program start date as a “precautionary period” where participants select to operate in an environment of enhanced risk mitigation. At a minimum, students should limit exposure by selecting to follow enhanced mitigation practices that may no longer be mandated in their home location (masks, social distancing, avoiding large crowds). We define “limiting exposure” as avoiding unnecessary contact with those who are not operating within an environment of active COVID-19 risk mitigation.

2. Negative COVID-19 laboratory-verified rapid antigen test taken EITHER within 24hrs of travel (for those originating anywhere other than the USA, but transitting through the USA en route to the BVI) OR within 48hr for those originating in the USA.

Depending on where you start your travel, you’ll need to take a laboratory-verified COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within the time window outlined above, and receive a negative result. The results need to be presentable on an official document (electronic or otherwise) that clearly shows the following:

  • Laboratory name and contact details
  • Student’s name
  • Test taken, (stating rapid antigen test, NAAT,PCR)
  • Date and time that the sample was taken
  • Negative result for COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2

Please note:

1. Standard “At Home” rapid antigen test results will not be accepted by the BVI.

The results will only be accepted if the test was proctored by a doctor, lab, or telehealth service, resulting in an official document that verifies the negative result. Make certain that the test you take is appropriate for international travel.

2. If traveling to the BVI via St. Thomas (USVI) register your arrival at the USVI Travel Screening Portal.

Even US nationals still need to gain permission to transit through the USVI. Detailed information will be provided closer to the summer on how to register.

3. Submit our Pre-Trip Self Certification form

Within 24 hours of travel, students (and parents if a student is under eighteen) must complete and submit our Pre-Trip Precautionary Self Certification Health Form. This form documents that over the preceding 10-day period:

  • The student has completed their Pre-Trip Precautionary Period by following the expectations outlined above.
  • The student has not experienced any symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19, such as a fever, dry cough, loss of taste or smell, etc.
  • That the student has not been in physical contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days before the trip

 

Link to a sample of Pre-Trip Self Certification form

Carefully considered shore-side activities

The goal for the duration of the program is to limit opportunities for any student or staff to become exposed or infected

We understand that eradicating all risk of contracting COVID-19 during the trip is not feasible without destroying the nature of our program. That said, we know that we can limit the risk by carefully considering and executing any shore-side activity.

While our program excursions are typically more nature-based than touristy or urban, it makes sense to limit activities that put us in places that can be regarded as higher risk. Examples of this would be crowded, high-traffic areas that are indoors and/or harder to socially distance such as museums, restaurants, covered markets, etc.

Off-boarding / Re-entry Procedures

At present, most countries are requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken between 72 and 24 hrs of the start of travel home

Should this requirement remain in effect throughout the summer, our staff will coordinate your student taking the appropriate test (PCR or Antigen) within the required timeframe. We will also help parents complete any authorization application in order to re-enter or transit through certain countries.

During the onboarding process, parents will be required to authorize a credit card which we will use to cover any fees associated with mandatory COVID-19 testing as required by the BVI or any other government entity for return travel to a student’s home country. In 2021, these fees averaged between $100 to $150 per test, with most students only requiring one. We will pay these fees on behalf of the student, then capture that amount against the authorized credit card.

Answering the difficult questions of “What if”

Naturally, students and parents want to know how we would respond to a suspected or diagnosed case of COVID-19 on our program. Given that most of our programs are mobile, and run aboard sailing vessels, this isn’t an easy question to answer without examining the full range of possible variables. Specifically:

  • Is the individual showing symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, or is there a positive diagnosis?
  • When is the suspected or diagnosed case occurring? Pre-trip, during the onboarding, or later in the program?
  • How ill is the individual? As we know, many people have limited symptoms or none at all. Others are affected more significantly, with some requiring medical care and hospitalization.
  • What’s our geographical location, and, as a result, what medical or emergency response resources are available to us? Ordinarily, sailing nearshore will provide more support than when we are further afield, yet some locations have better medical facilities than others. An additional consideration is the required health protocols of the country in which we are located.

Irrespective of the above factors, our response strategy would include:

  • Isolation and quarantine to the extent possible. This is difficult aboard the vessel, so we would likely relocate the individual to shoreside accommodation if possible. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and/or vessel schedule, it’s possible that we would require a parent/guardian to travel to the shoreside location to assist with their student during their recovery.
  • Close discussion with MedAire (our risk management partner) in addition to local health departments of the country in which we are located to ensure that we are following established protocols
  • Testing to establish a firm diagnosis. For health and safety reasons, a positive diagnosis of any individual would require dismissal from the vessel until the individual is infection-free. A known, positive diagnosis would result in widespread testing and a quarantine period for the rest of the crew.
  • Careful monitoring of the health of the rest of the cohort. The crew may be required to disembark the vessel or move to separate accommodations to conduct a deep cleaning.

“We've always considered the ActionQuest experience to be more about the journey rather than the destination, so we believe that our ability to provide life-changing experiences during this challenging time is a result of the inherent flexibility and self-sufficiency that living, traveling, and learning aboard sailing vessels provide. ”

Mike Meighan - Executive Director

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