Animas Programs and COVID-19

Important information about COVID-19 protocols and guidelines for Animas programs (updated 5/10/22):

• Following CDC guidelines for domestic and international travel is recommended and strongly encouraged

• Carpooling is discouraged

• N-95 masking during programs is required at all times when indoors and within 3’ of others outdoors

• Social distancing during programs is required when unmasked outdoors and at all times when indoors

• Antigen testing required for all guides and participants who develop symptoms during the program (if tests are available)

At Animas Valley Institute, we sense the need for an ongoing safe, proactive, suitably-scaled, and responsive plan to the changing circumstances and spread of the novel coronavirus and emerging variants. Our compassion continues to go out to the communities and individuals throughout the world affected by this illness.

Keeping our Animas program participants, trainees, and guides safe is essential, along with doing our part to slow the spread of the virus. Animas recognizes the tremendous change this pandemic is creating for our entire globe. We also recognize the way COVID is simultaneously bringing together and dividing individuals and communities.

At Animas Valley Institute, we journey to discover our unique calling toward cultural transformation. And while we like to offer dangerous invitations to one’s current understanding of themselves, we also like to keep individuals physically safe and healthy.

As you may have witnessed over the past two years, we have cancelled many of our U.S. and international field offerings. Our guides continue to imagine and co-create ways we can support our community and the world when we are safely able to hold more programs in the wilds. As you may be aware, we now offer online adaptations of our traditional programs as well as our weekly Council in the Commons online.

We have also offered many of our programs “in the field” over the past two years with guidelines to protect our participants, trainees, guides, local communities, and organization.

You will note that many of our programs are offered in remote, wilderness or rural areas to support our work. These areas also tend to be low in medical resources, even prior to the pandemic. Additionally, ICUs in some locations may be full, and finding a setting to get a COVID PCR test can be challenging or fruitless. Subsequently, emergency care in these areas may be expensive if you are not in the insurance network. If you have health insurance or are acquiring travel health insurance, be sure your policy includes coverage for COVID-related expenses.

For those not familiar with U.S. healthcare costs without insurance, an uninsured emergency medical visit, evaluation or hospitalization can be extraordinarily expensive:

 An ER visit may cost $8,000

 A 1-day hospitalization may cost $20,000

 A helicopter evacuation may cost between $2,000-$50,000

If you have any major health risks, or you cannot comply with our COVID protocols, we ask you to consider taking an online program at this time.

With the appearance of new variants and periodic surges of the virus into our communities, our COVID Risk Management Team continues to design best practices for keeping our guides, participants, trainees, and communities safe. We are monitoring the evolving situation and making routine updated recommendations to the guides and organization. We are also designing or adapting protocols that are suitable for the various types of “in the field” programs that we guide, whether they are held in the backcountry, camping, or at a retreat center. Our group meets monthly or more frequently, and we will continue to monitor the situation for future programs, striving to notify participants of cancellation no later than 30 days prior to the start of a program. Participants should be aware, however, that programs may be cancelled at any time given any federal, state, or local restriction placed by these authorities, or other evolving circumstances.

Below you will find links to information about COVID-19, information about traveling during the pandemic, and how to contact us.

COVID-19 Considerations:

• The spread of COVID-19 tends to wax and wane in the U.S. and globally. For up-to-date information, visit CDC’s coronavirus disease situation summary page.

• There are several variants of the virus in the U.S., the newer variants being much more transmissible than the original strain of COVID-19.

• Individuals over age 60 and people with existing health conditions continue to be at higher risk for poor health outcomes from a COVID-19 infection, although infection can lead to severe infection for all ages.

• Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 occurs mainly by respiratory and aerosol transmission. Good hygiene practices, mask wearing, social-distancing, self-quarantine and staying home can help prevent transmission and slow the spread of the disease.

• Vaccination protects individuals from COVID-19 infection and serious complications. Breakthrough infections after vaccination are possible, but less likely to lead to severe symptoms or complications from the SARS-Cov-2 Virus. Individuals who are vaccinated are capable of becoming infected, serving as a viral reservoir and passing on the virus to others just as readily as someone who is not vaccinated.

• The CDC continues to recommend that fully vaccinated people take steps to protect themselves and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, maintaining appropriate social distance from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing hands often.

• Researchers studying the original virus previously documented that gatherings in outdoor settings were of very low-risk of spreading infection.

o It is unknown if being unmasked in an outdoor setting without social distancing is safe in the face of the newer variant’s greater capacity to infect others.

o We take extra precaution when there is no new data to support previous findings.

• Finally, Animas has no organizational stance on vaccines. We have guides and participants who are vaccinated and who are unvaccinated. Our program protocols are the same for all guides and participants. Participants should be aware of this before signing up for programs.

o It is known that fully up-to-date vaccinated individuals are at less-risk for becoming infected and experiencing serious symptoms from infection than unvaccinated individuals.

Travel Policies:

Note: Our air travel policies reflect current CDC guidelines which we highly recommend following.

• CDC guidelines recommend that participants quarantine before flying. Animas also encourages practice of safe protocols in the weeks leading up to the program and before travel including frequent hand washing, mask wearing when appropriate, maintaining social distance, diligently covering coughs, sneezes and robust laughter, etc. A negative COVID-19 test taken 1 day prior to travel is also recommended.

• CDC guidelines permit air travel for those who have been fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated air travelers are encouraged to follow the guidelines listed below for international and domestic air travel. NOTE: Animas RECOMMENDS following CDC guidelines for air travel, but we do not REQUIRE it. However, failure to follow the CDC recommendations for air travel puts you and our entire group at much greater risk.

• We ask that pre-travel COVID-19 test results be brought to the Animas gathering and shown to guides for proof of testing.

• Guides and participants are encouraged to drive separately to field programs.

International Air Travel Guidelines:

Full up-to-date vaccination is required for non-U.S. citizens traveling to the U.S. from a foreign country – please review the requirements here

A negative COVID test taken no more than 1 day prior to travel is required, or documentation of recovery from previous infection no more than 90 days from departure

In addition, the CDC recommends the following:

*5-day quarantine following air travel for unvaccinated

*negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test 3-5 days after air travel for unvaccinated

*self-monitor for symptoms, isolate and test if symptoms develop

• Air Travel within the U.S. Guidelines:

o The CDC recommends the following:

 Unvaccinated:

• a negative COVID test taken no more than 3 days prior to travel

• 5-day quarantine following air travel

• testing 3-5 days after air travel

• isolate and test if symptoms develop

 Vaccinated (up-to-date):

• self-monitor for symptoms

• isolate and test if symptoms develop

• Carpooling:

o Animas is a huge proponent of carpooling. However, during the pandemic there are increased risks with this practice; therefore, guides and participants are encouraged to drive separately to the program.

o If you choose to carpool, please do so safely by traveling with the windows down, mask wearing, distancing as much as possible, etc. If someone in the carpool develops symptoms during the program, all people in the carpool may be tested for COVID-19.

How to contact us:

Please address inquiries to [email protected] or call 970-259-0585.

Additional resources:

• World Health Organization Coronavirus information

• https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

• https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/novel-coronavirus-hubei-province–china.html

With appreciation and well wishes for our collective health,

The Coronavirus Risk Management Task Force:

Jeanine Surber – Animas Operations Coordinator

John Lynch, MA – Wilderness Guide, Wilderness EMT, Professor of Outdoor Education

Laura Gunion – Wilderness Guide and Nature-Based Educator, Wilderness First Responder

Bruce Howatt – Wilderness and Mountain Guide, Wilderness First Responder

Brian Stafford, MD, MPH – Wilderness Guide, Acute Wilderness Life Support Trainer, Animas Medical Director

UPDATED May 10, 2022