River trips in the age of COVID 19
Things will be different in 2020 as we adjust to the new world of adjusting. Here’s our most up-to-date information about what we think our trips will look like, what we’re doing to reduce the risks of spreading coronavirus, and what new expectations we will have for our guests.
WHAT WE EXPECT OUR TRIPS WILL LOOK LIKE:
We’ve always been advocates of hand-washing, but this year we’ll be taking sanitation and hygiene on our trips to a new level. The enhancements we anticipate include:
- Limiting close contact with others by assigning raft spaces to “families/quaranteams” who will have their own private raft.
- Assignment of personal equipment for the duration of the trip including personal floatation devices, helmets, chairs, paddles, and other river equipment.
- More stringent pre-trip cleaning and more exclusive/individual use of rental camping equipment (you may have an assigned tent and sleeping pad for the duration of the trip).
- Daily sanitation of all communal equipment, more hand sanitizer, and even more rigorous insistence on hand-washing.
- Limited mobility between rafts and limited inter-mingling of guests on the river (the ability to move from raft to raft during the day or trip could be limited in order to keep “families/quaranteams” distanced; this could impact your ability to go in a paddle raft or inflatable kayak at certain times during the trip).
- Practicing social distancing in camp which may result in fewer full-group activities, eating in smaller groups, etc.
- Wearing masks or face coverings in shuttle vehicles and potentially in camp.
- No group hugs.
While this is a departure from our normally uber-communal style, there is an intimacy that will result from spending more time in small groups.
WHAT WE’RE DOING TO REDUCE THE RISKS…
The risk of contracting COVID-19 while outdoors appears to be very low, but we’ll be taking some extra precautions this year to minimize the risk of exposure to coronoavirus so that we all can hopefully relax and enjoy life on the river.
GUEST SCREENING – Guest screening has been enhanced to minimize participation by at-risk individuals, by individuals displaying COVID-19 symptoms, and by individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19. (see “What we will be expecting of you…” below)
EMPLOYEE SCREENING – All ARTA employees will monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days prior to their first trip following the symptom check questions above and will be monitored every morning by asking if they have had any change in their condition since the last check. Employees who show any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to work until they test negative or show no signs or symptoms for 14 consecutive days.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION – When practical we will offer guests the opportunity to use their personal vehicle for transporting to and/or from the river. Otherwise, we will use company or company-hired shuttle vehicles (buses and vans), with reasonable efforts made to maintain physical distancing. Additional vehicles will be used when warranted to minimize crowding or sharing of company or company-hired vehicles. Guests and employees will be required to wear a mask or face cover while riding in shuttle vehicles. Shuttle vehicles will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between uses.
PHYSICAL DISTANCING – Physical distancing between non-associated groups will be promoted during all aspects of the trip including, but not limited to the pre-trip meeting, safety talk and PFD fitting, while on boats, during shuttles, at camp, during meals, and during hikes. When social distancing is not possible, face coverings will be utilized or encouraged.
DECREASED SHARING – We will minimize opportunities for the spread of coronavirus by reducing communal equipment and activities. When practical, we will assign personal equipment for the duration of the trip, limit interchanges between boats and groups during trips, stagger hiking and other on-shore activities to avoid crowding, and eliminate close-contact group activities.
PERSONAL HYGIENE – We will provide more hand-wash stations, more soap, more hand-sanitizer, and more reminders to encourage hand-washing and personal hygiene on trips. Expect to be reminded to wash your hands.
EQUIPMENT CLEANING – Special attention will be paid to sanitizing gear between trips, sanitizing vehicles between uses, sanitizing commonly touched surfaces and equipment between uses, and sanitizing kitchen and cooking equipment frequently.
FOOD SERVICE PROTOCOLS – All food preparation surfaces will be frequently wiped down with appropriate cleanser during food preparation and meal serving. Employees will wear face coverings and gloves during meal preparation. Guests will not be allowed in the kitchen during meal preparation. We will minimize guest contact with kitchen utensils by pre-plating meals. We will limit access to communal items such as condiments.
PERSONAL PROTECTION EQUIPMENT – We will utilize personal protective equipment when appropriate and provide it if necessary. Guests will be encouraged to bring their own face coverings, gloves, and hand sanitizer to supplement the PPE that we will have available. Guests and employees will wear face coverings in shuttle vehicles and when they are unable to maintain appropriate social distancing for a prolonged period.
GUEST RECORDS – We will maintain accurate records of all trip guests to assist in post-trip notification and incident tracing if needed.
WHAT WE WILL BE EXPECTING OF YOU…
We always want everyone to be healthy when they begin their trip and when they end their trip. This year that means we need you to take some extra precautionary steps before, during, and after your trip.
BEFORE YOUR TRIP:
- If you are in an “at risk” category, this may not be the best season for you to embark on a multi-day, wilderness expedition. Please have an honest conversation with yourself (and your physician if you are unsure) about your suitability for a trip this summer. Right now, the CDC is recommending that individuals over the age of 65, or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, diabetes, severe obesity, and those whose immune system is compromised by treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer, take special precautions. (And we are recommending that at risk individuals stay home, stay safe, and make plans to join us next year).
- We have updated our Risk Forms to alert you to the risk of exposure to viruses while on a trip. Everyone will need to read, acknowledge, and sign a waiver. (Here is a sample to read, you will sign on-line when you register).
- We have updated the Essential Elligibility Criteria and the Social Contract for our trips. Everyone will need to read and acknowledge them during the registration process.
A FEW DAYS BEFORE YOUR TRIP:
You will need to affirm your health via a self-assessment questionnaire that may include the following questions:
1. Have you recently experienced any of the following symptoms?
> Fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) or chills.
> Cough that you cannot attribute to another health condition.
> Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing that you cannot attribute to another health condition.
> Sore throat that you cannot attribute to another health condition.
> Muscle aches that you cannot attribute to another health condition, or that may not have been caused by a specific activity (such as physical exercise).
> Loss of taste or smell.
2. Have you been in contact with an individual who has been ill with flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days?
3. Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 30 days?
4. Have you been tested for COVID-19 in the last 30 days?
5. Have you been tested for COVID-19 antibodies in the last 30 days?
If you answer yes to #1 or #2, you, as well as anyone in your household or anyone who has traveled with you prior to the trip, will not be allowed on the trip, and there will be no refunds.
If you answer yes to #3, #4 or #5, you will be asked for clearance from a physician stating that you are non-contagious before you are allowed on the trip. If you cannot be cleared, there will be no refunds.
UPON ARRIVAL AT THE RIVER:
You will be asked to confirm that you are symptom-free when we meet you at the meeting place. Anyone who has shown any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste or smell) within 14 days prior to departure will not be allowed to go on the trip. Limiting contact with others for 14 days prior to your trip is strongly encouraged. If you develop symptoms within 14 days of your trip, there will be no refunds for cancellation or rescheduling.
ON THE RIVER:
- We may expect you and your family (or social pod/quaranteam) to practice physical distancing during the trip.
- We may ask you to wear a mask or face covering on shuttles, in camp, or on the river.
- We may conduct a daily assessment to affirm that you are symptom-free. This assessment may include taking your temperature via infrared thermometer or monitoring your blood oxygen level via pulse oximeter. If you or a member of your family or social pod show symptoms of COVID-19, we may initiate isolation or evacuation procedures to safeguard the rest of the trip.
- We may assign you and your family (or social pod) a specific place in a specific raft for the duration of the trip. This may limit your ability to go in a paddle raft or inflatable kayak.
AFTER THE TRIP:
- We may ask you to notify us if you develop symptoms after your trip so that we can initiate any necessary tracing and notification procedures that may be required.
And a note about socially responsible travel…
Please be aware of your potential impacts on the small communities where we will be meeting you. Local economies are dependent on tourism but less prepared for a pandemic; they want us to leave our dollars, not our germs. We are taking steps to reduce the spread of coronavirus on our trips and we also need to take steps to reduce the spread of coronavirus while traveling to our trips. Don’t travel if you show symptoms or have been around people who have shown symptoms, minimize your interactions while traveling, drive if you can, don’t go to the local bar the night before your trip, wear a face covering, and wash your hands. And remember, we’re ALL in this together; an outbreak in a local community may end the river season for our guides and all the people who want to go rafting this summer.