Washington State Outdoor Recreation COVID-19 Guidance

March 23, 2021 the Washington State Governor’s Office issued new requirements for outdoor recreation. The guidelines address guided ATV, paddle sports, horseback riding, and fishing as well as overnight group summer camps during Phase 3 of the pandemic response. The broader guidelines address “all other activities substantially similar in operation and equally able to meet the requirements.” This language could include challenge courses and zip lines tours in the state.

The guidelines can be found here and should be read in full.

This is good news for camps and aerial adventure programs in Washington. Onward with Summer!

Massachusetts Emergency Paid Sick Time Bills

The possibility of loss of wages from sick time required because of COVID-19 exposure is a significant concern to many employees. The requirement to pay sick time for workers is a significant concern for employers. Two bills working their way through the Massachusetts Legislature would address these concerns.

House Bill 4700 and Senate Bill 2701 both would address both the need for employees to be able to self-isolate or care for a family member and would create a mechanism for repayment of emergency sick time wages by the Commonwealth. This bill could be a significant change in employment law for course owners and employees for the duration of the state of emergency.

Owners of courses in Massachusetts are encouraged to read the text of both bills at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4700 and to contact they representatives with their comments. Owners are encouraged to track the progress of these two bills.

California AB 685 — Employee Notification of COVID-19 Exposure

In this new and challenging time, the question of when and how to notify staff that they could have been exposed to COVID-19 is a question employers are encouraged to ask. California AB685 would simplify this question.

AB 685 is bill making its way through the California Legislature requiring employers to notify employees, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and the State Department of Public Health of known exposures to COVID-19. The notification requirement also states that exposures which should have been reasonably known must also be disclosed. This bill would apply to both public and private employers.

Tour operators, adventure park managers and camp directors, could have a significant burden under this bill. However, the notification of staff that they could have been exposed seems like a reasonable step to take in assuring your program site does not become a virus vector.

Operators are encouraged to monitor this bill at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/home.xhtml. Type AB 685 into the search bar to see the progress of the bill or to read the text of the legislation.

Colorado Oil and Public Safety Issue Guidance on COVID-19 Operation Plans

The Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety which is responsible for commercial amusement device permits has issued its Second Quarter 2020 Bulletin.

The bulletin outlines key information about operating commercial zip lines and adventure parks in Colorado. This includes a statement describing changes in the operation procedures on an amusement device as major modifications. In correspondence with the state office, they confirmed that lowering group size would on a tour or the total capacity of an adventure park would not be a major modification. You can see this as just operating as if all days are low enrollment days.

This is important. IF you are only changing the size of the groups on the course or the number of people who can be in your park at one time, you do not need to notify OPS. However, if you are making other changes, you will need to reach out to OPS.

Colorado 6th Amended Public Health Order includes information for Camps and Aerial Adventure Operators

On June 5th the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment published the 6th Amended Public Health Order. The document has a number of items concerning outdoor recreations, ziplines, challenge courses, and aerial adventure operations as well as day and resident camp.

Section I.H.3.g states that “zip lines, ropes courses, outdoor artificial climbing walls, or outdoor sports adventure centers not affiliated with ski resorts” may open “if the local public health agency has reviewed and approved the resort’s plans.” Reopen plans must meet the requirements of Appendix K in the Amended Order. While this is an important step for operators in the state, Appendix K does include requirements that may challenge operators. Some provisions in the Appendix may cause significant changes in operational practices.

Please note that if the site is licensed by the Division of Oil and Public Safety, a OPS permit must be secured before operation can begin.

Section II.K states that day camps and youth programs may operate in accordance with the requirements found in Appendix J of the amended order. This rule specifically excludes resident camps.

Like the requirements for outdoor recreation, the rules found in Appendix J will require camp operators to rethink how they work with children and staff. For example, the Appendix states that group size will be limited to 25 or fewer people and small groups can not mix. Camps will also need to assure they have protocols for responding to and reporting sick campers or staff to local public health authorities.

Operators are strongly encouraged to carefully read these guidelines and create detailed work plans based on these rules.

Challenge Course builders, inspectors, and trainers are strongly encouraged to review a site’s specific approved safety plan before going to a site and at least adopting the provisions in the local plan.

CDC Camp Guidelines

As scientist learn more about the behavior of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the guidelines for the interactions of people in different situations is adjusted. Recently, the CDC updated “Suggestions for Youth and Summer Camps.” In the document, the CDC has principles about adjusting youth programs this summer to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

The document does not specifically address challenge courses. It does address practices which can be helpful when planning to reopen or operate your camp challenge course.

The most prominent idea is “Cohorting” where small groups of campers stay together all day for their activities. This idea is easy to implement on a challenge course designed for small groups. Additionally, the guidelines stress the need to provide frequent hand washing. Courses could look at making a hand washing station the entry and exit to the challenge course activity area.