Mountaineers Programming and the Coronavirus

Beginning Monday, March 16, all courses, trips, and in-person activities will be suspended until April 24. On March 20, we shared new recommendations for mindful ways you can still explore the outdoors. Visit this blog to see a timeline of our responses to COVID-19, and follow the link to our COVID-19 Response page to see all of the resources available for volunteers, members, guests, and staff.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 24, 2020

On February 28, 2020, the Center for Disease Control announced the likelihood that coronavirus (COVID-19) would spread in US communities. Since then, The Mountaineers  has been carefully tracking the recommendations of public health agencies, and our hearts go out to those who have been affected. The health and safety of our community is our top priority and we will diligently implement recommended actions while doing everything we can to sustain our mission and operations. We will continue to update this blog as the situation develops.

For all of the resources available for volunteers, members, guests, and staff, visit our:

COVID-19 Response Page

The COVID-19 Response Page will also help you find out if your activity is still happening.

UPdated april 3, 2020; 3:25PM

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of our state and federal public land are closed. Take a look at our round-up of public land closures.

updated March 24, 2020; 11:45am

On March 23, 2020, Governor Inslee issued a stay home, stay healthy order for Washington state. The goal of this order is to help slow the spread of COVID-19 to “flatten the curve.”

We are being asked/ordered to stay at home with the exception of essential activities. These activities include going out for groceries, medical care, and approved work in an essential business. We are also being asked to observe strict social distancing protocol and hygiene measures when we do leave the house.

It’s important to note that we are no longer being told to continue with life as usual while practicing social distancing. We now find ourselves in a pandemic, and our response needs to reflect the gravity of this situation. The best case scenario from all of this is that we all look back and feel as though we overreacted.

Find out what this means for your recreational life and get ideas for ways to stay connected to your outdoor identity while keeping it hyperlocal in our Stay Home, Stay Healthy blog.

Updated March 20, 2020; 6:10pm

As we all adjust to a "new normal", people continue to seek solace in the outdoors. While we recognize that getting outside is integral to mental health, we urge you to get outside responsibly. Yesterday we shared a blog by Meghan Young urging people to be mindful that "many of the towns and communities that are gateways to the outdoors are more rural, with limited access to groceries, fuel, and medical supplies....Each time you take advantage of these services, you’re potentially exposing yourself and others to COVID-19. Further, you’re placing additional strain on communities that have either already been hit or are in fear of being hit, and that’s not what any of us should desire."

Before you opt to go outdoors, we urge you to read the entirety of our Covid-19 and Trip Planning blog, and check out similar posts from Washington Trails Association and the American Alpine Club. Please also note that the King County Sheriff's office has seen a spike in calls for lost or injured hikers. 

To help you stay connected, we also have tips from Super Volunteer Skye Stoury to stay connected to the outdoors while practicing social distancing.

If you or someone you know is struggling right now, our state has great resources set up to help: 

  1. King County 24-Hour Crisis Line: primary source for linking Seattle-King County residents to emergency mental health services.
    1. Local number: 206-461-3222
    2. Toll free: 1-866-427-4747 or 1-866-4CRISIS
    3. Good resource for you or anyone you know who may need to talk to someone about anxiety or loneliness, family or relationship difficulties, symptoms of mental illness, loss of a job, thoughts of self-harm, and more.
  2. Washington Warm Line: a service of the Crisis Line, but geared more towards people who need attention but are not in crisis. Many people struggle identifying their needs as critical so the Warm Line can be a good option. Calls are answered by specially-trained volunteers who have lived experience with mental health challenges.
    1. Toll Free: 1-877-500-9276 or 1-877-500-WARM
    2. Traditionally open M-F, 5am – 9pm and weekends 12:30p – 9pm

updated march 16, 2020; 9:35am

Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced a statewide closure of all entertainment & recreational facilities. As a community organization, and in keeping with the spirit of our Governor’s orders as well as the decisions of our sister clubs, we feel we have an obligation to our community to put our programs on pause. 

Beginning Monday, March 16, all courses, trips, and in-person activities will be suspended until April 24. This includes small day trips as well. All three program centers and all lodges will be closed per the Governor's order. Should the COVID-19 situation dramatically improve sooner than we expect, we will reassess resuming activities sooner. Either way, please visit our COVID-19 webpage for updates. We will continue to be in communication with our community.

The Mountaineers expects to resume our activities when the greatest threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Right now, we anticipate resuming normal operations on April 24, but we will need to assess the situation around that time. We have provided online meeting access to our volunteer leaders, and encourage everyone to stay connected by participating online whenever feasible. Your volunteer leaders will be in contact about any activities you are signed up for. Please allow your leaders time to reach out, as they will be working hard to determine what can be rescheduled, what can be moved online, and what simply needs to be canceled. 

For programs with a fee, the following refund policy applies:

If the course, activity, or event starts between now and April 24: 

  • If the leader decides to cancel, a full refund will automatically be issued during the week of 4/20.
    • In the wake of course and activity cancellations, support of The Mountaineers is more critical now than ever before. If you can, please consider donating a portion or all of your course fee as a 100% tax-deductible charitable donation. We rely on course fees and charitable gifts to carry out our volunteer support systems, conservation work, and community outreach throughout this difficult time. Students who wish to donate some or all of their course fees to The Mountaineers should email info@mountaineers.org by Friday, April 17.
    • With a few exceptions, students may choose to receive a credit for the next time this course is offered. Students wishing to receive a credit should email info@mountaineers.org by Friday, April 17.
  • If the leader reschedules or moves components online, participants who cannot make the new schedule work should contact member services for a credit or refund.

If the course, activity, or event starts after April 24:

  • Standard cancellation policies apply.
  • In the event that a leader cancels a course, a full refund will automatically be issued during the week of 4/20. For courses that are canceled after 4/17, refunds will be issued two weeks after cancellation notice is sent.
    • In the wake of course and activity cancellations, support of The Mountaineers is more critical now than ever before. If you can, please consider donating a portion or all of your course fee as a 100% tax-deductible charitable donation. We rely on course fees and charitable gifts to carry out our volunteer support systems, conservation work, and community outreach throughout this difficult time. Students who wish to donate some or all of their course fees to The Mountaineers should email info@mountaineers.org by Friday, April 17.
    • With a few exceptions, students may choose to receive a credit for the next time this course is offered. Students wishing to receive a credit should email info@mountaineers.org by Friday, April 17, or within one week of receiving cancellation notice if after April 17.

If the course is in-progress, and some but not all course-related activities have happened:

  • If the leader decides to cancel, a pro-rated refund will automatically be issued during the week of 4/20.
    • In the wake of course and activity cancellations, support of The Mountaineers is more critical now than ever before. If you can, please consider donating a portion or all of your course fee as a 100% tax-deductible charitable donation. We rely on course fees and charitable gifts to carry out our volunteer support systems, conservation work, and community outreach throughout this difficult time. Students who wish to donate some or all of their course fees to The Mountaineers should email info@mountaineers.org by Friday, April 17.
    • With a few exceptions, students may choose to receive a credit for the next time this course is offered. The credit will allow the student to take the FULL course the next time it is offered. Students wishing to receive a credit should email info@mountaineers.org by Friday, April 17.
  • If the leader re-schedules or moves components online, participants who cannot make the new schedule work should contact member services for a credit or pro-rated refund.

We want to make sure there is time for our leaders to make decisions about their courses, and to communicate with students. We also want to give students time to reach out to member services in the event that they wish to donate their refund or receive a credit. For that reason we won’t process refunds until the week of April 20. 

We hope this decision does not stop you from being active outdoors. The benefits of getting outside are undeniable – it reduces stress and anxiety, boosts the immune system, lowers the heart rate, and reduces inflammation. During these unprecedented times, a good dose of sunshine, fresh air, and a break from the daily news can be restorative. You can also practice social distancing in our many open spaces as long as you're mindful about not carpooling with anyone outside your household.

The situation around the COVID-19 pandemic is changing rapidly, and we will continue to diligently monitor expert sources, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and King County Health, to help us navigate this unchartered territory. We will also keep you updated on any other changes to The Mountaineers policies.

Thank you for your support, your understanding, and your membership. We are deeply grateful for this community and the support it provides. We hope you’ll stay connected with one another during this break from Mountaineers activities and stay well.

UPdated March 11, 2020; 5:25PM

This morning, Governor Jay Inslee issued new guidance to cancel gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle region. Seattle Public Schools also announced they will be close, following a number of schools and universities which have already closed or moved to virtual classrooms.

The Mountaineers has already canceled or reimagined many of our large events, and we just announced that we will moving our annual fundraising Gala from April 4 to July 23, 2020. In addition to the rescheduled event on July 23, we will host a small, online silent auction and ask for support for our community March 30-April 4. Doing so will provide an opportunity for more of our community members to connect with our Gala festivities, and hopefully inspire people to make a gift that they might not have otherwise. As you can imagine, the generosity of our members and supporters is more critical than ever.

We made the decision to reschedule the Gala yesterday, prior to the restrictions announced by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Health Department, and our decision was driven by our deep desire to do everything possible to protect the health and well-being of our community. While we were disappointed to reach this decision, we’re comforted by the fact it aligns with Governor Inslee’s proclamation prohibiting large gatherings.

In light of this new guidance, we updated our decision-making rubric for volunteers and created a main COVID-19 response page where you can view the most current Mountaineers guidelines in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It's designed as a resource for members, volunteers, guests, and staff. Of particular note for volunteers is guidance on what to do if a participant from your activity becomes sick.

As you can imagine, the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak are significant. Your generosity is more critical than ever so we thank you in advance for any support you can provide to The Mountaineers and our mission. If you are in a position to do so, we have set up a special donation page to support our efforts in this time of uncertainty.

UPdated march 6, 2020; 3:30pm

On Wednesday night, King County Health released new guidance to reduce the number of people who could come into contact with COVID-19. As a result, we have cancelled a number of programs and have encouraged staff who are able to work remotely to do so. Our member services team, program center facilities team, and Mountaineers Books distribution staff will continue to be onsite for now, so as to continue operating without significant disruptions. 

We have also developed a decision-making rubric to help volunteers and staff evaluate whether to proceed with programming for the rest of March. The situation has been changing rapidly so new guidance may warrant us updating this rubric. We encourage volunteer leaders to follow this guidance to determine whether or not to proceed with programming. If your activity is cancelled, you will receive a direct message notifying you of the cancellation. Cancellations will also be posted on each activity page on our website, so please check your activity’s posting for updates. If you need to cancel your personal participation in a future program due to illness or Coronavirus related issue, you will be given a full refund. In order to receive the full refund, please email info@mountaineers.org.

If you are not feeling well, or are at high risk, please opt-out of our programming for a full refund. 

If the volunteer has chosen to proceed with the program and you do choose to participate, we ask that you join our efforts heighten our hygiene practices during, prior to, and after all Mountaineers activities to reduce risk:

  • Wash hands frequently before, after, and during all Mountaineers gatherings or activities.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing; remember to cough/sneeze into your elbow and immediately wash hands afterward.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Our buildings will be continually cleaned (wiping down countertops, bathrooms, and door handles).
  • Show compassion and support for individuals and communities most impacted and anyone who might be sick. Viruses don’t discriminate and neither should we.

This situation is changing by the hour, and we will do our best to keep everyone informed of changes as they happen. For the latest, please follow our COVID-19 blog. We also recommend that you regularly check or subscribe to King County Public Health's updates to stay informed.

Updated March 5, 2020; 10:25am

Last night, King County Health released new guidance for employers to reduce the number of workers who come into contact with COVID-19 and to help minimize absenteeism due to illness. As a result,  we have encouraged our staff members who are able to effectively work from home to develop a plan with their supervisor to work remotely in a manner that best sustains our operations. Our member services team, program center facilities team, and Mountaineers Books distribution staff will continue to be onsite for now, so as to continue operating without significant disruptions.

King County Health also made the recommendation that "if you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings." We are committed first and foremost to keeping our community healthy (see recommendations for how to do so below) and to responding to public health recommendations in a way that allows us to best sustain our mission.

For now, we are planning to continue operations with the least possible disruptions and encourage everyone to follow the health safety guidance when participating with The Mountaineers. All activities/events will continue as planned unless you receive a direct message that it has been canceled. Cancellations will also be posted on the activity page on the mountaineers website. Please check your activity’s posting for updates. We encourage people at higher risk to opt-out. If you need to cancel your personal participation due to illness or Coronavirus related issue, you will be given a full refund. 

Our Risk Management Committee is working in conference with our Board of Directors and Staff Leadership to develop a rubric by which we will determine which programs to move forward with and which to cancel. This situation is changing by the hour, and we will do our best to keep everyone informed of changes as they happen. We also recommend that you regularly check or subscribe to King County Public Health's website or blog to stay informed.

Updated March 4, 2020; 11:15am

Based on the latest information we have available, most people and organizations have been advised to carry on their activities and operate normally for now, while taking common-sense precautions to prevent spreading. It is our intention to do the same at this time and we encourage our community to follow the advice of public health organizations and not panic.

At this time, The Mountaineers is not canceling or delaying programs or events due to possible impacts of the COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation closely to stay abreast of recommendations from public health officials.

Preliminary research is showing the virus is moderately infectious and probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs, and contaminated surfaces. As a precautionary measure, we are asking that we all heighten our hygiene practices during, prior to, and after all Mountaineers activities to reduce risk.

A few simple practices we aDVISE:

  • Wash hands frequently before, after, and during all Mountaineers gatherings or activities.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing; remember to cough/sneeze into your elbow and to wash hands afterward.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick. For more information, please visit our Flu Policy.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Our buildings will be continually cleaned (wiping down counter tops, bathrooms, and door handles).
  • If you are sick and wondering what to do, call your healthcare provider before you go to a clinic or emergency room. #Callfirst
  • Show compassion and support for individuals and communities most impacted and anyone who might be sick. Viruses don’t discriminate and neither should we.
  • People at higher risk for serious illness should consider taking extra precautions such as those listed on the Washington State Department of Health website. 

With this said, we also recognize that Mountaineers activities and our program centers and lodges bring people together, often in large groups and sometimes in close contact. Our winter course seminars and field trips are in full swing, our CHS courses are about to kick off, and this spring will bring the launch of our sailing and kayaking courses, to name just a few.

Social distancing is an intervention to increase the physical distance between people and reduce the spread of a disease. As this time, public health officials have not issued a recommendation for organizations such as The Mountaineers to implement social distancing. We are preparing for this possibility should it become a recommended intervention.

The health and safety of our community is paramount and our highest priority. Before you participate in a program, visit a Mountaineers program center, or travel to a lodge this weekend, please perform a simple 'yes or no' self-evaluation about whether or not you have:

  • Known exposure to an infected person?
  • Traveled in the last 14 days to areas defined by the CDC as a COVID-19 Level 2 or Level 3 risk?
  • A fever of 99.5°F or higher? 
  • Body aches, chills, or fatigue?
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea?
  • A cough? 
  • A headache? 
  • A sore throat? 
  • A stuffy or runny nose? 

 If you answered yes to any of the above questions (or are showing symptoms of cold, flu, sore throat, fever, or generally are not feeling well), we ask that you please stay home.

You can learn more about the Coronavirus and how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the CDC's website. We will actively continue to stay informed and follow any CDC guidance as well as more specific guidance from the Washington State Department of Health and county authorities such as King County Public Health. You can also sign up for email alerts on the King County Health page.

 

Photo by Sarina Clark.

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Andrew Black
Andrew Black says:
Mon, Mar 2, 2020 1:25 PM

This article was posted on Saturday and by Monday it already seems outdated. I recommend deleting this post and reposting a message that prepares people for the strong possibility of cancelations.

Victoria Sheldon
Victoria Sheldon says:
Tue, Mar 10, 2020 9:21 AM

Two suggestions: Keep this blog up to date; and, if events, programs or classes have been canceled, list them or provide a link to the list.

Doug Palm
Doug Palm says:
Fri, Apr 3, 2020 7:47 PM

This blog should be updated.