May 24 – Comprehensive update.
May 25 – Removed reference to the USVI requirement to submit an arrival application through their Travel Screening Portal. This requirement ends on June 1, 2022.
August 25 – Clarified that the requirement to be “boosted” is for those who are defined as “eligible” for a booster shot by their home country’s health services.
October 31 – Minor updates to reflect the continued relaxation of international arrival protocols.
October 31, 2022 (see below for modifications)
May 24 – Comprehensive update.
What follows is an overview of the risk mitigation protocols and procedures which, at the time of writing, we expect to use during the spring of 2023.
We know that rules, regulations, and best practices will continue to be modified, so while the specifics may change, we anticipate continuing to use protocols oriented 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.
We currently require all students to be fully vaccinated* and, when eligible, boosted for COVID-19 before the program start date, irrespective of program location or whether the student has previously recovered from COVID-19.
Many countries continue to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination and to fast-track pre-arrival testing requirements or even be allowed to enter their Territory. Our current vaccination requirement is in response to these protocols in addition to the belief that vaccinated individuals are less likely to experience severe symptoms if there were to test positive while on our program.
*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).
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 following enhanced mitigation practices that are likely no longer be mandated. 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 vessel) OR within 48hrs of the expected time of arrival aboard the vessel (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
1. Standard “At Home” rapid antigen test results will not be accepted.
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. For our US students, we like the proctored tests provided by EMED
2. 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 within their student portal. 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
Our pre-trip risk mitigation strategies culminate on travel day and during the onboarding process.
1. Mitigating risk during travel
We strongly recommend students take maximum personal health precautions while traveling to the vessel. This includes wearing a quality N95 face mask throughout the airport, aircraft, or any ground transportation.
2. Destination country arrival protocols
Prior to travel day, Sea|mester will provide students with information on any actionable protocols or procedures being required by the destination country. We typically do this as part of the Pre-Trip Self-Certification Form.
3. Sea|mester Onboarding Protocol
Upon arrival at the vessel, our students undergo an onboarding process, which may include, but not be limited to the following:
- All students may be required to complete a COVID-19 rapid antigen test prior to boarding. Any student who tests positive will be required to isolate at a designated shoreside facility for a duration determined by Sea|mester’s protocol for ending isolation, the local jurisdiction’s COVID-19 quarantine protocols, and vessel schedule. The cost of the shore-side accommodation is the student’s responsibility.
The goal for the rest of the voyage is to limit opportunities for any crew member to become infected
We understand that eradicating all risks of contracting COVID-19 during the voyage is not feasible without destroying the nature of our program. That said, we know that we can limit the risk by limiting potential exposure while monitoring our health and submitting to occasional COVID-19 testing, something which is often required when traveling from country to country
Answering the difficult questions of “What if”
Naturally, students and parents want to know how we would respond to a diagnosed case of COVID-19 in 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 unwell 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 the following for a diagnosed case:
- Masking, then isolation/quarantine to the extent possible. This is difficult aboard the vessel, so we will first look to relocate any student who tests positive to shoreside accommodation as soon as practical. Students should carry insurance that will cover them should this occur, as the cost of food and accommodation during any required isolation period is the responsibility of the family. We will provide indirect staff support for any student needing to isolate during the regularly scheduled program dates, but it should be understood that isolation is isolation. Unless we also have a staff member who has also tested positive, we will not ask staff to depart the vessel or isolate with a positive student. 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, especially if the vessel needs to stay on schedule by sailing to an alternate location.
- Enhanced monitoring of the health of the rest of the crew.
We've always considered the Sea|mester experience to be more about the journey rather than the destination, so we believe that our ability to provide life-changing experiences throughout the entirety of the pandemic was a result of the inherent flexibility and self-sufficiency that living, traveling, and learning aboard a sailing vessel provides.