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May 25, 2022 (see below for modifications)

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.

What follows is an overview of the risk mitigation protocols and procedures which, at the time of writing, we expect to use during the summer of 2022.

We know that rules, regulations, and best practices will continue to be modified, so while the specifics may change, we anticipate using the following protocols for summer 2022, 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 boosted for COVID-19 before the program start date, irrespective of program location or whether the student has previously recovered from COVID-19.

As most international communities begin the delicate balance of relaxing their border restrictions against the potential spread of COVID-19, a travelers’ vaccination status has become the determining factor for entry eligibility and arrival protocols. Our current vaccination requirement is in response to these protocols.

Many countries are adopting policies requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination AND booster shot to fast-track quarantine requirements or even enter their Territory. These policies protect their population (many of whom may not receive the vaccine for some time) while restarting their tourism economy.

We respect individuals’ right to choose whether a COVID-19 vaccination is appropriate for them, and we will continue to review and update our policies regularly as appropriate. Yet, until countries disregard travelers’ vaccination status upon entry, we don’t see a viable way to maximize the program experience for everyone when traveling with groups of students with mixed statuses.

*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 selecting to follow enhanced mitigation practices that may no longer be mandated in their home location (masks, social distancing, avoiding large crowds). 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

Please note:

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.

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. 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

 

Link to a sample of Pre-Trip Self Certification form

Our pre-trip risk mitigation strategies culminate on travel day and during the onboarding process.

1. Mitigating risk during travel
We require students to take maximum personal health precautions while traveling to the vessel.  This includes wearing a face mask throughout the airport, aircraft, or any ground transportation.

2. Destination country arrival protocols
Prior to travel day, Sea|mester will provide students 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. Specific requirements vary from county to country, but typically include any number of the following:

  • Pre-submission of a health data form to the Department of Health
  • Arrival health check
  • Presentation of proof of negative COVID-19 PCR test, taken within the time frame determined by the country
  • Arrival COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen)

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:

  • Students who selected to travel indirectly to the vessel prior to, or during the 10-day precautionary health period may be required to complete a COVID-19 rapid antigen test prior to boarding. Any student who tests positive will be denied boarding and will be required to isolate at a designated shoreside facility until further testing has been completed. The cost of the testing and shore-side accommodation (if required) is the student’s responsibility. The ability to join the program is determined by further testing results, the local jurisdiction’s COVID-19 quarantine protocols and vessel schedule.
  • General health and temperature check – Students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or having an elevated temperature will not be allowed to board until symptoms subside or another negative COVID-19 test is received
  • Review of the data submitted in the Pre-Trip Self-Certification Form
  • Review of the details on the negative COVID-19 PCR test

The goal for the rest of the voyage is to limit opportunities for any crew member to become infected

We understand that eradicating all risk 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

While Sea|mester excursions are typically more nature-based than touristy or urban, it makes sense to limit activities that put us in places that can be regarded as higher risk. Examples of this would be crowded, high-traffic areas that are indoors and/or harder to socially distance such as museums, restaurants, covered markets, etc.

At present, some countries are still requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken between 24 and 72 hrs of the start of travel home

Should this requirement remain in effect throughout the voyage, our staff will coordinate the students taking the appropriate test (PCR or Antigen) within the required timeframe. We will also help complete any authorization application in order to re-enter or transit through certain countries.

During the onboarding process, students will be required to authorize a credit card which we will use to cover any fees associated with mandatory COVID-19 testing as required by the countries we visit and/or are returning to. We will pay these fees on behalf of the student, then capture that amount against the authorized credit card.

Answering the difficult questions of “What if”

Naturally, students and parents want to know how we would respond to a suspected or 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 ill 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:

  • Isolation and quarantine to the extent possible. This is difficult aboard the vessel, so we will relocate any student who tests positive to shoreside accommodation as soon as practical. Students must 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 is testing 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.
  • Close discussion with MedAire (our risk management partner) in addition to local health departments of the country in which we are located to ensure that we are following established protocols
  • Testing to establish a firm diagnosis. For health and safety reasons, as mentioned, a positive diagnosis of any student would require dismissal from the vessel until the individual is infection-free. A known, positive diagnosis may result in widespread testing and a quarantine period for the rest of the crew.
  • Careful monitoring of the health of the rest of the cohort. The crew may be required to disembark the vessel or move to separate accommodations to conduct a deep cleaning.

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 during this challenging time is a result of the inherent flexibility and self-sufficiency that living, traveling, and learning aboard a sailing vessel provides.

Mike Meighan - Executive Director

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