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return to resources homepage here: http://volunteermonitoring.org/covid-19
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General Coordinator GuidelinesBefore Leaving HomeIn the FieldIn the Lab/Classroom
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Defer to your local BoH advisories and regulations. Check for updates regularly to ensure complianceAlways defer to your local Board of Health’s advisories and regulations. Check for updates regularly to ensure your complianceMaintain social distancing even when parking, using restrooms, eating meals, etc.Staggered drop off of samples
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Delayed start to field seasonIf you or any member of your household is feeling unwell with COVID symptoms, do not sampleIf working with partners from outside of your household, maintain a 6-ft distanceIf possible, practice no-contact relay of equipment or samples with individuals already inside (be sure to disinfect first)
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If crew’s tasks can not be done while maintaining social distancing space, use solo samplers or same-household teamsWatch online trainingsWear PPE (cloth face mask, rubber gloves) when in public places and when working near individuals that are not from your householdDisinfect laboratory equipment before and after use
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Conduct training sessions onlineDo not carpool with partners from outside your householdWash hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer regularlyLimit number of staff in the lab at any time
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Use social distancing protocols when passing off equipment or datasheets (e.g. no-contact)Bring your own PPE or confirm that it will be provided to youMinimize equipment-sharing: stick to one task for the day. If equipment must be shared, do not pass it hand-to-hand. Be especially mindful of writing instruments.Consider ingress/egress that reduces contact
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Consider making cleaning supplies available to samplers: hand santizer, gloves, disinfecting wipesDiscuss any sampling concerns you may have with your coordinatorUse disinfecting cloths or spray to wipe down sampling equipment prior to returning it, especially high-touch points like pencils, clipboards, and tote handles.Staff drive loop of project area to pick up samples (with samples left outside or in a cooler outside for staff to pick up; so contactless)
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Reconsider sampling sites which: Are in high-traffic areas or tend to engage passers-by; Require samplers to park in State or other lots that may be closed; Require more samplers than you can safely assign to site; Are prone to raw sewage releases (CSOs)Have a plan for parking, restrooms, meals, etc. that allows you to practice social distancingDenote any temporarily modified practices used on data sheets and chain-of-custody paperwork to avoid confusion laterCurb-side drop off for samples. Call to ask lab staff to pick up coolers outside the door.
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Supplement existing SOP documents with COVID recommendationsPrior to deploying, all field staff will monitor their temperatures in accordance with CDC guidelines. Over the course of field activities, continue to monitor temperatures at least daily.If engaged by passers-by, maintain social distancing and refer questions to your coordinatorProvide packaged bake goods instead of serving homemade if you are able to hold trainings
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If sending samples to a lab, reach out now to establish “no-contact” protocols and incorporate into trainingLimit exposure by reducing interactions at gas stations and grocery stores. Crews will plan meals to limit trips to stores and may rent larger vehicles to accommodate additional cooler space. Stopping for snacks and other non-essential items will not be conducted by crew membersAvoid dining in public areas. When possible, cook, get take-out, or order delivery. It is suggested to make breakfast and lunches to avoid unnecessary stops.Put individuals in seperate rooms if possible
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Assign individuals with specific equipment and tasks that will minimize equipment-sharingBring a letter on organizational letterhead that explains what you are doing - possibly laminate and put under windshield wiper while sampling.Use program-specific distances to help communicate to volunteers how to envision how far they should be from one another (e.g., keep the length of an aquatic D-net pole from one another)provide pre-paid shipping labels to teams to mail samples to lab instead of in person drop off
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Contact funding sources to understand changes to your grant requirementsInform local police that you will be in closed areasStagger roles and times for volunteers who visit the same site, if usually monitor as a team that can currently not monitor together (e.g., person 1 goes to sample site first; as they are departing person 2 shows up to conduct their assigned monitoring)Enter field data online
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Use remote monitoring via camerasCalibrate all equipment and prep as much as possible to minimize time with possible exposure to others (e.g., if sampling point is nearby a busy trail)Wipe off sampling bottles with disinfectant wipe prior to lab hand off. (Check with lab staff in advance that this will not compromise the sample in any way.)install plexiglass or other dividers between individuals working in the lab. Consider using off-the-shelf tents.
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Send same people each time, limit total number of volunteers to "elite team"Check tips sheet provided by program to be sure they have all usual equipment and any COVID-related cleaning, disinfecting or PPE supplieswork-alone policy: required call-ins when you arrive at or leave a site; or a second person keeping watch from seperate vehicle.
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Adaptive management and ongoing communication. Our mandatory training isn't unil late June. Volunteers know that we will adjust based on state orders, and if training cannot take place, only returning volunteers will be allowed to participate. They also know driving their own vehicle, and other adjustments might be coming depending how the summer evolves.If sampling requires permission to access a specific site, sampler should call in advance to be certain that the site is allowing visitors.
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Lengthen the window over which samples may be collected to help decrease the number of people coming to the lab in a given time period to drop off samples.Be prepared for "leave no trace" personal care while in the field (e.g. restrooms may be closed); provide volunteers with links to resources on best practices for "leave no trace"Practice "leave no trace" personal care while in the field
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Consider compiling a local source of sanitizers and PPE for volunteers, since these may be limited at traditional stores. See example for Vermont/upstate New York here.
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Make a plan in advance with volunteers if someone becomes ill and cannot monitor (or cannot monitor for other COVID-related reasons...childcare, immunocompromised...); Who could be back up or is it okay for the sample to not be collected?
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Communicate with your volunteers no matter what decision you make. They'll likely appreciate being in communication with you to know what is happening with the program.
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Consider offering online meet ups where volunteers can share concerns or ask programmatic questions and learn answers. (Also could be an opportunity for social connection between volunteers, esp. those who are may have added social distancing restrictions than others (e.g., retirees), thus who may really appreciate an opportunity to talk with others.)
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Consider setting up a Google Voice account that forwards to your personal phone # and providing that to volunteers who may have questions while in the field (or otherwise), as many people are not working in the office right now, and to minimize sharing of your personal number with a broad group.
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Create laminated reminders about best practices volunteers should follow when prepping for the field, monitoring, and making lab deliveries. Send to volunteers.
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Let volunteers know it is OK if they cannot monitor this year.
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If volunteers cannot monitor this year, communicate with them next steps (e.g., should you work to have someone else monitr for them? Is it okay to not have data from that site this year? Are they okay holding on to equipment or will you need to "borrow" it back to pass on to a substitute?)
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Update program websites with modifications to programming you are making, and other CVOID-realted guidance.
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Consider making short videos that explain how to properly clean and disinfect equipment - what is OK and what could damage equipment.
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Consider if it makes sense to require confirmation from volunteers that they have received and understand COVID-related guidance from staff.
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If providing disinfecting wipes or other PPE, communicate best practices for proper cleaning and/or disposal (e.g., don't flush any type of disinfectant wipe regardless of if you have a septic or are hooked up to a community wastewater system)
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If volunteers usually monitor with people outside of their household, consider if they may be able to recruit a household member to monitor with them, and then stagger dates monitored across the various households (e.g., if 4 people usually monitor together weekly, but do not live together, could each of the 4 monitor with someone from their own household one week of the month - to ensure safety by not monitoring alone - and to keep appropriate social distancing. If equipment is shared, could be cleaned/disinfected and then dropped off same or next day of use, to allow multiple days of not being used in between people to help with ensuring clean surfaces)
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Consider if the full sampling season should be halted.
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Consider if there are other roles volunteers can play to assist with data analyses, data management, quality checks, etc. that can be done remotely.
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Consider asking volunteers to share videos or photos of them in the field (with household members) to share on social media or with other volunteers to share their monitoring sites...with Zoom has been fun to get to know people a little better; this might be a fun way to let volunteers get to know one another and their sites a little better.
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Consider not training new monitors and relying upon seasoned veterans.
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Video someone doing the sampling as a guide for new volunteers if you want to engage new people in the program this year.
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Provide volunteers with a safety training so they know what they need to do to keep themselves safe.
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Have an emergency plan in place with as many details as possible for them (e.g., clinic address, map).
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Use only "seasoned" or repeat volunteers if possible; provide online refresher training.
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Limit boat based sampling to same household crews.
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Use mail services to ship samples and/or calibrated equipment rather than hand-to-hand.
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Because of worries about crowding in our parks and trails, we have asked our volunteers to visit sites at off-peak times, and if the parking lot looks crowded, to choose a different location to go.
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