Bethlehem Farm’s Covid-19 Response
Bethlehem Farm Covid-19 Protocols
As many of us have experienced, Covid-19 has caused countless disruptions to our plans and daily lives. The Caretaker Community at Bethlehem Farm, however, remain excited for friends of the Farm community to join us.
The Farm instituted clear and effective Covid-19 procedures and protocols at the beginning of the pandemic which have resulted in a safe and healthy environment for our volunteers, the community members which we work with and serve, and the Farm Caretaker staff. These procedures and protocols have, and will continue to evolve as required. We have adopted the Covid-19 prevention method of forming a pandemic pod so once volunteers arrive at the Farm they are able to safely and confidently socialize with one another and the Farm staff. Forming a pandemic pod requires people in the pod to follow strict safety protocols, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, when they are in public or interacting with others outside the group. Ideally, pod members can then socialize together in person in settings where the rules can be relaxed, without increased risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Bethlehem Farm considers people to be in a pandemic pod together if they interact without masks or social distancing. The guidelines the Bethlehem Farm pod follows are listed in the “Pre-arrival Covid-19 Protocols/ Questionnaire” document, which is constantly being reviewed for relevant updates due to new Covid-19 information. These guidelines are informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html) and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx), and adapted for our specific context.
The Bethlehem Farm community is taking the threat of infection extremely seriously because our careless actions could cause the death of a neighbor/homeowner, most of whom are members of vulnerable populations.
Our low-income home repair program provides an essential service to those whose homes are unsafe, unhealthy or are in danger of becoming unhealthy or unsafe. Thus, we are continuing to go to worksites as we are able. We have implemented sanitizing, distancing, and masking practices while at worksites to reduce the homeowner’s and our own exposure as much as possible.
Effective September 1, 2021 Bethlehem Farm will require all eligible participants to be fully vaccinated prior to arriving at the Farm. Bethlehem Farm will require vaccination for an age group beginning one month following FDA approval to receive the vaccine.
Pre-trip: Following Bethlehem Farm Protocols, COVID Testing, and Planning
We have adopted the following preventative practices and need you to begin following these practicing 14 days prior to your visit to the Farm and continue once you have arrived at the Farm
- Social distancing, keeping at least an arm’s length between you & those you don’t live with (for less than 15 minutes, with a mask, indoors or outdoors), wearing face masks in public, thoroughly sanitizing anything which may have contacted germs. Interactions between fully-vaccinated people are exempt from masking and distancing requirements, per CDC guidelines.
- Thoroughly washing hands with soap for the prescribed 20+ seconds when entering your kitchen before meals, after using the bathroom, and liberally throughout the day.
- Follow CDC guidance on sneezing and coughing: Cover your nose and mouth completely with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, creating a seal around your nose and mouth, and throwing the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, sneeze or cough by placing your nose and mouth firmly against your elbow, creating a seal around your nose and mouth.
- Updating those in your household and pod about any symptoms that develop, no matter how minor or seemingly unrelated the symptom may be.
- Adopting prudence when deciding whether or not to take trips away from home, understanding this may mean not taking some trips that you would like to take, and accepting your community input when making these decisions. These include dining at restaurants, socializing in large crowds, and spending extended time (longer than 15 minutes) indoors with people you don’t live with, even if you are wearing a mask.
- Following general healthy practices to support your immune systems such as getting plenty of rest and physical activity, implementing stress management techniques, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious food, including limiting sugar (sugar intake reduces immune response significantly).
- Only using personal hand towels to dry our hands in the bathrooms.
- Respecting the comfort level of others in your community regarding personal space.
- Remaining flexible and open to new procedures as decided by your community
- To prevent transmission of COVID-19, including asymptomatic transmission, we require volunteers who are not Fully Vaccinated provide documentation of a negative COVID test within 7 days of arrival date at Bethlehem Farm. Groups need to plan to drive at least two vehicles to Bethlehem Farm in case there is illness while at the Farm, and there is a need for staggered departure with some volunteers quarantining at Bethlehem Farm. Please bring a minimum of two (2) masks and hand sanitizer. A load of laundry for masks will be done during the week. Consider initialing your mask with permanent marker if it is not distinct.
- Masks must be worn at all times in the farmhouse/indoors except while eating meals or inside your room with the door closed. Masking is required outdoors when within arm’s length but not required otherwise. Please follow additional requests by chaperones, group leaders, and Caretakers to mask up with gratitude and grace. Please alert others if you are approaching them outdoors so they have a chance to put on their mask.
- Volunteers will share rooms with their own household or group leaders/chaperones will select roommates to limit exposures in advance. Roommates will essentially form a “pod” because they will be the only individuals spending time together without a mask. Ideally, roommates will have travelled inside the same vehicle together to further limit unnecessary exposure.
- Outdoor dining will be encouraged as the weather permits. Physical distancing of an arm’s length while eating, including on work sites, is important since masks will be lowered. Roommates may sit closer than an arm’s length.
- Hugs, holding hands during prayer, and other physical contact have traditionally been a part of the welcoming Bethlehem Farm culture. We recognize that physical contact is an aspect of our Community cornerstone, yet we will adapt our practices to promote safety. We will limit hugs to “Welcome Home” hugs on arrival and hugs at departure. Please avoid daily hugs, hand shaking, and hand holding during prayer. If you are not comfortable receiving a hug, please cross your arms over yourself (hug yourself) as a signal that you would prefer not to have this physical contact.
- Here is a suggested method to more safely hug: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/well/family/coronavirus-pandemic-hug-mask.html
- Group prayers will be planned in alternative spaces, including outdoors and extending into larger spaces within the Farmhouse to promote physical distancing.
Worksites and homeowner’s residences
- We want to be a blessing to the homeowners we serve and protect their health. Please wear a mask at all times while in a home, physically distance from the homeowner, avoid physical contact, and follow the requests of the site leaders.
- Please attempt to limit close interaction with multiple people taking their masks off (such as while washing face and brushing teeth). Please be respectful and patient if others ask you to take turns or wait for your turn.
Hand washing and health promotion
- Please plan to wash your hands frequently, especially while you are serving on home crew. Please respond with grace and gratitude if someone reminds you to wash your hands. Here is a reminder on the proper technique: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html
- Reminder to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
In case illness develops
- The expectation is that any volunteer will be forthcoming about any symptoms. While symptoms may develop that could be a sign of COVID but could also be consistent with seasonal allergies, intolerance to a new food, or other cause, we request that these are disclosed so that the community can have heightened awareness. Please disclose these symptoms to a group leader or caretaker. You are expected to comply with a request for COVID testing if asked.
- Be aware that the CDC recommends isolation and quarantine for patients with COVID and their close contacts. If Covid-19 illness of a volunteer occurs during their visit, the volunteer will be required to leave Bethlehem Farm within 24 hours of receiving a positive Covid-19 test result, and is required to quarantine at Bethlehem Farm between the time of first Covid-19 symptoms and receipt of the Covid-19 test result. Departure of a person with a positive Covid-19 test is intended to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Please make preparations so that you can comply with this departure request if required.