Statement on Covid-19
Even as the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to engulf the world causing so much pain and heartache, Achva will remain true to its mission of providing amazing summer travel experiences that participants will find fun, meaningful and enriching on a social and religious level. We are therefore committed to providing our tours on the condition that we can do so in a safe and responsible way.
We would like to lay out the principles that will guide us in how we conduct our tours this summer. These principles will not include detailed virus mitigation protocols for the summer, which will be clearly explained as the summer approaches based on conditions at that time. Rather, these principles will explain our position and guide us in our decision making.
- We firmly believe that there is no substitute to being out in the world and experiencing real life in all its majestic glory that cannot be duplicated staring at a screen or sheltered in a camp. There are risks in every aspect of life including travel but we believe these risks are very manageable and well worth the benefits. Those benefits include actually seeing and experiencing the amazing world G-d has created and the rewards gained by meeting people outside our usual circle of friends.
- Our approach to managing any risks from Covid-19 will be based on scientific evidence and data that informs our decision making. We have and will continue to consult with experts in the related fields to come up with practical plans that balance managing the risks from Covid-19 and our desire to provide a fun and meaningful tour. Because we are committed to run our tours this summer, we are prepared to take the steps necessary to keep our participants and staff healthy, while keeping our trips fun and provide a social atmosphere that kids will enjoy.
- Fortunately, there are many easy things we can do that will mitigate the risks while not adversely affecting the tour at all. For example, we already do lots of activities outside and that will only increase in the age of Covid-19. We can move more meals, learning activities and even davening to the great outdoors. We will no doubt insist that participants do not share water bottles, food, etc and we will be doing plenty of extra cleaning of the bus and other common areas. We may also look at keeping roommates more consistent and serving more food in individually wrapped servings.
- If necessary, we will utilize Covid-19 testing wherever practical to assure a healthy environment and reduce our need for measures that will detract from the overall summer experience. The type and frequency of tests will be determined, in conjunction with medical experts. We cannot envision any tour where masks are a constant requirement, however, we could envision masks being used where required by local authorities or businesses and for certain locations.
- We recognize that our number one weapon against the coronavirus on the tour is good decision making by our summer staff to recognize and deal with risks as they occur in real time. That is why we are especially fortunate to have smart, experienced and caring senior staff members who will leverage the advice of medical experts to deal with real life situations on the ground. They will be in close contact with parents when appropriate to make sure each individual participant is always cared for properly.
- While perhaps less important than the health risks, there are also financial risks born of the virus. We believe these risks to be manageable and well worth the benefits. We do fully expect to run the tour this summer. However if, exactly as happened in summer 2020, we must cancel our tours in advance of the summer, we plan on refunding all deposits and payments as quickly as we can. If we suddenly need to cancel very close to or during the summer, we may need to reduce your refund somewhat to cover a portion of our lost deposits to vendors. We will obviously do everything possible to avoid such a scenario, but we want to be transparent about what could happen in this unlikely event. If you are concerned about this, we recommend you look into travel cancellation insurance that covers you in the case of cancellation for any reason.
- There may be some other financial risks. The posted price of the tour does not include any large Covid-19 related costs. Hopefully, it will not be necessary but if we need to make substantial adjustments to the tour that incur real expenses, we may need to apply a Covid-19 surcharge to at least partially cover the additional costs of providing a safe environment. Examples could include the costs of regular Covid tests, additional medical personnel on the trip, etc. We expect the amount of any surcharge to be relatively low, but you should be aware of this and factor it into your financial decision. We generally take pride in the fact that our posted price is all inclusive but the costs of Covid-19 related expenses are so unpredictable that we cannot fairly price the tour without the possibility of a surcharge to help cover those expenses.
- We expect to only operate our tours in an environment where the likelihood of contracting Covid-19 is very low. Of course, we will have a plan in place for handling what happens should someone be infected with Covid-19 while on the tour. The details for this plan will be based on the conditions when and where the tour operates. We will always have rooms and people available to properly separate and care for those who become infected. Just as with any other illness or severe medical condition, parents or guardians (or a responsible family member or friend appointed by them) will need to be available to come out to the tour when a participant is going to be out with an illness for more than a few days and unable to travel home. Participants diagnosed with Covid-19 will be welcomed back on the tour as soon as he/she is cleared to return according to established medical guidelines as determined by the Achva administration.
- How a case of Covid-19 will affect other potentially exposed participants will depend on the circumstances of that particular case. The guiding principle will be consultation with medical experts who will guide us to the proper safety precautions. Testing may be required for those who came in contact with the infected person or perhaps other steps depending on conditions at the time.
- We have boiled things down to the following simple bullet points:
A) We want to run the tour this summer and think it can be done safely, but it will obviously depend on conditions at that time.
B) We understand kids do not want a trip with overly burdensome precautions.
C) We will consult with medical experts to keep the trip safe.
D) There are extra financial risks to running a trip in the age of Covid. While we are prepared to accept the bulk of those risks, you need to be prepared to participate to some extent as well.
This document does not mean to imply any guarantees or assurance of any policies. It is simply a statement of where we stand on Covid-19 at this time. We may update and adjust everything written above as conditions change, our knowledge of the science behind the virus increases, and our understanding of all the nuances of running a tour in the age of coronavirus become clearer.
Let us all hope and pray that we get past this terrible plague and return to normalcy as soon as possible.