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Girl Scouts of Western New York outline coronavirus actions

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Sat, Mar 14th 2020 04:50 pm

Council putting health and well-being first

Girl Scouts of Western New York today issued a series of guidelines for its Girl Scouts and families, emphasizing their health and well-being, communicating changes to programs, and urging parents to use their discretion in all public activities, including Girl Scouting. 

“We take this health threat seriously and will continue to follow direction from relevant county health departments, the federal Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health,” GSWNY CEO Alison Wilcox said.

Given that GSWNY serves multiple counties – Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming – its leadership has prepared to suspend Girl Scouting countywide if and when school districts suspend classes.

Based on recent public health and school district updates in Monroe and Erie counties, GSWNY will be suspending all Girl Scouting programs there effective March 18-April 1, and continuing to re-evaluate all councilwide programming. Another update for members across the nine counties of WNY will be released on Tuesday, March 17.

“We want to emphasize that parents should use their discretion about their daughter’s involvement in any public activity, including Girl Scouting, cookie sales and delivery. While we know that this virus has seemed to avoid children under 19, any with underlying conditions or with family members with underlying conditions should take appropriate precautions,” Wilcox said. “The Girl Scouts of WNY has established and tested protocols for widespread health or food-safety issues such as this. We want to reassure our Girl Scouting family that leadership is constantly monitoring the situation and discussing best courses of action hourly. Based on recent news from Monroe County, we have increased from level 1 to level 2 preparedness. We fully anticipate that changing in the next few days.”

In an email to council members, Wilcox said:

“We encourage members to use discretion about your participation in Girl Scouting activities. Your health and the health of others is most important, and you will not be negatively affected if you are unable to volunteer or participate. Our most valuable resource is and always will be our people, including our girls, volunteers, staff and our family members. We are committed to actions that maintain the well-being of all, and we will communicate regularly with updates over the coming days and weeks.”

She added, “Truth is, the timing of this virus coinciding with our annual cookie program and deliveries brings with it challenges, and facts, that would not be present at other times of our Girl Scouting year. But be assured that that does not deter us from always doing what is right, which is the Girl Scouting way.”

Wilcox said the Council is appealing to community supporters in all nine counties who are interested in buying cookies online. At this time, multiple cookie booths are planned that have been impacted and more may be suspended in coming days. Anyone interested in supporting a Girl Scout cookie booth virtually can contact GSWNY at [email protected] or 1-888-837-6410.

Girls, families and volunteers slated to staff a scheduled public cookie booth may decline to do so, she said.

“This is a highly fluid situation, as this past week demonstrated. We will always do what we feel is best for our Girl Scouts’ and their families’ health and well-being,” Wilcox said. “GSWNY has the benefit of available guidance from our national Girl Scouting leadership, as well as our peers around the country. What we’ve seen is customized approaches in each area to best serve our families. We too are working by the hour to serve and support our local families, and that will not change.”

GSWNY has adjusted the cookie program to extend its duration to April 26, and extend final payment until April 28.

“We will monitor and adjust these parameters as conditions evolve,” Wilcox said.

GSWNY plans two virtual meetings, for service unit team members and troop leaders on March 18, to update everyone on the situation. Details may be found on its website. 

“We also think that Girl Scouts can be a positive outlet for our girls at this time. Most schools are being thrust into online learning options and those will inevitably vary from district to district and school to school. Girl Scouting activities, when able to safely operate within public health guidelines, can help families cope with unexpected and extended down time,” Wilcox said. “As you know, the CDC reports that children are not part of those at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19. As much as possible, and, again, at family discretion, children should be allowed to carry on with their education and normal activities – in the safest possible way for them and their families.”

For more information, call 1-888-837-6410 or email [email protected].

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