Members of the CHOICE Community -
In light of the developing COVID-19/Coronavirus situation, we are providing the following updates and best practices regarding CHOICE Expeditions and our in-country staff.
We are actively monitoring news and updates, including the U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT, CDC, and other major news outlets (Johns Hopkins has an INFORMATIVE DASHBOARD that you may find helpful). We are also in daily communication with our in-country teams across the world, and who are tracking their local government offices and news outlets.
All upcoming 2020 expeditions have been postponed. We are hopeful to resume expeditions in Spring 2021, if not sooner!
We are treating future postponements on a case-by-case basis as the situation continues to develop, but as it currently stands we plan to move forward with our fall and winter expeditions. We will always act in the best interest of safety and security for both our expedition participants and our in-country staff. Our TERMS AND CONDITIONS outlines our cancellation policy.
When weighing the postponement of expeditions, these are some of the key factors we consider:
- Even if the risk of the disease is low for you as an individual, our expeditions visit the poorest of the poor in remote areas with the least access to essential healthcare. The risk that we present to them as potential carriers of the disease could be devastating, and we run the risk of ultimately causing more suffering than good.
- Unfortunately, the risk of exposure is growing within our countries, and it is unknown how much it will increase over the next few months. Given that cases continue to increase within the U.S., the fact that symptoms can take time to even appear, and the geographic distance to CHOICE countries, including the many airports required to pass through, participants may be exposed to significant risk of infection or carrying the disease with them.
- New travel restrictions are being implemented between the U.S. and many other countries, including the countries we work in, which present major challenges to our ability to guarantee safe and easy entry to and exit from those countries.
- Access to the rural communities in which we work in is extremely limited right now and it is unknown when these restrictions will be lifted. The national governments within those countries are responding with new restrictions daily that could continue to significantly increase in the coming months.
We will continue to err on the side of safety and caution given both the unknown nature of what the next few months will bring, and based on input from leading experts, our in-country staff, and our organizational leadership. We have concluded that it makes the most sense to postpone several expeditions and wait the situation out until things settle down over the next few months.
We recommend the following best practices for those preparing for an upcoming expedition in the fall or winter:
- While many airlines are currently waiving transfer fees or being flexible in other ways, we recommend purchasing cancellation insurance for your flights whenever possible as additional protection in the case that an expedition is postponed or delayed.
- Follow the following CDC recommended guidelines when traveling:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol.
- Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
- It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
As you can imagine, this presents a significant disruption to our organization, including our revenue and fundraising model that ensures villages with the resources they need. We invite you to keep the vulnerable, impoverished community members in mind, as they depend on your continued support regardless of the circumstances.
We are grateful for and appreciate your commitment to CHOICE Humanitarian and will be providing further notifications and updates as the situation progresses. Please reach out to us at 801-474-1937 or [email protected] with any questions.