ATTA: SAFETY GUIDELINES
Safety Tour Regulations and policy
With the world and travel slowly opening up again Tropical Birding has found a creative way of running tours that are no riskier than other mandated activities such as visiting local restaurants or major food stores. This is so that people who love birding, bird photography, and travel can begin to explore again. And if you keep reading you will understand that we will be doing this in the safest possible way, by adhering to CDC principles, and more specifically to the health and safety guidelines developed by the Adventure Travel and Trade Association (ATTA), which were established in collaboration with physicians at the renowned Cleveland Clinic. ATTA’s guidelines have been developed specifically for groups wanting to view wildlife, and we believe the measures are smart, sensible and safe:
Taking precautions does not mean that you can never venture outside again; there are ways of limiting your exposure. We are running tours sensibly (read on to find out how), taking maximum precautions, and reducing risk. One way to do this is personalized custom tours (particularly recommended for folks in the 60+ age group for you or your family and friends ‘bubble’). Please let us know if there in anywhere in the US that you are interested in visiting, and we can make a plan. The luxury of a custom tour will never be cheaper. The other option is small group tours to wilderness areas where there are very few other people. Although we cannot guarantee anything, we can be smart and considerate. On these tours you will only interact with the same small group of participants for the week (or longer), and your web of interconnection will be extremely limited. A visit to a supermarket where thousands of items have been touched by myriad people is likely to be far riskier.
You should not be thinking about coming on any tour, and we will unfortunately be forced to exclude you from participating if you:
• are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms
• are/or have recently self-isolated as a result of coronavirus symptoms or sharing a household with somebody with symptoms
• are clinically extremely vulnerable
Clinically extremely vulnerable people include the following people. Disease severity, history or treatment levels will also affect who is in the group.
1. Solid organ transplant recipients.
2. People with specific cancers:
• people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
• people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
• people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
• people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
• people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
• people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
4. People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
6. Women who are pregnant, with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
Also, anyone that is nervous or anxious should probably not come on tour right now. We are not suggesting this is for everyone. We realize this is something that requires folks to be comfortable, and we want both our tour leaders and participants to be comfortable, and while being safe, still be able to enjoy themselves. Having someone extremely nervous in a group is not fun for anyone. But hopefully the measures below will reassure you that we are being reasonable and cautious, and creating an outlet for exploration for folks that are ready to take that step.
There are no 100% guarantees on Earth, but there are many ways to minimize chances of contraction. Of course, being considerate towards fellow participants is something we always promote on tour, but at this time it will have to be first and foremost in our minds, and so please always think about other people around you, and how you would like them to act if they were you. Also, if you are a virus-denier, and either refuse to take precautions, or have been indulging in any reckless behavior, please do not sign-up. We will have no option but to rapidly eject anyone from a tour that does not comply with these protocols.
Nothing is COVID-proof, but we are attempting to ensure that we will take every reasonable precaution to reduce exposure, such as:
• Everyone coming on a tour (including the Tropical Birding guide) will have to take a test and prove to Tropical Birding that they are not COVID positive days before the tour commences. The time period has varied depending on the testing timeline in different states, but please speak to our office before you sign up and we will be as flexible as possible in selecting a timeline that makes sense. Failure to take a test may unfortunately mean you are excluded from the tour.
• Your tour leader will have an electronic non-contact thermometer, and temperatures may be measured at their discretion at any time on the tour. If your temperature exceeds 100.4F (38.0C), we will arrange for you to go to a facility for testing at your own cost. If you test negative and have proof of this, you can rejoin the tour.
• While socially distancing yourself from your guide and fellow participants will be impossible, we will keep the groups to 6 people (of course custom tours can be as small as you want) plus a single TB driver/guide. So that will be a total of 6 other people you will share space with for the duration of your trip. Given that a walk in the park or shopping at a supermarket exposes you to hundreds of people, we regard this as fairly low risk.
• If you prefer to explore the option of driving to the starting point of the tour for US trips we can give folks an option of a rendezvous point and leaving in the tour vehicle from there. This avoids airports and public transport to airports. The actual risks on the airplane have repeatedly been shown to be low. CNN Travel – The odds of catching Covid-19 on an airplane are slimmer than you think, scientists say. It really is the airport and the transport to and from the airport that poses the greatest risks in terms of exposure to surfaces and crowds, and so it pays dividends to be more cautious at the airport. If you read below, you will also see that there are ways to minimize exposure at airports and on airplanes and if you are going to fly, we recommend that you please take those precautions on travelling to and from airports and on flights before you join the tours.
• We will keep the bus sanitized with regular wipe downs.
• We will attempt to get packed lunches from the same places serving us breakfast and dinner to ensure limited exposure to the same kitchens. When we can, meals will be taken in the field – in the open air far away from other people.
• Other than ourselves, we will avoid crowds at all costs, we will not be visiting any areas where social distancing (from those outside our group) will not be possible.
• We will only eat in restaurants observing social distancing practices or else we will eat in the field.
• We will choose smaller hotels with fewer rooms, preferably those with outside entrances. Your guide will conduct the check-in process. We will not stay in large motels or business style hotels.
• We will reduce the number of hotels we stay in thereby limiting exposure to different people.
• We will be performing follow-up after the tour for two weeks to ensure all customers have returned home and are doing well. Should anyone be showing any symptoms we will alert other members of the group so that they can go and get themselves tested.
AS MANY GOVERNORS HAVE SAID, BEING SAFE DEPENDS ON PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND WE ALSO REMIND YOU TO PLEASE PRACTICE SAFETY YOURSELF BY:
• Regularly washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands.
• Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
• Wear a mask (a customized Tropical Birding mask made from cotton is fine) when we go out in public and are interacting with any other people.
• Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
Regarding flying, it’s worth reading this Washington Post article by Joseph Allen, an Assistant Professor of Exposure Assessment Science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of the book “Healthy Buildings.”
Also, there are ways to avoid public transport on the way to the airport, you can take your own food on board, use a mask at all times, keep yourself away from large crowds at airports, and make sure you wash your hands regularly to make your journey as safe as possible.
These are very strange times. But we believe that if we take the precautions above, that we can run small-sized birding trips that practice good hygiene and do everything possible to be as safe as possible according to the standards of safety as set out by local governments of the places we will be visiting.
For any of our customers that have had trips delayed or postponed to 2021, there is a possibility to use credit you have towards one of these domestic tours which means you both get a vacation in 2020 and also are able to utilize your credit sooner rather than later. Please get in touch to discuss possibilities for that with us