Responding to COVID-19

Last updated: November 18, 2022

After more than a year of suspended operations due to COVID-19, we are thrilled to welcome volunteers back in our partner countries. Based on data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Global Brigades has developed several resources to keep our partners and volunteers updated on our latest safety precautions. We encourage you to review these resources regularly, as they are updated when new content becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate the trust you place in our teams, both nationally and internationally when you participate in our programs. Please review the following frequently asked questions for more information about how we are responding to COVID-19 and how we are preparing for the re-opening of in-person brigade operations.

For additional information, please refer to the following resources:

 

For country-specific COVID-19 information including entry requirements/restrictions, please visit the following US Embassy websites: 

What additional precautions are being taken in light of Covid-19 to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and community members?

Global Brigades is taking a number of precautions to mitigate the risks of COVID transmission on brigade programs, including but not limited to the following:

  • Recommending that volunteers are fully vaccinated prior to their arrival in-country.
  • Requiring that all volunteers provide a lab-administered negative COVID test taken one day prior to their departure for the brigade.
  • Operating all in-country programs at reduced capacity and observing these capacity limits for all transportation and lodging.
  • COVID testing and health screening of all brigade staff prior to the brigade.
  • Imposing mandatory mask/face covering requirements for all brigade participants, staff, and community members.
  • Observing social distancing measures at all brigade sites, including lodging facilities and community sites.
  • All participants must take a COVID test prior to their arrival in-country and provide proof of a negative test to Global Brigades before traveling.
  • Daily health screening of staff and volunteers.
  • Staggered meal service to limit capacity.
  • Regular sanitizing of all vehicles and lodging facilities.
  • Enhanced precautions on brigade days: health screening of community members, sanitizing of community sites, social distancing guidelines, and mandatory use of PPE.
Will I need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to my participation in a brigade?

Yes, all participants will need to obtain proof of a negative COVID test prior to departure for your brigade.* Specific testing requirements and time frames vary based on the destination. Unless another test and specifications are required be the program country, Global Brigades will require all volunteers to take a lab-administered COVID test the calendar day before their departure for the brigade. Only volunteers who have tested negative will be allowed to participate on the brigade. Please refer to the appropriate Embassy’s website below for the most up to date information of each country’s requirements:

Please know that if no test is required by the country of your Brigade, GB will ask you to take a lab-administered COVID test one day prior to your departure for the brigade, and show the negative test results in order to be able to join the Brigade.

*In the event that you are asymptomatic yet still testing positive more than 7 days after recovering from COVID, we will accept a doctors note verifying that you are recovered, asymptomatic, and no longer contagious.

Do I need to have the vaccine in order to participate in a brigade?

It depends on what country you are traveling to. In all cases, the COVID vaccine is strongly recommended, and when traveling to some countries it is required (ie: Ghana.) 

Based on the advice of our advising physicians, Global Brigades strongly recommends, but does not require, that all volunteers who wish to participate in an in-person brigade are fully up to date on their COVID vaccinations. Volunteers who have received their full vaccination more than 6 months before their brigade are recommended to receive a booster shot before traveling.

*Non-US citizens who are traveling to or through the United States on their return will be required to show proof of vaccination at the airport before re-entering the United States.

Please visit CDC Vaccines for COVID-19 and VaccineFinder for more information on the vaccine and where to get it. Non-US volunteers should check with their local healthcare providers.

Will I need to quarantine upon entry to the country (Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Greece, Ghana)?

No, provided you have obtained proof of a lab-administered negative COVID test which has been administered no more than one day prior to your departure, present proof of vaccination (if applicable), and you do not present with any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 upon arrival.

In the event that you arrive at the airport with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and within the last 14 days have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or traveled to a country with confirmed cases, you may be isolated in a medical center or at a designated hotel for monitoring by the local Ministry of Health for up to 14 days. This is dictated by the each country’s Ministry of Health.

For Canadian Volunteers: See the requirements established by the Government of Canada for the latest information on re-entry. 

What is GB's assessment process in deciding when to resume operations in a country?

Global Brigades has developed stringent criteria which need to be met prior to the resumption of brigade operations in a particular country. These criteria were developed by a committee made up of Global Brigades’ leadership team and in-country executive directors and operations staff, using a variety of resources including travel guidelines from the State Department and local US consulates as well as  in-country business reopening guidelines and guidelines imposed by local governmental bodies. These criteria include but are not limited to:

  • Lifting of entry restrictions for international travelers.
  • Lifting of any mandatory quarantine requirements upon arrival for international travelers.
  • Resumption of normal daily international flights from major carriers.
  • Local lockdown measures and restrictions on movement have been lifted.
  • COVID testing is widely available.
  • Local hospital and ICU have capacity for new patients.
  • Normal tourist activities have resumed locally.
  • Vaccines are widely available for participating volunteers, staff, and community partners.

 

What is the protocol if a volunteer presents symptoms of COVID-19 while on brigade? What insurance coverage do they have?

In the event that a volunteer presents symptoms of COVID-19 while on the brigade, they will be separated and quarantined at the lodging facility and monitored by a local staff health care professional, while a COVID test can be arranged for. Upon consultation by a local physician if the symptoms are mild, the volunteer will remain quarantined and under observation at their lodging facility or other designated accommodations. If the symptoms are serious and the volunteer is at higher risk of complication due to pre-existing conditions, they will be transported to a medical facility in the capital city as recommended by their treating physician. The duration of their isolation can last between 5-14 days depending on local regulations and the recommendations of our medical team.

All volunteer participants are automatically covered under emergency Global Brigades’ medical travel insurance for the duration of their program. The emergency medical travel insurance policy covers medical expenses for emergency medical treatment related to a diagnosis of COVID-19, and the trip cancellation insurance covers certain costs associated with mandatory quarantine in the event that a volunteer tests positive for COVID-19 while abroad. Visit this page for more information on the emergency medical travel insurance that all GB volunteers are automatically enrolled in, and for information on increasing coverage.

Additional details about the Core Travel insurance program, the trip cancellation benefits, and answers to frequently asked questions can be found in the FAQ: Global Brigades Insurance Document and the FAQ: Global Medical Brigades Insurance Document.

Volunteers wishing to secure additional travel insurance coverage through third-party providers can find available options on Square Mouth.

What is the protocol if a community member presents symptoms of COVID-19 during the brigade?

All community members at the brigade site will be pre-screened for COVID-19. Any individuals who present symptoms or have had recent contact with individuals who have tested positive will not be able to enter the brigade site.  Participating community members will be required to practice social distancing and are asked to wear masks while interacting with staff and volunteers.

Will I need to obtain a negative test in order to re-enter the United States at the conclusion of my brigade?

No, as of June 12th, 2022, the CDC announced they will no longer be requiring all air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country to present a negative result before boarding their flight into the US.

*Non-US citizens traveling back to the United States will be required to show proof of vaccination at the airport before re-entering the United States.

Is Global Brigades going to provide PPE for volunteers and community members? Do we need to bring masks/equipment with us?

Yes, Global Brigades will have PPE (ie: masks, face shields) available for volunteer participants as well as community members. However to ensure these resources are plentiful we would also encourage all volunteers to bring their own supplies of PPE, particularly masks and face shields.

What happens if my brigade is postponed due to COVID-19?

In the case that Global Brigades determines that certain criteria are not being met in order to safely operate brigade programs, your Program Associate will work closely with you to provide options on rescheduling your brigade, either to an in-person brigade at a later date or switching to a virtual brigade program (TeleBrigade). In the event that your chapter was previously issued flight tickets, your Travel Team Member will work with you to request a flight credit or flight voucher from the airline, which can be applied towards purchasing a flight for a future brigade. Flight credits and vouchers are subject to policies and regulations as established by the airline.

What happens if I test positive and am delayed in returning home at the conclusion of the brigade?

In the event a volunteer tests positive for COVID during their program, causing a delay in returning to their home country, Global Brigades’ in-country teams will provide full support (arrange lodging, transportation, meals) for the duration of the delay (or isolation period) until the volunteer is cleared to safely return home. 

If a volunteer is asymptomatic and tests positive for COVID at any time during their brigade, Global Brigades’ local staff physician will assess the volunteer to determine if they have any underlying COVID symptoms. If they are deemed healthy, an additional PCR test will be administered to confirm the positive result.  While waiting for secondary test results, the volunteer will be kept isolated at the Global Brigades facility, while being continuously cared for by staff.  If the assigned physician determines that the initial test was a false positive, and the volunteer is medically cleared to fly, Global Brigades will work with the airline to arrange for a return flight home.  

In the event that a volunteer tests positive with a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID, as assessed by Global Brigades’ local staff physician, they may need to quarantine for a period of 5-14 days, if mandated by the local Ministry of Health. During the quarantine period, the volunteer will be housed in a hotel room arranged for by Global Brigades, and regularly monitored by a local physician. Global Brigades’ in-country staff will ensure that the volunteer’s needs are taken care of, including arranging all meals, transportation, and communication with emergency contacts. While the volunteer will need to remain in isolation, they will continue to be supported by local staff members and monitored on a daily basis by a local physician. At the conclusion of the isolation period, the volunteer will be re-tested and undergo a health assessment. If the test is negative and the volunteer is cleared to return home, Global Brigades will arrange for the return flight and provide ground transportation. In the event the volunteer continues to test positive, Global Brigades will continue to provide support as outlined above until such time as the volunteer is cleared to return home.

In the event that a volunteer develops a severe case of COVID requiring hospitalization and critical medical care, Global Brigades’ local staff physicians will work to ensure that the volunteer receives the highest level of care available to them in-country.  If necessary, Global Brigades will work with our emergency travel insurance provider, Core Travel, to arrange a medical evacuation to the volunteers’ home country.  

In all cases, Global Brigades will work to ensure that any quarantined volunteer is properly cared for, and arrange for them to return home as soon it is safe to do so. Please keep in mind that each country’s Ministry of Health has its own protocols and policies regarding mandatory quarantine, which Global Brigades is required to adhere to.

**Please be aware that any and all expenses incurred due to a delayed return or quarantine period, including but not limited to hotel, meals, and transportation which are not covered by the Core Travel Insurance policy or the volunteer’s emergency medical insurance coverage will be the sole responsibility of the volunteer.

Additional details about the Core Travel insurance policy as well as answers to frequently asked questions can be found in the following FAQ: Global Brigades Insurance Document and FAQ: Global Medical Brigades Insurance Document.

Will I be required to have my booster shot before coming on the brigade?

Though not required, Global Brigades recommends that all brigade volunteers to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations in order to participate on a brigade.  We follow the CDC’s recommended booster timetable, and strongly suggest all brigade participants to receive their booster shot once eligible.

Non-US citizens will be required to show proof of vaccination at the airport before re-entering the United States.

How we are adapting our programs

  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Ghana
  • Nicaragua
  • Guatemala
  • Greece

HCP Access

Coordinated through our Community Health Worker network, participating community partners will have monthly access to primary care doctors and affordable medications. Doctors will leverage our pharmacy in Tegucigalpa and bulk deals for medications to buy medicine from us and “sell” the medicine during patient consultations in the community.  In the first clinics we have been implemented to date, the sale of medicine during each community visit was able to cover the expenses of the doctor and support to cover some of GB Honduras' operational costs. The cost of medicine to the community members was still half of the retail amount and they avoided having to pay any transportation costs to access it (which can sometimes exceed the cost of medications themselves). In addition to providing basic supplies of over-the-counter and commonly prescribed medications for acutely sick patients, the program is critical to provide follow-up for chronic patients to receive their refills.  We are also implementing a discounted fee-for-service program for vision and dental care.  

Microfinance

Direct lending to Community Banks is a key opportunity for GB to continue to increase access to basic financial services and strengthen local economies while creating new revenue streams for the organization.  We will continue to support communities in Honduras through the establishment, training, and follow-up of Community Banks, while also significantly increasing our loan capital for these banks, shifting away from the more traditional ‘donation’ model.  We will focus on working with communities to develop innovative financial products to continue to invest in their businesses, homes, WASH, and healthcare solutions.  The continued improvement in the performance of Community Banks in Honduras will allow us the opportunity to further leverage the capital available from Kiva and other external sources.  We are currently in the process of establishing a new subsidiary of GB, a Second Level Community Bank, designed to serve as the mechanism through which Community Banks can access and repay the capital. With the proceeds, GB can ensure a sustainable return on investment to support international operations and to continue investing in The Empowered 100 goals.

WASH

Traditionally, GB contributes roughly one-third of the construction costs of the community-wide water systems and the other two-thirds is covered from counterpart funding from partner organizations, the local municipality, and community members. In our revised methodology, we will be striving toward having our portion recovered through the community banks (cajas) in the form of a longer-term and low-interest loan. We are currently conducting financial modelings of the timing and rates of payments and how this cost can be recovered through each household’s monthly bill from the local water committee for operation, maintenance, and administration. If successful, we can begin to leverage Kiva.org or other loan programs to capitalize the construction.  Similarly, WASH and Microfinance teams will continue to develop innovative financing options aimed at increasing access to public health infrastructure, while recovering investment, to further perpetuate impact through a sustainable economic model.

Microfinance

The World Bank has named our Panama team as the most effective microfinance workers in rural Central America. We will continue to support communities in Panama through the establishment, training, and follow-up of Community Banks. Using the Merkel Funds and Kiva.org, we will also significantly increase our capital available to these banks.  and develop innovative financial products so small businesses have access to affordable loans.  We are currently in the process of establishing a new subsidiary of GB, a Second Level Community Bank, designed to serve as the mechanism through which Community Banks can access and repay the capital. With the proceeds, GB can ensure a sustainable return on investment to support international operations and to continue investing in The Empowered 100 goals.

HCP Access

Our Panamanian health team is currently exploring ways to adapt the HCP access model from Honduras to focus on dental health at first for the existing community partners. However, additional research is being done to expand our scope to primary health care in the far West of Panama in Ngäbe and other isolated communities with less access to health services and medicines.

HCP Access

Our health team has adapted the community pharmacy model in Nicaragua for our operations in Ghana. This will consist of a central pharmacy strategically located from partner communities, taking advantage of their closer geographical proximity as compared. We are also considering opening a private clinic to provide primary health and complement the services that are being conducted in the community health outposts.  We will continue to collaborate with the government’s  National Health Insurance Agency to align their efforts with our developing cost recovery solutions.

Microfinance

GB Ghana has renegotiating its relationship with its lending partner, Microfin, to take over follow-up of the MHope lending groups that we have established. We will be continuing to build capacity of our local coordinators to strengthen the MHope groups (similar to Community Banks in Central America) to ensure the continuation of strong repayment rates and the identification of new businesses to lend to.

WASH

GB Ghana will continue to work on strengthening its relationship with large international partners like Lions Club and Rotary Club, with the focus of securing funding for water infrastructure projects to meet E100 communities' goals.  In addition, the team will work with communities and local government partners to develop innovative cost recovery solutions for both toilet projects and household water connections to the Ghana Water Company’s already existing clean water network.  

Community Pharmacies

The GB Nicaragua team will continue to collaborate with the existing Community Health Workers and follow-up with Community Pharmacies to provide basic services in certain Empowered 100 communities.  The team is also pursuing a telemedicine solution that is being piloted with a local partner organization and working to adapt Honduras' Health Care Professional Access program to provide monthly primary health care services.

Microfinance

We will continue to support communities in Nicaragua through the establishment and training of new and follow-up of existing Community Banks. Using the Merkel Funds and Kiva.org, we will also significantly increase our loan capital available to these banks. As in Panama, the strength of the loan performance of Community Banks there are critical to our ability to leverage capital from Kiva and other external sources.

WASH

In Nicaragua, we will strive to complete water and public health infrastructure that has already been started. At the same time, we will be renegotiating with partner organizations to reposition the GB portion of financing from a donation to a cost recovery model.

HCP Access

Leveraging the HCP access model developed in Honduras, we will be piloting a similar program in Guatemala. Coordinated by Dra. Gladys Turcios, who was previously the one leading the initiative in Honduras before moving to Guatemala, the communities that we were planning on running brigades will have regular access to primary care doctors and affordable medications. Doctors will leverage our current medical supply and “sell” the medicine during patient consultations in the community. Similar to Honduras, the sale of medicine during each community visit is meant to cover the expenses of the doctor and provide a margin to GB. We are currently assessing the present costs of medication in community partners and overall demand from a feasibility side while navigating travel restrictions within Guatemala to access those communities.

Microfinance

Our Executive Directors in Central America are collaboratively seeking a funding opportunity with the World Bank to expand our microfinance programming in Guatemala.

Health Access

While access to the population of asylum seekers in Long Term Accommodation Sites in Greece is greatly limited due to COVID-19, our Greece team is taking this opportunity to explore the possibility of establishing our own private health center in Athens focusing on improving access to primary healthcare for vulnerable populations.  As such, the potential clinic in Athens would serve the general Greek population, allowing for a sustainable business model, while also designating times to serve under-resourced populations, pro-bono. The current plan is to identify a space that is also large enough to run primary health clinics with Medical Brigades as well in the future as a back-up strategy when conditions in the camp are not conducive for volunteers.
*Statistics provided represent impact across all countries and all communities