Establishing the bubble
A Place Beyond participants will engage in group living, which means that we will act as one family unit for the duration of the semester — living together while social distancing from the rest of the world. To do this, we need to first build the bubble! We’ve divided up establishing the bubble into three phases: (1) pre-arrival, (2) intake and testing, and (3) post-results.
Phase 1: Pre-arrival
One of our best opportunities to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is to prevent it from arriving in the first place.
All participants are required to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to the session start date to lower the likelihood of bringing COVID-19 to the campus. Participants that are showing any symptoms within three days prior to traveling to APB’s program site must quarantine in place. In other words, participants should not get on the plane or train, or begin driving to campus if experiencing symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19. This will not penalize their ability to join A Place Beyond; our instructor team will communicate about an alternative start date once the participant can confirm a negative COVID-19 test.
Phase 2: Intake and testing
Establishing a safe bubble is going to take work and vigilance from the entire community. The week is a pivotal period.
We will begin our weekly rapid testing three days after participants arrive on campus. Our testing partner is Spectrum Healthcare. Travel to campus is a time of exposure, so we’ve timed our initial test with that potential incubation period. From the moment participants arrive until they get their negative result, we will follow strict protocols to keep everyone safe. During this time, we will also conduct daily temperature checks and monitor participants for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Orientation activities and introductions will take place outside, with masks on and social distancing. Meals will be eaten outside and distanced. Generally, the number of people in indoor spaces will be capped to lower risk. Fortunately, our campus has a lot of beautiful open-air spaces, including covered areas.
In participant cabins, beds will be spaced to 10 ft apart and windows will be kept open to the Arizona night (the cabins are heated, but bring a warm blanket!). During the semester we will have a max of three participants to a cabin, but during this initial week we have opened up additional living spaces so students can sleep in singles or doubles. Those in doubles may opt into a tent-style sleeping situation.
During this phase, participants will be encouraged to spend as much of these first few days as possible outside, in order to minimize risk and also enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather!
Phase 3: Post-results and re-testing
The first test will take place 4 and 10 days after participants arrive on campus, and results should arrive within seven days after arrival (though perhaps sooner; our first round of testing for instructors took less than 24 hours!).
While we hope all members of our community will test negative for COVID-19 from the start, we won’t drop precautions until everyone receives negative results.
If a community member tests positive, we will re-test everyone the next day. We have a separate part of campus with individual cabins for COVID-19 positive community members for quarantine. They will receive advice from our administering physician in the Spectrum Healthcare team; our staff will make sure they are well taken care of during their quarantine!
Nurses will be coming to campus weekly for our testing. Additionally, many of our staff members have medical training (EMT, Wilderness First Responder, First Aid). Of course, if a community member needs emergency in-person medical attention, we will arrange safe transport to one of the two nearby hospitals. This cycle of re-testing will be maintained until we are sure that an outbreak has been contained.
Here, Sunshine, one of our healthcare team members, tests instructor Julia for COVID-19. This nose swab test is less invasive than typical nose swabs and can return results in 1-4 days.
The Bubble is set… Now what?
The “bubble building” period will end as we get back negative results from our first community test. For the whole semester, we have a team of healthcare professionals arriving weekly to campus to test participants and staff and make sure no new cases emerge in the community.
The amount of contact members of our bubble might have with the outside world is heavily dependent on the state of the surrounding community in Prescott, Arizona. In its current state, we have deemed only low-risk activities, such as hiking and biking on area trails, to be advisable. Participants should carry masks with them in case of engagement with people outside the bubble. The amount of safe contact will be reassessed with the help of our healthcare team and local governments.
In camp, we will continue to undertake low impact precautions to limit risk. For example, we will make sure communal study spaces and living spaces will continue to allow distancing. While masks will no longer be required, we will continue to spend as much time outside, weather permitting, as we can. Dishes and food sources will be handled by gloved, masked personnel, who will also undergo weekly testing.
While we are confident in our practices for assessing risk, nothing is zero-risk. As we move through the world, COVID-19 is still a threat to our community. We will continue with regular testing throughout the semester to catch cases early and before they spread, and participants will be asked to self-monitor and check in with instructors about how they are feeling. We will continue to reassess our protocols and introduce additional precautions throughout the semester.
Leaving the bubble?
Once we establish the bubble, students will be able to go into town for errands. In reviewing the norms of prescott, we're choosing to only allow curbside pickup of groceries and take out. As a community we have pretty conservative guidelines for behavior on those trips and keep each other accountable. If a student defies those guidelines and puts the community in danger, we will take action, including separating them from the program.
If a student wishes to leave campus for an extended period, such as going home, we will work with them on a case-by-case basis. If travel feels safe and in best practice, the student will be expected to quarantine using bubble establishment practices until they can produce a negative test again upon return to campus.
Want More Details? Click here to read our full COVID-19 Protocols.