SIFAT’s Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak
as of March 12, 2020
SIFAT has been following the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Department of State and local authorities to make decisions regarding the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) in Alabama and at our international project sites. We are making every effort possible to keep those participating in SIFAT’s campus programs and international projects healthy and safe, as well as our staff and the communities in which we serve abroad. SIFAT is taking a proactive approach to keep potential exposure to the virus minimal for everyone involved. We hope we do not have to make broad cancellations, but if the outbreak reaches that point, we will communicate with each group and team affected.
International Teams in Bolivia and Ecuador: In March, two of our international mission teams to Ecuador chose to err on the side of caution and postpone their trips until later this year. Currently, SIFAT staff members are reviewing U.S. government agencies’ travel guidelines regularly, communicating with our in-country directors for the most recent reports and advisements from Bolivia and Ecuador and discussing travel options with our team leaders.
Our major concern is the health and safety not only for our team members who must travel through airports and large crowds to reach their destinations, but also for the communities in which we serve. These areas may not be prepared or equipped to successfully address an outbreak of the virus. We do not want to potentially expose vulnerable villages or neighborhoods to this virus through accidental transmission from our visiting teams.
Our international team coordinator will be working with each team leader to make the best decision for that team’s trip.
Campus Programs in Alabama: Because we receive groups from throughout the Southeast, we want to ensure the safety of staff and local community, as well as our participants. At this time, we have suspended visits to our campus by international travelers until further notice.
Our normal routine of cleaning our facilities is being expanded. Our staff is taking the initiative to learn and implement the best techniques to effectively sanitize our lodging, bathrooms and cafeteria prior to groups arriving and after they depart. Additionally, daily disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces is being performed by our hospitality team. Frequent hand washing is being encouraged through reminders from our staff leading each group’s activities. We ask that visitors on campus follow good health hygiene recommendations from the CDC, which are being sent to group leaders prior to each group’s visit. Our campus nurse is available for consultation if someone exhibits symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
Our campus staff is available to discuss concerns or make schedule changes for groups who wish to modify their programming.