COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Response & Resources

The safety of our AmeriCorps members, staff, and board members is our utmost priority. We have activated an Incident Response Team dedicated to addressing the impact of COVID-19 on our organization. We are in the initial stages of our response and more information will become available as time progresses. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the MCC COVID-19 Response Team at info@mtcorps.org

RESOURCES

For the most up to date information on COVID-19, please refer to the following websites:

US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
World Health Organization
Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS)
US State Department Travel Advisories

UPDATES

Monday April 13, 2020


Dear Friends:

We hope you are staying healthy and safe at home as our country appears to be nearing the apex of the "curve" and we can all look forward to a reduction in the rate of transmission and illness from the COVID 19 virus.  Our thoughts are will all those whose lives are being impacted by this crisis, especially those who may have lost family members or friends.

Our MCC team continues to monitor the situation and work towards an eventual resumption of our corps activities. While we don't expect an imminent return to business as usual, we do believe that with care, discipline, and a solutions-oriented mindset that we will be able to get back to work this season and serve our mission with rigor and innovation.  MCC is collaborating with other corps leaders from across the nation to develop new best practices for training, field work, transportation and camp hygiene that will to protect our staff and corps members.  We are reimagining our operating plans and tapping into financial resources to stabilize our organization and bring our staff back to work.  A majority of our staff remain furloughed and our AmeriCorps members are suspended for now, but we are eager to welcome them back as soon as possible. 

For 2020, MCC is suspending all youth corps programs for teens age 17 and younger, but we are moving forward with plans to engage Conservation Interns and AmeriCorps field crews for the summer - albeit with some revised orientation practices and/or start dates, and adapted operations. The Big Sky Watershed Corps continues with our members serving remotely or in safe outdoors settings observing all state and CDC safety guidelines. Stay tuned for pending updates as we announce plans and schedules within the coming weeks.

Let's beat this virus by working together to slow and limit its spread through physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, limiting our public interactions and exercising patience and care for each other.

Sincerely,
Jono McKinney
 


Wednesday, April 1, 2020


Dear Friends and Supporters,

Greetings from Montana Conservation Corps. We hope you and your family are in good health and staying connected with friends and colleagues during these times of social distancing.

As with every corner of our country – of the world – the new coronavirus is upending life as usual here in Montana. Following our governor’s directives and guidance from the CDC, we are sheltering at home, washing our hands with gusto, doing our best to keep our homes COVID 19-free. We are also deeply thankful for the connectivity afforded by the internet and cell phones, and for the accessibility of trails and parks to lift our spirits under the Big Sky.

The impacts of the pandemic have been profound for MCC, necessitating many very difficult decisions and unimaginable cuts to programs and staffing in the last two weeks. Our goal is to sustain our core operations such that we may resume our adult field crew programs in summer.  

Our current response:

  • We’ve suspended our beloved AmeriCorps Leader Development Program until we can safely resume training and conservation activities.  Ten leaders in our Central Divide (Helena) region are temporarily manning phones from home for the State 211 call center set up to help residents and businesses cope with the “Shelter at Home” order. We’re so thankful for their commitment to service and social distancing in these difficult times. We remain concerned for the other 49 crew leaders currently suspended in Bozeman, Kalispell and Missoula, and hopeful to bring them back into service ASAP.

  • Upon sober consideration of the risks posed by COVID -19 for our school year and summer youth programs, MCC made the heretofore unimaginable decision to suspend all high school and middle school crews for 2020.

  • On a brighter note, the Big Sky Watershed Corps continues, with 35 AmeriCorps members “tele-serving” from their homes and able to continue with some field monitoring activities, watershed education, and capacity building for their host sites.

  • MCC also hopes to launch the individual placement Conservation Interns program in May as scheduled, or soon thereafter.

  • Regional offices are temporarily closed with our staff furloughed until we are able to resume field crew activities.

  • The state office also is closed with several state staff furloughed and a small core team to maintain MCC’s essential business operations, support ongoing AmeriCorps member enrollment for summer crew and intern positions, and prepare MCC to restart when conditions allow.

  • These steps have necessitated cuts in our staffing with the loss of talent and dedication. We are grieving and concerned for our former colleagues.

We remain determined to rise and recover. Every day, we are working toward the resumption of our activities by staying in touch with our partners to assess conditions and opportunities, considering protocols to enable our crews and interns to operate this season, assessing opportunities and relief made available through the CARES Act, and maintaining the positivity, grit, crew orientation, and commitment to hard work for quality results that is so characteristic of our corps members.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

  • Online donations are super helpful now and help us build a trail to program resumption. We lost $200,000 in project revenue this spring. Every donation helps us bring back staff, get our corps members back in service, and buy the food and gas needed to launch a crew on their first project this summer.

  • Support an AmeriCorps member.  If you have contact with one of our suspended AmeriCorps members, send care packages, food, money, messages to encourage them about the magic of the season ahead. MCC does not have the capacity to forward messages or packages as our offices are closed. Our crew leaders are inspired by the training they’ve received since mid-February, and excited to serve and learn this season, but they are suspended without pay right now, and that’s rough. By helping them, you help MCC.

  • Lastly, help in your community. Donate to your local food bank. Volunteer to deliver meals or groceries to a senior. Find a pattern online and sew masks for your local hospital. This is America. We are MCC, we get things done.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT AND COMMITMENT TO MONTANA CONSERVATION CORPS.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

YOUTH PROGRAMS CANCELLED for 2020 SUMMER SEASON

As the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact our communities, the safety of our corps members, staff, and neighbors is paramount for MCC. We are thus making hard decisions on how to pursue our programs with the safety of our participants and communities at the forefront of our decisions.

MCC’s youth program model involves bringing small groups of adolescents together to eat, sleep, serve, and learn as a team, 24 hours a day for one to four weeks, often in remote locations. Magic happens in this setting. But the presence of COVID-19 presents unprecedented and not yet fully understood risks for our participants as they come together to live and serve on expeditions. 

Given this program design, the contagiousness of COVID-19 and often rapid onset of severe symptoms, MCC has determined it is prudent to cancel all of our summer programs for high school and middle school-age students. This is a heartbreaking decision.

We are so sorry to have to share this news with you, but hope you will support us in this difficult decision. MCC fully plans to return in 2021 with more great adventures with purpose. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@mtcorps.org or 406-587-4475 x224.  While our physical locations in Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, and Kalispell are closed until further notice, the staff are working remotely.

We wish you health and safety,
Jono McKinney, President and CEO


Monday, March 16, 2020

SERVING SAFELY

For decades, conservation corps around the country, including Montana Conservation Corps, have repeatedly stepped up to be of service to our neighbors and to support our communities in times of crisis. Clearly, we are in one of those times, and I am so proud of how our team is working together to find a way forward, to overcome the challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

As the threat and spread of COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, the safety of our corps members, staff, and neighbors is paramount. Along with that is our responsibility to provide the life changing program that we have promised each corps member.

For the foreseeable future, MCC will continue working on all projects and with all partners and host sites that we can - while following the guidance of our public health officials on how to keep our participants purposefully engaged and safe. As an AmeriCorps organization, our ethic of service has MCC also connecting with local organizations like food banks, to see how we may help them manage their increased workloads. We are postponing all community events scheduled for March and April. However, the corps model is adaptable and always focused on managing risk. Our crew leaders, therefore, continue with their training activities while maintaining the highest levels of health and hygiene and while practicing social distancing measures in small groups. The same holds true for supporting our in-town employees, for whom we are adopting remote work practices and other strategies to help us continue to meet our mission. We continue to plan for operating our programs which begin in May.

MCC has thrived thanks to a broad community of stakeholders who help us advance our mission. These stakeholders include local organizations, local, state, and federal agency project partners, our alumni and current participants, and a family of donors and grantors who make our programs come alive.  MCC remains committed to you all in these uncertain times, and we thank you for being here for our corps members and our nation as our communities rally to overcome this crisis.

Sincerely, Jono McKinney, President and CEO


Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19 GUIDELINES TO BE AWARE OF IF ACCEPTED TO OUR PROGRAMS

Montana Conservation Corps is committed to keeping our staff, participants, and communities healthy during this time of spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Extra precautions are being taken, including screening of incoming staff and participants. The following parameters are in place until further notice, and before you begin or return to work you must affirm that they do not apply to you:

International Travel and U.S. Highly Affected Areas

Incoming staff and participants who have traveled to any area of concern based on the CDC’s travel recommendations (level 1, 2 or 3 health notice) or highly affected U.S. areas (101+ cases) must refrain from joining the program until a 14 day quarantine has passed since they were last in that travel location.  Because this list has been changing daily, we ask that you notify MCC if you have traveled outside of the US or to highly affected areas in the US in the last fourteen days or plan to between now and your position start date.

CDC International Travel Guidance: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

CDC US Highly Affected Areas: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

ACTION: If you have traveled or plan to travel outside of the United States recently or to US Highly Affected areas before your start date, please notify your MCC Program Manager.   

 

Contact with Sick People

Incoming staff and participants who have been in known contact with a person who has COVID-19 must refrain from joining the program until 14 days have passed since they were last in close proximity with them.

ACTION: If you have been in contact with a person with COVID-19 you must notify your MCC Program Manager.

 

Individual Responsibility

All staff and participants should be aware that Montana Conservation Corps is taking significant precaution and implementing mitigation procedures to keep members, staff and communities safe while on program time. Due to the wide-spread nature of the disease, it is important to know that contraction of the illness while in the field or the office is not likely to be covered by workers compensation, and it is up to each individual to ensure their own health and wellness beyond Montana Conservation Corps protocols.



Wednesday, March 11, 2020

SAFETY MEMO

This special message is part of Montana Conservation Corps’ ongoing effort to provide timely information about the emerging concerns related to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). This is a novel virus that may cause acute respiratory illness. After its initial detection in China, there has been a recent increase in the number of cases in the United States.

As of the time of this safety memo, there has not yet been a reported case in Montana and the immediate health risk for our state remains low. However, we should expect that the virus will spread to Montana in the coming days or weeks.

INCIDENT RESPONSE PLANNING 

Out of an abundance of caution and taking guidance from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, Montana Conservation Corps has activated an Incident Response Team to address questions and plan for potential contingencies for the organization. This team’s members are Wendy Wigert (Director of Operations), Kate O’Neill (Director of Programs), Adam Hein (Regional Director), Bobby Grillo (Regional Director), Kristin Vandewalle (Associate Director of Marketing and Communications), Brad Koontz (Statewide Program Manager), and Michele Schahczenski (Executive and Development Coordinator).

This team is monitoring real time updates from the CDC, World Health Organization, and Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The team will be posting updates and additional resources on a MCC Coronavirus webpage for which a link can be found at www.mtcorps.org on the homepage as well as under the “About” tab. The best source for the most up to date information will continue to be the CDC for information on prevention, treatment, and guidance for travel.

Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms that include fever, cough, and shortness of breath should call both a local healthcare professional and their Regional Director in advance (before going into the doctor’s office or MCC office). Local healthcare professionals will work with the public health department to help determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. If you are having any problems finding a local health care provider, please call your Regional Director for assistance.

Additionally for BSWC Members:

  • If your host site implements a quarantine and/or policy to stay at home prior to any such initiative from MCC please adhere to it and notify an IPP staff member as soon as you are able.
  • If MCC issues a policy prior to your host site we will ask that you adhere to it and an MCC staff member will notify your supervisor to discuss details 
  • If a stay at home policy is put in place by MCC or your host site we will make necessary arrangements to ensure you are still able to meet your hour requirements to the best of our ability.
  • Any additional questions or concerns can be directed to those mentioned in the safety memo or to anyone of the IPP staff. 
MINIMIZING RISKS

The virus is thought to spread primarily from person to person from an infected person to other people nearby. People are thought to be most contagious when exhibiting symptoms but may also be contagious before exhibiting symptoms. With this information in mind, please familiarize yourself with the following everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.  
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow, then throw the tissue in the trash and
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Use disposable products for drying hands, such as paper towels, and no touch disposal receptacles.
  • Take extra care to keep shared food sanitary and separate. 
ACTION STEPS

All offices and host sites will implement everyday routines and practices that include many of the above suggestions. Examples of such practices could include:

  • Implementing a standard practice of everyone washing their hands when they come into the office
  • Daily office cleanings, especially of flat surfaces or high contact points (door knobs, light switches, etc.)
  • Regular reminders of the MCC “Culture of Caring”

Although we ourselves cannot prevent COVID-19 from reaching Montana we can be vigilant in our own practices and helping to mitigate the spread in our organization and communities. We will be taking further actions in the coming days to help mitigate external factors that may impact MCC in different ways.

Sincerely, Jono McKinney,  President and CEO