COVID-19: Expectations

March 25, 2020: Extending Course Suspension

Dear NOLS Students and Community,

Thank you for your ongoing support, patience, and enduring positivity as we navigate through this challenging time. 

As a school, we have come together in our efforts to understand, monitor, and help respond to COVID-19 impacts. We continue to work and stay in close consultation with federal and state public health experts, peer organizations, and our educational partners as we make decisions to support the health and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty. 

I would like to share updates that have taken place around the school. We do not make these decisions lightly and believe this immediate action will best support our students and people. 

As of March 16, NOLS suspended all courses currently in the field. Location teams are working to bring students back to campus at the first scheduled opportunity to leave the field for safe travel home. We see increasing uncertainty around domestic and international travel, signalled by cascades of new restrictions each day. We also see growing indications that the school may be unable to offer routine or emergency support to courses while they are in the field, even domestically. For these reasons, we made this decision at a point when we still have confidence in the societal support systems and freedom of travel that let us operate in an organized manner. 

As you can imagine, this is a complex effort to coordinate and NOLS is committed to working with impacted students by providing on-campus care, assistance in travel logistics, and overall support to help their efforts to return home. We are also working with our students through the financial impacts of these changes. 

As of March 17, NOLS cancelled upcoming field-based programming through May 11, 2020. Following governmental guidance around social distancing, group size restrictions, limiting travel, and ever-changing travel advisories, the school believes these efforts will allow us to contribute to “flattening the curve” of the pandemic. 

As of March 25, NOLS is extending the suspension of classroom courses to May 11, 2020 to follow the guidance of the CDC to postpone large events and gatherings where social distancing is difficult for eight weeks. 

The course changes are summarized as such:

  • Wilderness Medicine, Risk Services and Custom Education classroom-based courses are suspended through May 11. 
  • Expedition field courses are cancelled through May 11.

We will continue to assess the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on escalating travel, health, and safety restrictions and proactively communicate any impacts on future courses.

For our staff, the school has initiated telecommuting and work from home opportunities. We are asking staff to limit travel and unnecessary social mixing situations in an effort to slow transmission. The school is implementing a leave policy that provides 14 days of paid leave for employees showing symptoms or supporting family members who may be affected. We are also providing faculty impacted by course cancellations support including honoring qualifying work agreements, some travel reimbursements, and opportunity for alternative work. 

Beyond our students and staff, NOLS is considering ways in which the school and our people might be able to provide greater support to communities in which we operate.

These are unprecedented times, and each day we see changes that we would not have predicted even a week ago.  At the same time, it has been truly inspiring to see the NOLS and larger community come together as problem-solvers who know that we will get through this.  We don’t know when, and the horizon is shrouded in the fog of the immediate, but I am comfortable in our ability to navigate adversity and uncertainty. It’s what we do.

In the meantime, be kind to each other, look out for one another, be cautious with your health, and thanks for being part of our team.

Sincerely, 

Terri Watson
President

March 16, 2020: How is NOLS Wilderness Medicine helping people whose certification has been affected by the temporary suspension of courses?

NOLS Wilderness Medicine offers a two year certification with a one year re-entry period. We have taken the following measure to support students who may be affected by our temporary suspension of courses.

If your certification expires between 9/13/2020 and 3/12/2022, there is no change in your certification period or re-entry year.

If your certification expired/expires between 3/13/2019 and 9/12/2020 we are automatically adding 6 months to your certification length. Your twelve month re-entry period begins at the end of your new expiration date.

This applies to all NOLS Wilderness Medicine certifications including wilderness medicine, CPR, and epinephrine auto-injector. If your certification was issued by another training provider, please contact them directly. It is our understanding that other programs are considering a similar plan.

We are beginning work on a process to make these changes in our data system and to reissue new certification cards.  This will take some time and we ask for your patience while we work with our database programmers to institute this change.

March 13, 2020: Temporary Course Suspension

Dear Wilderness Medicine student,

Since January of this year, NOLS and Landmark Learning have been monitoring and actively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, in close consultation with federal and state public health experts, peer organizations, and our educational partners.

In the interest of safeguarding the health of students, faculty, and staff and joining in the national effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 today the NOLS leadership team made the difficult decision to suspend all NOLS Wilderness Medicine programming, including those courses managed by the Landmark Learning office, that begins on or after March 14th and continuing for the next 6 weeks. 

We know that our decision will impact those who need training, certification, and recertification and appreciate your disappointment and frustration.  In the weeks ahead we will explore ways to provide support for those of you whose certification is directly affected. 

We are planning to restart instruction again on April 24, 2020, but will continue to evaluate that decision as more information becomes available. Please continue to visit our update page and reach out to us with questions. This is a challenging time for all of us and information is changing quickly. 

We are happy to either transfer you to another course or to refund you fully. Please let us know your decision by April 14, 2020. If we do not hear from you by that date, we will automatically begin issuing refunds.

If you are receiving a scholarship from NOLS, or are using your Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, 529 education plan funds, or veterans benefits, the NOLS Wilderness Medicine office will be in touch with you directly.

If you have questions please reach out to our office at 828-293-5384, main@landmarklearning.org

Mairi Padgett
Landmark Learning Administrative Director

March 9, 2020: Seth Hawkins, MD

As the Medical Director for Landmark Learning, Seth Hawkins, MD, has spent a lot of time navigating a major COVID-19 international exposure for another organization within his oversight. Here is some basic information to work from in case you have known contact with COVID-19 individuals while traveling.

1) Contact your primary care team or Health Department. This makes medical sense since each case and region is different. The list of state health department numbers (staffed 24-7) is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/Phone-Numbers_State-and-Local-Health-Departments.pdf.
2) For your own information purposes, currently (and this changes rapidly), if the travel/exposure was within the past few days, and if you have been within 6 ft of the (+) patient for 10 minutes or more, or on the same flight with them, it is likely that “self-isolation” for 2 weeks will be recommended. Information on that process is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html
3) For more general information, one useful URL which appears to be fairly comprehensive and is updated fairly rapidly is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html, and more generally the entire CDC website on COVID-19 might be a useful reference, the launch pad for which is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
March 7, 2020: Letter to Students

To our students,

The NOLS and Landmark Learning team is monitoring the evolving coronavirus situation closely. With courses around the world, our priority is the health and well-being of our students and staff.

In the immediate timeframe, there are no travel or health advisories regarding COVID-19 at any of our course sites. Currently, we plan to conduct all of our scheduled courses unless travel is restricted by local, state, or federal authorities. If the travel and health advisories change, we will update and advise students proactively. We will continue to evaluate new information as it comes to light, and we are prepared to cancel courses if necessary.

While there are many news outlets reporting on the COVID-19 virus, our primary sources of information are:

As a preventative measure against disease transmission, we have a standard curriculum for hygiene practices when we care for patients.  These hygiene practices are equally important in preventing the spread of illness between students.

This curriculum already follows the recommendations of the CDC and will be supervised by faculty on all our courses to ensure compliance:

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Using the crook of your arm (inner elbow) to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing or using a tissue and disposing of it.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Asking students who are symptomatic of an upper respiratory illness (fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath) to leave the course or remain home.

We are augmenting these practices by increasing the supply of gloves and cleansers on our courses for the foreseeable future.

If you are not comfortable attending an upcoming course or you are sick, we are happy to transfer you to a later course offering. Please inform our office of your request prior to the start date of your original course.

Thank you for being a part of the NOLS and Landmark Learning community and choosing to learn how to care for others.

Melissa Gray
NOLS Wilderness Medicine Director

Posted by Mairi Padgett
Landmark Learning Administrative Director

Daily Prevention Habits

Prevention of communicable disease is proven to be highly effective using these common, non-pharmaceutical practices as a minimum:

  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, mouth with your hands
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow, piece of clothing, or a tissue
  • Wash hands regularly, before and after you eat, and after coming into contact with others
  • Follow these handwashing guidelines
  • Regularly sanitize surfaces including keyboards, doorknobs, telephones, etc
  • Stay home if you have a fever, cough/sneezing, sore throat, etc – do not expose others

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Mailing Address: PO Box 1888, Cullowhee NC 28723

Telephone: (828) 293-5384

Email: main@landmarklearning.org

Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am - 5pm EST