COVID-19: Practices, Policies + Guidelines
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic raises questions about health and risk management while attending wilderness medicine courses. We want to ensure you are aware of how we’re responding to the coronavirus pandemic, so you can make an informed decision about participation. These practices have been developed in consultation with federal, state, and local public health experts, peer organizations, and medical advisors and will continue to evolve as more information becomes known.
This document describes our expectations including COVID-19 testing, risk mitigation strategies, and CWS’ planned response in the event of illness during the course. Your choice to participate in a CWS course should be made based on your understanding of, and agreement with these practices.
Wilderness medicine courses are designed to train responders to provide medical aid. Close physical contact is an inherent part of our courses. We interact with and touch each other when we practice the skills of wilderness medicine such as splinting, patient movement, bleeding control, basic life support and when we practice patient care with scenario-based learning. CWS has always had curriculum and practices in place to educate students and reduce the risk of disease transmission. We have implemented additional strategies to further reduce the risk of disease transmission associated with physical proximity, but we cannot eliminate it.
People who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should carefully consider, in conjunction with their health care provider, whether to attend a wilderness medicine course at this time.
Our ability to reduce risk to all participants relies on your commitment to choosing behaviors prior to and during your course that support the health and wellbeing of everyone involved in your course.
CWS reserves the right to cancel any course at any time based on changing information or restrictions that affect our ability or willingness to operate at a given location. We will notify students as soon as possible if this occurs.
Pre-Course COVID-19 Testing
To participate in any Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA), Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician Upgrade (WEMT) course taught by CWS, upon arrival you must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 5 days prior to the course start date. COVID-19 PCR tests are preferred, but COVID-19 Antigen tests are acceptable. The results of a COVID-19 antibody test are not acceptable. Students who arrive without proof of a negative test result will not be permitted to participate in the course.
Is a negative COVID-19 test required for all wilderness medicine course types?
No. A negative COVID-19 test result is only required on courses greater than three days in length. It is not required for Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Aid Afloat courses. As testing options increase, we will revisit this decision.
What if I cannot find a COVID-19 test in my area?
If you live in the United States, CWS recommends you order a test from Vault Health. These tests can be administered at home under video supervision. The sample is returned using prepaid expedited shipping and results are delivered electronically within 48-72 hours after the sample is received.
If you choose a Vault test, please ensure you order the test at minimum 1 full week before the first day of your course, to ensure sufficient time to receive, take, and return the test, and receive your results before the first day of your course.
What if I can’t get test results in the prescribed time window?
You will not be allowed to participate in your course without a negative COVID-19 test result. You may be able to find a rapid COVID-19 testing site near the course location and join the course late. However, if you miss more than 10% of the course hours, you will not be eligible for certification.
What if I have already had COVID-19, do I still need to provide a test result?
- If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 more than 90 days prior to the course start date, you must provide a negative COVID-19 test result to participate. The latest negative test result must be from a test administered no more than 5 days prior to your course start date.
- If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 between 90 and 14 days before the course start date you will need to bring proof of your positive test result or documentation from a health care provider stating a diagnosis of COVID-19 in lieu lieu of a negative test result.
- If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days, for the safety of yourself and others, you be required to delay your course participation until a later time.
If I received the COVID-19 vaccine, do I still need to provide a negative test result?
Yes. As of now, it is assumed that post-vaccine you may still be carrying and possibly shedding the virus.
What if I can’t afford a test?
Free testing is available in many places and some health insurance plans also cover testing.
What if my COVID-19 test is positive?
If your test result is positive, do not travel to your course. Please contact the organization you registered with to assess your options. If you registered directly with CWS, please contact email@example.com or call toll free 1 (855) 505-1700 during normal business hours.
COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Strategy
In addition to pre-course testing for our longer courses, CWS has instituted a 5-component strategy to decrease the risk of infectious disease spread in our classrooms. These practices reflect our assumption that every person is a potential carrier of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We will model and describe them all in greater detail at the beginning of your course.
All participants are expected to participate fully in this strategy. Your actions directly affect the health and wellbeing of all course participants.
We will monitor and assess all participants daily. You will be expected to check in each morning, answer questions regarding symptoms, and have your temperature checked.
- Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, nasal congestion or sneezing (different than pre-existing allergies), abdominal discomfort (nausea/diarrhea), muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
- A temperature of over 100.4°F (38°C).
- In the past 14 days, have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19. If a healthcare provider, In the past 14 days, have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 without wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Wash or sanitize your hands after interactions with others and/or entering or leaving group settings.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or your arm if you sneeze or cough.
- Wipe down surfaces and equipment after use using the provided cleaning materials.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Bring and wear a cloth or surgical mask for use before and after class.
- Wear a provided KN95 mask when mask use is required. Assume this will be at all times during educational activities and short breaks. Protect, isolate, and rotate the masks provided to you.
- Wear the provided non-latex nitrile gloves when in contact with another person.
- Bring eye protection (sunglasses and safety glasses are okay) to wear when working in close contact with other participants.
Distancing & Outdoor Classes
When feasible, physical distancing will be practiced and activities involving student contact will be conducted outdoors.
Compliance & Behavior
- Model your commitment to quality medical care by supporting these strategies.
- Help others remember and adapt to these new practices.
- Stay home if you feel sick or the instructor asks you to leave class based on screening.
Questions About Our Guidelines
We understand that this is all new to everyone; us included, so we’ve put together a list of common questions to help.
Will my course be safe from coronavirus?
Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is a new risk for everyone and (like other risks) cannot be eliminated. The updates to how CWS operates a course have been developed and implemented to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and to detect signs of illness. For those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please carefully consider, in conjunction with your healthcare provider, whether to attend a CWS course at this time.
Am I required to follow the stated practices?
Yes. All students and instructors are expected to adhere to the above practices and refusal to comply is grounds for dismissal from a course with no tuition refund. These practices are designed to reduce the risk of illness for all participants and would be expected in any setting where you are providing healthcare or first aid.
What if I have a mask exemption card or letter?
We recognize that wearing a face-covering or mask for extended periods of time is not feasible for everyone. However, mask usage is an integral part of our risk reduction strategy. If you are unable to tolerate wearing a mask for up to four hours at
Have you made any updates to the paperwork I need to be aware of?
- At times students will be in close physical proximity to one another or instructors.
- Illnesses may include…communicable and other infectious diseases from insects, animals, or people such as diarrhea, flu-like or respiratory illness, and other debilitating or life-threatening conditions including COVID-19 and other diseases caused by Coronaviruses.
- Participate fully in CWS’s strategies to decrease the risk of infectious disease spread in our classrooms.
What should I be aware of while traveling to my course?
We request that you take steps to limit your exposure for 14 days prior to and while traveling to your course. This includes practicing physical (social) distancing, wearing a mask or face covering when in public or when physical distancing is not possible, frequent hand washing, and monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19.
Illness Prior to or During a Course
What happens if I get sick before my course?
Do not travel to your CWS course if you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), have in the past 14 days been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19, or you are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 in the past 10 days. We will work with you to transfer your enrollment to a later course.
What happens if I get sick during my course?
If you become ill during your course or your instructor asks you not to attend class based on screening, you should seek medical advice. Based on the medical advice you receive you may or may not be able to continue with your course. CWS will evaluate each situation and work with you and the course sponsor to either prorate a tuition refund or to assist you in finishing your course at a later time.
What happens if I am exposed to someone with COVID-19 while not wearing PPE?
If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you were not wearing your full course-level PPE, you will need to remove yourself from the course and seek medical advice. This contact might occur outside of class hours, or during breaks in the course.
You will likely need to begin quarantine and will not be able to continue with your course. CWS will evaluate each situation and work with you and the course sponsor to either prorate a tuition refund or to assist you in finishing your course at a later time. CWS is not responsible for expenses related to a positive COVID-19 test.
What happens if a course participant tests positive for COVID-19 during my course?
If a student or instructor tests positive for COVID-19 during your course, that individual will be separated from the course and directed to seek medical advice and begin isolation. Though each situation will be evaluated independently, CWS will endeavor to continue the course for the remainder of the students. Our medical advisors support this strategy based on the level of personal protective equipment used during our courses.
If CWS cancels the remainder of the course, we will work with students to prorate a tuition refund. If a student chooses to leave a course CWS decides to continue, no tuition will be refunded. CWS is not responsible for expenses related to a course impacted by a positive COVID-19 test.