Updates to COVID-19 In-Person Mentoring Guidelines

December 16, 2020, bigstwincities

UPDATED 11/1/2021

As temperatures drop and we spend more time indoors during the fall and winter months, we want to remind you of our COVID-19 guidelines. BBBS has consulted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health in making the following recommendations:

  • All individuals must wear masks at BBBS’s Minneapolis office, including volunteers, families, Littles, staff, and other visitors.
  • Matches who choose to meet indoors (including being in cars together) are strongly encouraged to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and observe other pandemic safety precautions like hand washing, not touching your face, and staying home if sick.
  • If any member of a match (parent/caregiver, volunteer, or Little) is uncomfortable meeting in person, BBBS encourages virtual meetings. Matches are not required to meet in person, but are required to remain in regular communication with one another and with BBBS.

BBBS will continue to offer match events throughout the fall and winter months. Some of these events will be indoors, some outdoors. Event participation is optional; please attend only those events in which all parties are comfortable and you are willing and able to comply with agency COVID protocols (masking, staying home if you are sick, etc.).

Your BBBS match engagement coordinator can assist you in finding fun, engaging virtual activities to do with your match if you choose not to meet in person and/or attend group events.

Pfizer has received emergency use authorization for its COVID vaccine for children ages 5-11 years. The vaccine will be available to younger children in early November. If you have questions regarding the vaccine, please refer to the Minnesota Department of Health website. If you are interested in getting a vaccine for yourself or another family member, please consult your primary care provider or make an appointment at your local pharmacy. COVID-19 vaccines are free to the public and you are not required to have health insurance.

We will continue to monitor and follow CDC and state guidelines in an effort to keep our staff, volunteers, Littles and families safe and healthy!

UPDATED 8/2/2021

We’re currently seeing an increased spread of COVID-19 across the country and here in in Minnesota.  The Twin Cities has reached a substantial/orange COVID-19 transmission rating. The latest guidance is that individuals in counties at this “substantial” level should wear masks when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.  At this time, Hennepin County, where our offices are located, is at the substantial/orange level. Therefore, effective today, BBBS is requiring all individuals to wear masks at indoor events and in our office. We are also encouraging virtual and remote meetings, interviews, and match introductions, and are not requiring matches to meet in-person if any participant does not feel comfortable doing so.  

We strongly encourage matches meeting indoors (including being in cars together) to wear masks, practice social distancing, and other pandemic safety recommendations, like hand washing and staying home if sick. If you have concerns or questions about these recommendations, please reach out to your match engagement coordinator. We will continue to monitor and follow CDC and state guidelines to keep our staff, volunteers, Littles and families safe and healthy!

UPDATED 5/19/2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health have updated their COVID-19 guidelines for in-person interactions, including recommendations for persons who have been fully vaccinated (defined as being more than two weeks out from receiving either the single-dose vaccine or their second dose of a two-dose vaccine). Accordingly, BBBS Twin Cities has updated its guidelines and recommendations for in-person match meetings.

When considering whether or not to meet in person, or what to do together, BBBS Twin Cities asks you to consider the following:

  • Is everyone in agreement and comfortable with meeting in-person? If not, please continue to meet virtually; BBBS is not requiring in-person meetings at this time.
  • Have you talked with your child’s Big or your Little and their parent/guardian(s) about masking expectations and what types of activities and locations are acceptable?
  • Is the Big or the Little, or anyone in their household, at increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19? If so, please practice the highest level of caution when deciding where/how to meet, including wearing a mask at all times.
  • Is the Big, Little or anyone in either household sick or have had recent direct exposure to COVID-19? If so, please delay your in-person match meeting until it is safe and appropriate to get together.
  • Have you signed the BBBS in-person meeting agreement?  If not, please sign, and ask your Little’s parent/guardian to sign the waiver.

If you’ve passed the above checks, below are BBBS Twin Cities’ guidelines for in-person match activities and meetings.

Please Note:  All matches are encouraged to carry face masks with them on any match outing in order to comply with different masking requirements throughout our community. 

If masks are required by a business or local jurisdiction, or MDH or the CDC recommend/require masks, all participants are expected to wear a mask.  At this time, the CDC recommends everyone wear a mask if you are in a crowded setting or venue, such as sporting events or outdoor concerts, in facilities, such as hospitals, when using public transportation, or in other places where people cannot stay 6 feet from others and you are with people you don’t know. Further, the Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul require masks in public indoor spaces, even if visitors/guests are fully vaccinated.

For Fully-Vaccinated Matches:  If the Big and the Little are both fully vaccinated, then they can gather outdoors or indoors without wearing a mask, including in vehicles. If anyone in the match is more comfortable with masking, please respect that and wear a mask.

For Non-Vaccinated Matches and Partially-Vaccinated Matches: An important part of mentoring is modeling healthy behaviors and establishing good boundaries to keep oneself and others safe. As part of this, we are strongly encouraging and recommending that everyone wear a mask while indoors in public spaces, including vaccinated adults, as long as any member of the match or outing is not fully vaccinated.  

  • Outside: Masks are encouraged, but are not required to be worn outside if everyone is able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. 
  • Inside Private Locations with Less than 2 Households Present: If adults are fully vaccinated, masks are not required.
  • Riding in a Vehicle: Masks are required if all adults in the vehicle present are not fully vaccinated.  We also encourage limiting the number of passengers and ventilating the vehicle.

As a reminder, it is important that all participants respect one another’s decisions about meeting in person, including location (indoors/outdoors), protective measures, and activities. These guidelines are minimum expectations. If someone wants more COVID-related protections than CDC/MDH and BBBS are requiring (for instance, everyone wearing a mask outdoors when on a match outing,) please respect that, or continue to meet virtually.  If you have concerns or need support with these conversations, please contact your BBBS coordinator.

UPDATED 12/16/2020

Governor Tim Walz has loosened restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 , but warned that caution is still needed to prevent further spread of the virus. The new order, which takes effect at midnight on Saturday, December 19, replaces a four-week pause that prevented Bigs and Littles from meeting in person. Updated guidelines now allow the following:

  • Indoor group gatherings involving up to two households and no more than 10 people;
  • Outdoor gatherings with no more than three households and 15 people.

While the governor is allowing indoor gatherings for individuals from two different households, we still encourage matches to meet outdoors whenever possible and limit time in enclosed spaces like vehicles.  If you choose to be inside or in a vehicle together, at a minimum we ask you to follow Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including wearing a mask, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet, washing your hands, not touching your face, and staying home if you or someone close to you has symptoms of COVID-19. Try to allow for ventilation through open windows and fresh air when possible. 

It is the decision of each individual family and volunteer whether to meet in person or virtually. Governor Walz’s new restrictions do not prohibit one-on-one interactions (like a Big and a Little meeting in person) as long as proper safety guidelines are followed. However, all participants must wear a mask while together and all parties must agree to resume meeting in person. If you haven’t already done so, all parties (Big, Little’s parent/guardian) must sign an in-person meeting agreement and acknowledgement form prior to meeting in person. Please refer to “COVID-19 In-Person Match Meeting Guidelines” in the original blog post below for more information.

UPDATED 11/20/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenges in our lives, with more and more Minnesotans getting sick, hospitals reaching capacity, and cases of coronavirus spiking across the state. At Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities, we’re doing all we can to keep our Littles, families, volunteers, and community safe by complying with all state guidelines and procedures.

You may have heard that Governor Walz implemented new state restrictions that go into effect today, November 20. He has implemented Dial Back, Minnesota, a temporary pause of most social activities, including no indoor or outdoor gatherings with anyone outside immediate household members. 

All matches are required to follow these new restrictions, which would prohibit Bigs and Littles from meeting in person for the next four weeks (through December 18, 2020).

We realize that this news may be disappointing. In an effort to keep you, your family, and our community safe, we ask that all matches return to virtual activities or connect by telephone or mail during this time. If you need suggestions for safe activities to do together, or how to have a conversation about this with your child’s Big, please reach out to your program coordinator.

We recognize that this is a very difficult time. The BBBS team is here to support you in any way we can. Please let us know how we can help! Also, be sure to check out all the different resources on our website.

Please stay safe and be well!

UPDATED 11/11/2020

On Tuesday, November 10, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced new state restrictions in an attempt to mitigate the significant rise of COVID-19, including continued guidance around recommended practices to reduce risk of transmission and limits on size of gatherings.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities continues to follow official state guidelines in our ongoing efforts to keep our Bigs, Littles, families, and staff safe.

If you choose to meet in person, at a minimum, we ask you to follow Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including not getting together if you have symptoms of COVID-19, always wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and washing your hands.

It is the decision of each individual family and volunteer whether to meet in person or virtually. Governor Walz’s new restrictions do not prohibit one-on-one interactions (like a Big and a Little meeting in person) as long as proper safety guidelines are followed. However, all parties must agree to meeting in person. Please refer to “COVID-19 In-Person Match Meeting Guidelines” in the original blog post below for more information.

We understand the anxiety involved in making decisions that potentially affect the health and safety of you and your loved ones. We know that people may make different decisions now than they did previously and may wish to go back to virtual meetings given the current rise in COVID-19 cases. We support your right to choose what is best in your situation. We also understand how important the relationship is between our Bigs and Littles, especially during times of increased stress and isolation. It is up to each match participant to make decisions about what is best for your household and match. Please remember that choosing not to meet in person does not reflect your level of commitment to your match.

Our BBBS team is here to support you in any way we can. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your program coordinator if you need any advice or resources to help you maintain a supportive and rewarding relationship with your match.


UPDATED 9/24/2020

As the seasons change, and with a new school year underway, BBBS is providing an option for the next phase of reopening for Community-Based matches. These changes provide an option to allow Mentors/Bigs to transport Mentees/Littles, or to meet in indoor public locations.

Beginning today, Thursday, September 24, Bigs and Littles are once again allowed to travel together in the same vehicle or meet in a public indoor location, with certain precautions. Because we are still under guidance from the State of Minnesota to practice social distancing and wear face masks, and we want to keep all Bigs, Littles and their households safe, BBBS asks you to follow these guidelines when participating in an in-person meeting.

COVID-19 IN-PERSON MATCH MEETING GUIDELINES

  • Decision to Meet – The Big, Little, and Parent/Guardian must all be comfortable with the match meeting in-person, including transportation or inside locations. Regardless of the Little’s age, the visit must be approved by the Parent/Guardian ahead of time. If the Little or their family is not comfortable with in-person meetings at this time, please be respective and understanding of this.
  • Location of Meeting – Outdoor visits are best, but matches may also decide to meet indoors, in a public location, that complies with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, including face masks, social distancing, and good sanitation and ventilation. In-home visits are not permitted at this time. Eating indoors in a restaurant is strongly discouraged.
  • Transportation – Bigs are permitted to transport Littles. Required precautions include: face masks worn by driver and passenger(s); the Little must sit in the back seat, furthest from the driver, car windows must all be open to allow ventilation, and the Big should sanitize the area where the Little will ride before and after the visit.
  • Protective Measures:
    • Anyone participating in the visit must wear an appropriate face covering or mask.
    • Please adhere to social distancing guidelines and stay at least 6 feet apart.
    • Please wash and sanitize hands before, during, and after the visit by washing hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds.
  • Digitally Signed Agreement and Acknowledgement: Before a meeting takes place, both the Big and the Little’s Parent/Guardian must digitally sign an agreement and acknowledgement that they have reviewed these guidelines, will uphold them, and are willingly beginning the process to meet/allow their child to meet in-person. The acknowledgement forms are located here:

It is important to take protective measures and consider risks for everyone in both the Big’s and Little’s households. Please do not meet if anyone living in either home:

  • is considered to be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19;
  • has been exposed or has an increased likelihood of exposure to COVID-19; and/or
  • has a fever, is sick with a cough or cold, or does not feel well for any reason.

Please keep in mind that the public health situation regarding COVID-19 is a fluid situation. The guidance from BBBS to meet in-person or virtually may change at any time. Please follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota’s COVID-19 requirements to help lower risk of transmission.

We know this is a difficult time, on so many levels, and understand that there are different comfort levels and willingness to resume meeting in-person. Please know that BBBS completely supports a decision to continue connecting virtually for the time being, or to choose to meet outside and not transport your Little. Meeting in-person is not required at this time.

If you have concerns or questions about how to support your Little during this difficult time in our community, resources can be found on our website and we are working on more resources, including training and additional support. As always, your BBBS staff member is available should you have any questions or concerns.