COVID-19 Information

*Washington State has officially re-opened  as of June 30th and we are updating our COVID policies in response. We are doing our best to update this page as changes are made, but feel free to email with questions!

How will you decide to run programs this summer?

  • We are following guidelines from the Washington State Health Department and Washington State Safe Start Plan (find links at the bottom of this webpage)  We are also tracking community spread in Whatcom and Skagit counties and vaccination rates to determine risk factors in our communities.
  • Many other outdoor programs have been operating safely in the past year which helps us feel confident we will be able to provide backcountry programming this summer.

Should I sign up now or wait and see how things are looking? 

  • You should sign up now!  Completing an application is not a binding process, but helps us know if people are interested. We will be in touch frequently as the program dates get closer, and if things change on your end you just let us know.

What will happen if the trips are canceled due to COVID-19? 

  • If a trip is canceled due to COVID-19, you will receive a full refund and will be notified of any opportunity to sign up for a later trip.

How will the program change due to COVID-19?

  • Since YLA mostly takes place outdoors, there are not many big changes we need to make to the program. Here are some specifics:
  • Transportation: Groups will be picked up in their own vehicle to ensure groups do not come in close contact with each other. Everyone will receive a rapid COVID test before getting on the vehicle and fill out a health screening. Everyone on the vehicle will wear a mask and windows will be open. The group will be tested again on the second night of the trip.
  • Physical distancing and masking: Groups will maintain a physical distance of 6 or more feet. When that is not possible, they will wear masks.  Once the group has had 2 negative tests, they will maintain 3' of distance and wear a mask if they are in close proximity for 15+ minutes, 
  • Sleeping arrangements: All students will sleep in 1-person tents.
  • Other changes include increases in hygiene practices with shared items and when cooking and limiting or eliminating any time spent indoors. 

What do participants need to do before the trip? 

  • We ask that students follow the guidelines set by Washington State Health Department to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19 before their trip. We are not enforcing a strict isolation, but ask students to be extra careful before the trip.
  • NCI staff will administer a rapid COVID test before students get on the bus. Anyone who self transports will be tested on arrival at our Learning Center. Participants will be tested again on their second night of the trip.
  • We are not asking students to get tested before coming on course, however, we will be asking students to disclose any contact history that would put them in a high risk category for contracting or transmitting COVID-19.
  • We will be conducting health checks when students arrive and each day of the trip (including a symptoms report and temperature check)

What steps are you taking to minimize the risk of someone contracting COVID-19 during their time with YLA? 

  • All the time with YLA is already outside, which already reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 between participants.  To further reduce the risk, participants will maintain physical distancing or wear masks when physical distancing is not possible.  
  • Implementing increased hygiene practices around cooking and shared objects, and giving each student an individual tent so students are not sharing sleeping space. 
  • Reducing contact with anyone outside of their trip cohort
  • Conducting health checks each day

Does that mean participants will be required to wear face masks? 

  • You will need to wear a face mask in specific situations, but not your entire time with YLA.  Whenever you need to be within close proximity of other group members, participants will be required to wear a mask, for example during transportation, during group activities or when indoors.  The majority of the time, physical distance can be kept between group members and masks do not need to be worn.  However, participants are welcome to wear a mask whenever it makes them feel comfortable.  

What are staff doing before and during the trip? 

  • All of our staff will be fully vaccinated for COVID 19 before the trips begin. They will also have daily health screenings while on the trip.

If the participant has received a COVID-19 vaccine, do they still need to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols? 

  • Yes, all participants, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to follow our COVID-19 safety protocols.  This ensures equity between those that have and have not received the vaccine. The only difference is that vaccinated participants will not need to be tested at the start of the trip.
  • If you have been vaccinated, congratulations! Please send us a copy of your vaccination card along with your registration documents.

Will you provide face masks or do I need to bring my own? 

  • We will provide 1 neck gaiter and 1 face mask for each student.  Students are asked to bring an additional cloth mask that follows the guidelines sent out in the pre-trip materials.

What will transportation be like?

What will sleeping be like? 

  • Each student will be given a 1-person tent during their trip to ensure their ability to distance from other participants while they are sleeping.  

What happens if someone in the group exhibits symptoms of COVID-19? 

  • Despite pre-trip testing and careful safety measures, it is impossible to guarantee that participants will not contract COVID-19 during their YLA trip. 
  • If a student exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 during the trip, we will evacuate them and require a parent / guardian to pick them up from our office at the Environmental Learning Center.  
  • The rest of the group members may remain on the trip.  If any students or staff have been exposed to the student exhibiting symptoms (defined as spending 15 minutes or more within six feet of the symptomatic person, without both wearing masks), they will be carefully monitored and might also be evacuated.

What happens if someone in the group tests positive for COVID-19?  

  • Our staff will follow up with any participants that leave the trip due to COVID-19 symptoms.  If the test results are positive, other participants and families/guardians will be informed. 

Who is making your health and safety plans? 

  • Our COVID-19 risk management plans are being made by YLA staff in conjunction with other NCI staff. We are carefully following Washington State Reopening Guidance and Department of Health Recommendations, see the resources below.


Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4 Overnight Group Summer Camps and Similar Activities COVID-19 Guidance”.

Child Care, Youth Development and Day Camps During the Covid-19 Outbreak

Safe Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance for Public Spaces

Outdoor Recreation Guidance

Covid-19 Reopening Guide for Business and Workers