3 December 2020
Cooler weather can mean many things like wearing hoodies and sweaters, snuggling up with a cup of hot cocoa, and getting ready for the holiday season. What it also means are illnesses such as colds, flu, and allergies are back in full swing. Plus, now there’s the latest and most deadly sickness of the twenty-first century, coronavirus. All activities and everything else will be shut down all over again, including scouting.
With respect to the Covid guidelines set by the state, Boy Scout troop 755 from Gambrills along with others in the Baltimore area council allowed the boys this past summer to see each other again, in person. It offers human connection once a week, and is a break from looking at screens and being inside all day. In-person meetings are also much preferable to being online, which the scouts were for a brief period of time.
Scoutmaster Mr Jomar Maldonado stated that “as long as we’re within the guidelines… the council allows us to meet.” He said camping trips are a similar deal, they’re permitted as long as they meet the “protocols.” Trying to do anything in person during this time must be done with extreme caution, and it’s likely things won’t return to the way they were for a while.
The troop was able to follow these new state guidelines, and those set by the BSA “pretty well,” said Donovan Lucas, a member of the troop. He claimed his troop has been doing everything they can to protect each other. The troop has been wearing masks, enforcing social distancing as best they can, and changing the way they do things, because everything, even the simple details, matters.
“At the outings we at least try to wear face covering when we are around people…we meet with the coverings and try to be as respectful as we can in terms of physical distance,” Mr Jomar says. He explains that on campouts there is a “one tent per person approach,” as opposed to 2-3 boys sharing a tent.
Rank requirements and getting badges has changed too. Scout Alex Turse said, “Especially if you’re almost eagle, you’re trying to schedule your project and coordinate how many volunteers can be there at the same time. He explained that there’s “two sides,” to work ethic during covid, he’s had a lot of free time to get things done, however his workrate is slower, and it’s harder to schedule. The BSA website has also offered alternate ways to get badges and ranks that may otherwise be impossible to get for boys who only meet with their troop online.
The troop did get to attend a summer camp this year too, although it wasn’t the traditional, as Mr Jomar said, “One summer camp each year, and usually with other troops we go to Pennsylvania border Maryland and rising sun, Horseshoe.” He explained that camp Horseshoe was shut completely, and similar camps such as Rodney had been revised so they were able to accommodate the new guidelines. However, Mr Jomar claimed that after meeting with the camp directors they didn’t seem too prepared.
Mr Jomar then explained their final decision: “We were going to do a five-dayntrip that was only the boys in our troop and do it that way and luckily there was a place in West Virginia that knew that there were people having issues with summer camps in the troop, and we had certain deals and we took that.” By staying at a normal family campside and doing local activities such as rock climbing and kayaking, the boys got to do many activities, which “led to people doing actual badges without them knowing,” Mr Jomar remarked.
He also shared that court of honors, the award ceremonies for badges and ranks, are different. “Usually for a court of honor we have all the parents come in and then the troop line up everybody together.” However, last May, they had a socially distanced ceremony outside. In October, they had to conduct it inside, but Mr Jomar said that to try and socially distance as much as possible, “we have to ask the parents not to show up, basically,” and also, just like during May’s ceremony, “we have the chairs distanced.”
Mr Jomar stated that the weather last summer did help with social distancing, “in the summer we could be outside and do social distancing and avoid contact, but as it is getting colder, you have to go inside a building, and the chances increase.” He believes that the troop will definitely be online once again, especially if cases rise this winter. He further explains that he thought “this was going to be like the other flus,” but now with Covid, the Flu, colds, and seasonal allergies, he states that the near future is going to be rough and uncertain for the troop.
This would be round two of the online meeting for the boys, as last spring merit badges were done entirely from their bedrooms.
Scout Brandon Palfi claimed that it helped with the dedication to the troop, and that, “it really showed them that no matter what life throws at you, you can still find a way to make the best of it,” Although he argued it’s nowhere near as good as learning in person. In scouts interactivity is everything.
Alex Turse said it’s easier for the younger scouts online. “It’s a lot easier because it’s just doing the requirements, it’s less working with other people.” Mr Jomar expressed similar views, saying the turnout wasn’t great, “usually we get about fifteen boys at every meeting, virtually we only got maybe nine, eight,” which was mainly due to the fact that some of the older boys didn’t need to go. This was because they already had all the merit badges Mr Jomar was teaching online, which were focused toward some of the younger boys.
“It started to feel a lot like a lecture, or a class, and we really didn’t want to do another class.” Mr Jomar said, expressing his feelings on the downside of virtual meetings. Boy Scouts is supposed to be a break from school, and online he claims, just became an extension of it.
Going online again, Mr Jomar stated he’d try to make the meeting more interactive and fun, utilizing “games” and stuff the boys were interested in, while still keeping it scout related. This should make the virtual meeting feel more normal, and encourage more boys to show up.
Scout Gabe Maldonado stated that scouts will have to be “more or less the same as it is now,” in the future, with masks and social distancing. He says everyone, not just scouts, will be much more mindful about germs and cleanliness, as the good practices we’ve seen during this time will not only keep us safe from Covid, but, “any other sickness or virus people have in general.” So, looking into the future, scouting could see a somewhat permanent change to it’s guidelines.
“The last pandemic was 1918-1919, the Spanish Flu…people thought that would be the last one because of all the progress we’ve made,” said Mr Jomar, explaining how people thought pandemics were a thing of the past. He said that Covid-19 will likely not be the last pandemic either, because of these “super viruses” that are able to “modify themselves to mitigate against the medicine.” He said that no matter what, never underestimate the power of this pandemic, and that more than ever we need to live by the scout motto, and “Be prepared.”