Return to Service: Re-entry Planning and Process
To enable a safe return to service following the global evacuation of volunteers in March of 2020, the Peace Corps has developed a robust set of external and internal criteria to evaluate each post based on medical, security, programmatic, administrative, and logistical criteria. The agency will determine when conditions permit the return of Volunteers to each individual post and will continue to monitor and respond to changing circumstances after Volunteers’ return to service.
Service will require understanding and acceptance of the additional risks that come with volunteering in a pandemic and will require compliance with agency standards for mitigating these risks wherever possible. The Peace Corps seeks Volunteers who are ready to meet this historic moment with a sense of responsibility, empathy, and passion. Volunteers will work alongside partners to make progress on the biggest development challenge the world has faced in more than a century.
Re-entry risk evaluation and mitigation
The Peace Corps is committed to mitigating risk as the agency returns Volunteers to in-person service.
The Peace Corps re-entry process is built on three key components:
1. External review
The Peace Corps continuously tracks and considers COVID-19-related factors that are outside the control of the agency. This ongoing review includes, but is not limited to:
- Monitoring health metrics: Among the criteria for re-entry, the largest number of criteria are medical considerations. The Office of Health Services and its Epidemiology Unit use tools to measure both country-specific COVID-19 epidemiological trends and the country’s medical capacity for providing health care services to Volunteers. From these tools, the agency assesses a robust set of indicators for each post in order to determine when conditions are appropriate for re-entry.
- Collaborating with host governments: Posts remain in regular contact with host governments and national agencies. Each post’s site identification and preparation process includes contacting each community and host agency to confirm their readiness to work with and host Volunteers and/or Trainees.
2. Internal review
Happening parallel to the external review is the evaluation of posts’ readiness for re-entry, with special focus on the ability to implement procedures to reduce and mitigate risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Internal measures for consideration include:
- Medical Assessments: This includes assessments of new medical facilities, reassessment of existing health care resources, ability to evacuate Volunteers in the event of serious medical events, and the establishment of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) inventories.
- Safety and Security Planning: This includes revised post-specific Emergency Action Plans, which address potential emergency situations that may impact Peace Corps operations, including COVID-19 outbreaks.
- COVID-19 Risk Mitigation: This includes a comprehensive set of risk mitigation planning protocols intended to address possible risks associated with COVID-19 throughout the Peace Corps Volunteer service continuum.
3. Response teams
Select teams of Peace Corps headquarters and post staff continuously monitor and respond to conditions before, during, and after Volunteers’ arrival in their countries of service.
Headquarters response team: This group is charged with ensuring that the agency is up to date on developing COVID-19 conditions and is adapting to allow for effective field operations. The team regularly meets and reviews relevant agency and federal guidance and regulations, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and makes recommendations for adjustments to external re-entry criteria and internal measures. Representatives are included from the following offices:
- Office of Global Operations
- Office of Health Services
- Office of Safety and Security
- Office of Management
- Office of General Counsel
- Staging and Pre-Departure
- Three regional offices: Africa, Europe, Mediterranean & Asia, and Inter-America and the Pacific – representing all of our overseas posts.
Post-level response teams: Response teams at each post monitor in-country conditions, assess country-specific mitigation strategies, and review updated guidance from headquarters, as appropriate.
- These groups are comprised of senior post leadership, as well as medical officers and safety and security managers at each post.