CGI Spanish Immersion Health & Travel Warnings Updates

Health & Travel Warnings Updates

The health and safety of our immersion travelers is # 1 priority for Common Ground International. Read below to learn more about current health and travel warnings that may affect your Spanish immersion travel.

Updated on March 8, 2022:

Summer travel plans are underway!

Current Operating status:

  • We are currently operating our Spanish Immersion programs in Ecuador and Costa Rica during the winter and summer months.
  • Since June, 2021, we have had the opportunity to work safely with 100+ travelers and have had zero COVID interruptions.
  • Spanish Immersion Programs are open for in-person learning with masks and social distancing under the guidance as of the Common Ground International medical review board consisting of: 3 physicians, 1 PA and 1 RN familiar with our Spanish immersion programs in Latin America.
  • All CGI trip leaders are fully vaccinated.
  • All travelers must fulfill local requirements in Ecuador and Costa Rica before the trip and during the trip
  • Primary contacts for all COVID program questions and modifications:
  • View updated real time COVID cases in Costa Rica according to the Ministry of Health

Costa Rica Entry Requirements:

  • There are no quarantine requirements for inbound travelers with a USA passport.
  • Costa Rica does not require a negative COVID test for entry, however CGI does require a negative test in order to participate in the program
  • Costa Rica requires all travelers to register and complete this health pass prior entry
  • Costa Rica requires mandatory health insurance that covers the costs medical expenses & quarantine expenses should the traveler get infected. The included health insurance with your program registration meets Costa Rica’s insurance requirements.

Program Modifications in light of COVID:

  • All travelers eligible for COVID vaccine must provide proof of vaccination to travel with Common Ground International. Eligibility is determined by county and state of residence and includes but is not limited to factors such as age and comorbidities.
    • We strongly recommend our high school participants who are 16+ to get the vaccine before traveling
  • Exceptions to the vaccination requirement may be made on an individual basis if the traveler requesting the exception demonstrates proof of positive antibody test and the circumstances of their situation are approved by our medical review board.
  • All travelers must present COVID negative test results to Common Ground International within 72hrs of departure for Costa Rica.
  • Travelers are required to follow the guidelines established by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health throughout the program.
  • Travelers must provide their own PPE. Masks and hand sanitizer are sufficient PPE in most cases
  • Group spaces are routinely sanitized throughout the day
  • Hand sanitizer is available at all times
  • Group and community interactions are masked and socially distanced
  • Group transportation (when necessary) is with windows open for maximum airflow

Lodging:

  • Host families will complete the same Health Pass questionnaire required for inbound travelers to Costa Rica. Any signs or symptoms of COVID in the home precludes the family from hosting travelers.
  • In most cases, host families will only receive 1 traveler at a time. Some situations may allow for 2 travelers within a host family.
  • Travelers will have their own rooms and likely share a bathroom with someone else in the family.
  • Host families will prepare 2 meals/day for travelers.
  • If a host family member gets sick, we determine likely exposure for the traveler. If, through contact tracing, we discover there was no exposure, we move the traveler to a new host family. If we determine there was exposure, the traveler is quarantined for 72hrs and then tested for COVID before further quarantine or being placed in a new host family (pending the results of the COVID test).

In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID case:

  • Traveler will leave their host family and quarantine themselves in one of our local apartments or in a hotel.
  • CGI staff will coordinate food & meal delivery service.
  • CGI staff will coordinate medical services as needed. Local private hospitals receiving COVID patients:
  • Traveler is responsible for all testing expenses. Closest testing facility is the Labín Laboratory in Santo Domingo de Heredia.
  • Traveler is responsible for all quarantine expenses (lodging is reimbursable by included insurance)
  • Traveler is responsible for all medical expenses (reimbursable by included insurance)

Leaving quarantine & returning to program post-infection:

  • The latest CDC recommendations are that a symptom-based strategy for travelers should be used in lieu of a testing-based strategy. Based on this recommendation, travelers may leave quarantine and reintegrate into the program 10 days after symptom onset (or positive test) and at least 24hrs without a fever.

Contact Tracing:

  • In the event of a positive COVID case within the immersion traveler community or individuals in contact with the immersion program, CGI staff and partners commit to notifying all individuals who may have been exposed to the infected person.
  • Additionally, we report the case to the local health clinic (EBAIS) in Santo Domingo de Heredia for further contact tracing support.
  • Exposure in this case is defined as more than 15 minutes together indoors and not socially distanced. Time spent together outdoors with maks and social distancing is not considered exposure.

Insurance coverage for COVID treatment:

COVID is covered as any other illness subject to the policy limits and limitations.

  • All travelers are covered with health insurance under the iNext Comprehensive Basic Group plan. Refer to page 3 of the linked document for detailed schedule of benefits.
  • Direct communication from iNext:
    • If symptoms are present, seek medical attention from a licensed professional (testing centers are approved). Save receipts if there is a cost and, ideally, obtain documentation of symptoms. File a claim for reimbursement with iNext through Coordinated Plan Benefits. Preventative/asymptomatic or exposure related testing is not covered.
    • If the insured tests positive, they should follow the instructions given by local authorities. In most cases, this will require isolating in their room until symptoms abate. Aside from the eventual cost of follow up testing, there would be no additional claim forthcoming, as the insured is in the accommodations that they would be normally, thus there is no out of pocket expense.
    • If hospitalization or other accommodations are deemed medically necessary by licensed authorities, then a medical case should be opened immediately with Generali Global Assistance. Assuming these costs would exceed USD $500, a direct pay relationship may be established with the attending facility. If costs are less than USD $500, then the insured pays out of pocket against a claim for reimbursement.
    • While all iNext plan variants provide for the COVID-19 medical inclusion, the Comprehensive Plans also have a specific up to $250 per day, max 10-day Trip Delay benefit to cover usual, customary, and reasonable costs such as food and lodging. Examples of this would include unexpected quarantine upon arrival in a country that forced you to incur out of pocket expenses by not being able to access your scheduled accommodations. The same can be said on the departing end if you were unable to depart as scheduled. In addition, for trips that move from location to location, a medically mandated quarantine that took you off the established itinerary would be eligible. Again, being quarantined in your established and usual surroundings does not trigger this benefit.
  • Travelers are required to pay out of pocket for lodging and treatment, flight changes, etc, and save receipts to submit for reimbursement upon return.

Requirements to return to the USA:

  • Travelers returning to the USA must complete and demonstrate proof of a negative COVID test within 72hrs of their return flight home to the USA.

Items to be determined as of March ‘21 for summer ’21 immersion travel:

  • Feasibility of weekly pooled testing for travelers while on program. Schools and businesses are doing this now in the USA. The medical review board will assess data and statistics of its effectiveness and make a recommendation in June.
  • Feasibility of certain community-based volunteer projects in underserved areas. This will depend heavily on local partners and their comfort levels and safety protocols.
  • Specific requests by university partners and individual travelers that will surface between now and summer ’21 travel dates.
  • Any adjustments or responses to the updated COVID landscape at the end of June ’21 when programs begin.

Updated on Dec. 17, 2020

We are hopeful about offering summer 2021 Spanish Immersion Programs. 

We have posted our summer immersion dates. These dates are subject to change as new covid developments take place and the vaccination roll-out plan becomes more defined.

Also, parts of our immersion programs may have to adjust and change depending on how we can most safely lead an immersion program. For example, if host families are not comfortable opening their homes due to covid- we will have to consider alternate lodging options.

We continue to work on our safety protocols behind the scenes.  We are also actively investigating how travel health insurance policies have changed and how to offer excellent secondary health insurance as part of the the travel insurance plan.

Stay tuned for more details. And please email Leslie Foster at lfoster@commongroundinternational.com with any questions you might have.

Thank you for your patience and flexibility!

Updated on Nov. 16, 2020

Promising news for Travel in 2021. 

Vaccine optimism:

As of mid-November, several pharmaceutical companies have recently announced that preliminary results from their Phase 3 vaccine trial showed it to be more than 90%+ effective.

  • A safe, effective, and well-distributed coronavirus vaccine is key for a return to travel normalcy. 
  • We still have a way to go; new cases and hospitalizations are currently at record highs. But with a light at the end of the tunnel, many of us will be getting through the winter months by funneling energy into summer 2021 travel planning. 

Future changes to travel:

While we are optimistic that we will resume international travel in 2021, we understand that the virus will likely be with us for some time, and our experiences will look a bit different. Once we are able to safely travel internationally, we suspect…

  • Masks will still need to used on planes and in public
  • Some countries might still require negative Covid test result. (Costa Rica recently just dropped this requirement)
  • Travel insurance policies are going to change
  • Possible requirement of a covid vaccine to travel internationally
  • We think all will have a great appreciation for travel:)

What is Common Ground International doing to prepare for safe travel in summer 2021?

  • We have been re-engaging with our programs under the premise that a possibility of exposure to COVID-19 is currently a part of our lives wherever we go. We are developing protocols and best practices alongside some of our industry peers and leaders.  
  • Continuing to monitor entry requirements regarding covid in the countries we travel to.
  • Getting the most up to date information on travel insurance policy changes and information regarding covid
  • Communicating with our host families, language schools, and volunteer partnerships

Ultimately, the wellbeing of our immersion participants, local community members, and immersion leaders will determine how the programs will operate. Your health and safety continue to be our top priority


March- Aug. 2020 updates (read below history of updates and communication)

ALL 2020 SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAMS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. WE ARE CONTINUING TO MONITOR THE SITUATION FOR OUR 2021 PROGRAMS.

***For latest updates, please scroll down. Last updated on May, 19th. After April 6th we have been sending individual program updates via email. Emails sent on:

  • Ecuador High School Program participants: on April 27th and May 5
  • Costa Rica High School Program Participants: on April 27th
  • Ecuador Medical and Educator Immersion participants: April 27th and May 5
  • Costa Rica Family, Educator and Medical participants: April 27th

To get the full context of decisions and helpful links start here.

Update March 2, 2020

The health and safety of our immersion participants is our top priority. We are closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19. We are actively following the guidance of the U.S Department of State, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO).

At this time, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not put any travel bans or restrictions for US citizens traveling to Ecuador or Costa Rica.

We have successfully managed travel complications and risks with the Ebola & Zika outbreaks in the last decade and you can be confident that we will not risk your health and safety during this Coronavirus outbreak.

While we are actively monitoring this situation, here is a list of preemptive and preventive measures for you to consider:

While your program does have a secondary medical insurance policy, we are investigating “Cancel for Any Reasons” additional insurance and will update you when we have more information on this.

  1. Follow this list of CDC preventive measures to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
  2. Refer to this CDC risk assessment by country to get a clear picture on any active health warnings for Costa Rica or Ecuador.
  3. Join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program that the US Department of State offers to stay up to date on all Department of State updates and warnings
  4. Review the World Health Organization’s Coronavirus MythBusters Page to make sure you understand the situation clearly

Sensible reminders & things to remain positive about:

  • Remember that we are in an election year, and view the news you consume through that lense. Some news stories you read may hyperbolize the facts, other news stories you read may downplay the facts. Please consume your Coronavirus news from the CDC for the most level-headed information.
  • Flu season in Latin America tends to be late in the year like September – December… so the most contagious times of year to travel don’t overlap with your Common Ground International immersion program travel dates.

Update March 10, 2020

To date, we are expecting to run successful summer Spanish immersion programs for all of our adult, high school, middle school & family clients in Ecuador and Costa Rica. We take traveler safety extremely seriously, and consult with the US Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for insight on traveler safety on our immersion trips.

What happens if Common Ground cancels my trip?

The CDC has a 3-tier system for rating the health risk for traveling to specific countries. Their rating system is as follows:

  1. Level 1: Practice usual precautions
  2. Level 2: Practice enhanced precautions
  3. Level 3: Avoid all non-essential travel

If the CDC rates your destination as a level 2, we will possibly adjust itineraries and activities to keep travelers in a low-risk travel environment.

If the CDC rates your destination as a level 3, we will cancel your immersion trip and offer you an alternative. That alternative might be a change in location or a change in date of travel. If you would prefer a refund, we will issue you a refund of the program expenses you’ve paid to date up to 90% of your total program fee*. 

The US Department of State has a 4-tier security rating system to assess the security risks of traveling to specific countries. Their rating system is as follows:

  1. Level 1: Exercise normal precautions
  2. Level 2: Exercise increased caution
  3. Level 3: Reconsider travel
  4. Level 4: Do not travel

If the State Department rates your location as a Level 3, we will possibly adjust itineraries and activities to keep travelers in a low-risk travel environment.

If the State Department rates your destination as a level 4, we will cancel your immersion trip and offer you an alternative. That alternative might be a change in location or a change in date of travel. If you would prefer a refund, we will issue you a refund of the program expenses you’ve paid to date up to 90% of your total program fee*. 

What if Common Ground is running a trip and I decide that I want to cancel?

If neither the CDC nor the State Department travel advisories reach our cancel threshold, we will run our summer Spanish immersion programs as scheduled. If you decide to cancel your travel on a program that we are running, you have two options:

  1. Transfer 100% of your program deposit and balance payments to a future program
  2. Forfeit your payments to Common Ground, and seek reimbursement from a Cancel for Any Reason insurance policy

Please note…your airfare will be subject to the policies of the airlines.

If you are uncertain about your ability to travel during this time, we suggest that you consider Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) trip insurance. This type of policy is usually only available for purchase within 14 – 20 days of your initial deposit for a program. If you would like to consider CFAR insurance for your trip, we suggest quoting a policy here at travelinsurance.com

*Total program fee does not include flights or additional travel insurance you’ve purchased. Additionally, if Common Ground has made non-refundable payments such as lodging (hotels and host families), tours and other non-recoverable and non-transferrable program payments, your refund will be pro-rated based on those pre-paid expenses.


Update March 12, 2020

Last night the State Department issued a Global Health Advisory and raised the travel advisory to all countries to a level 3: Reconsider Travel. The CDC has both Costa Rica and Ecuador listed at a health advisory of Level 1: Practice usual precautions. We will continue to closely follow updates and changes from the CDC, The State Department, and the Word Health Organization.

We want to invite you to wait with us. The speed at which this COVID-19 landscape is evolving is unprecedented. Please prioritize taking care of your family and friends, practice social responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable, and hold off on making any decisions regarding your summer Spanish Immersion travel plans for now. New developments are taking place hourly and we have time on our side. We think it is wise to hold off on making any drastic decisions at this time regarding your travel plans. Additionally, for now we also suggest you hold off on making any other program balance payments until further notice.

We are in a holding pattern right now as we observe the progression of coronavirus in the Americas. We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to run our summer immersion programs safely. Your health and safety remain our utmost priority. We will continue to update you as more information becomes available.

Please wait with us on making any final decisions for now. There is really no risk in waiting. In the meantime, let’s practice good hygiene, take care of our families and friends, help protect our communities, and stay calm.

We appreciate your patience as we navigate these challenging times and we are so very thankful for your trust. Your health and safety has always been and continues to be our top priority.

We are committed to staying in touch with you regarding new developments that concern your travel.

Be well, take care of your families and communities!


Update March 20th, 2020

Last night the State Department updated the Global Health Advisory and raised the travel advisory to all countries to a level 4: Do not travel. The CDC has both Costa Rica and Ecuador listed at a health advisory of Level 3: Avoid Non-essential travel. We are continuing to follow updates and changes from the CDC, The State Department, and the Word Health Organization.

We STILL invite you to WAIT with us. This is an unprecedented time and the changes are occuring at such a fast pace. At the time of this email we are still 3+/- months aways from our summer travel programs.

We expect to make a final decision on whether your program is a go or not 30 days before your program start date. We want to do all that we can to keep doors open for the summer immersion travel you’ve been excited for, and 30 days seems to be a reasonable and prudent time window.

Please continue to wait with us and do all that you can to keep your family healthy and “flatten the curve” that we’re hearing so much about now. There is no risk in waiting. In the meantime, let’s practice good hygiene, take care of our families and friends, help protect our communities, and stay calm.


Update April 6, 2020

WE’RE STILL WAITING!!! And we thank you for your patience in waiting with us. April is going to be a very telling month on whether summer travel will be feasible or not. We are continuing to follow the CDC, the State Department and the WHO updates. In addition to this, we are in weekly communication with our partners in Ecuador and Costa Rica and are continuing to get the most current news from these countries which can be hard to find with our news sources in the United States. All travel is on pause right now. We hope to have some definitive answers in May on whether our summer travel programs will happen. In the meantime, please hang tight and focus on taking care of you and your loved ones during this time.


Update May 19, 2020

All summer 2020 programs have been cancelled. We look forward to traveling safely with you starting again in February 2021. Be well, take care of your families and communities!

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