COVID-19 and Guest Retreats

All updates related to the impact of COVID-19 on guest groups at Highland will be posted here, starting with the most recent. Group leaders who have additional questions or concerns are invited to contact the Highland office by phone or email.

May 28, 2021 Current guidance for Highland’s guest groups

Highland Retreat is committed to working alongside groups to make a safe experience for you while you are
here for your retreat. Below is some guidance to help make your retreat as safe as possible during this time.

  1. Individuals who are sick themselves, have illness in their household, or have recently been exposed to COVID-19 should stay home. Keeping illnesses away from Highland Retreat benefits all of us.
  2. As directed by the State of Virginia, individuals should follow current CDC guidance in regards to wearing face masks. Vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks, while unvaccinated individuals should wear masks, especially in indoor settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing may not be possible. Please be respectful of others and their decisions to wear or not wear masks – some groups may still require their participants to wear masks, some persons may not be vaccinated, some persons may be protecting their family members that are not vaccinated, etc.
  3. Please do not enter any buildings, meeting rooms, or spaces that are reserved for other groups.
  4. Retreats for unrelated minors sharing sleeping facilities (e.g. camps, school retreats & youth groups) are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance for operating youth and summer camps.
  5. The swimming pool is limited to a maximum of 75 persons. In most cases, groups will be assigned swimming times to help regulate these numbers; groups should only come to the pool during their designated times.
  6. Groups are encouraged to open windows to indoor meeting spaces to provide extra ventilation.
  7. Highland Retreat staff will not come into guest sleeping areas or meeting spaces while guests are using the facility unless invited or to address a specific issue that cannot be resolved without coming into the building. When Highland staff enter a group’s space, they will wear face masks out of respect for guests and their own families.

May 15, 2021 Current guidance for Highland’s guest groups

Highland Retreat is committed to working alongside groups to make a safe experience for you while you are here for your retreat. Below is some guidance to help make your retreat as safe as possible during this time.

  • Individuals are not permitted on Highland Retreat grounds if, in any of the 14 days prior to their arrival date, (a) they have had any signs of a respiratory infection (temperature of 100 or greater, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), (b) they have had a household member with any signs of a respiratory infection, or (c) they have been or had a household member who has been in contact with someone with a known exposure to a COVID-19 case.
  • The State of Virginia requires wearing face coverings by anyone aged 5 and over in indoor spaces (meeting spaces, dining rooms, office, public bathrooms, etc) and when in outdoor settings if physical distancing of 6’ is not possible (pavilions, trails, recreation, etc).  Persons with health conditions or disabilities that prohibit wearing face coverings are exempt from this requirement.  Masks are not expected if interacting only with members of immediate households, while in personal sleeping areas, eating, swimming, or bathing, and for groups where everyone in the group is immunized.
  • Total group size may not exceed 250 persons.
  • Meeting room occupancy (assuming 6’ distancing between unrelated persons) is limited to the numbers below. Larger groups are expected to split into multiple spaces or choose to do larger gatherings outdoors, and may find it necessary to do multiple sittings for meals. Groups are encouraged to open windows in indoor meeting spaces to provide extra ventilation.
    • Mountain View – Hearthside: 40 unrelated persons, 60 persons maximum
    • Mountain View – Main Dining Room: 30 unrelated persons, 45 persons maximum
    • Mountain View – Crestview: 16 unrelated persons, 24 persons maximum
    • Red Oak Lodge – Oakview: 50 unrelated persons, 75 persons maximum
    • Red Oak Lodge – Woods Edge: 40 unrelated persons, 60 persons maximum
    • Tabernacle Pavilion: 200 persons under shelter
    • Sassafras Pavilion: 90 persons under shelter
    • Mt Everett Pavilions: 36 persons under shelter
  • Bedroom occupancy is limited to the number of beds in a room. Persons should not share a bed with anyone not from their immediate household. Extra persons sleeping on the floor of bedrooms is not permitted. Guests needing overflow sleeping are permitted to spread out in tents in designated areas outside their main lodge.
  • Retreats for unrelated minors sharing sleeping facilities (e.g. camps, school retreats & youth groups) are asked to follow the Virginia regulations for ‘Overnight Summer Camps’ and are expected to follow the meeting room/bedroom occupancy requirements given above.
  • The swimming pool is limited to a maximum of 60 persons. Highland staff will take temperatures of all persons coming to open swimming times. Guest groups are asked to take temperatures of their own members for reserved swimming times.
  • Highland Retreat recommends groups not have carry-in/potluck style meals, but instead have designated persons responsible for plating food for the group.
  • Highland Retreat staff will not come into guest’s sleeping area(s) or meeting space(s) while guests are using the facility unless it is address a specific issue that cannot be resolved without coming into the building.

More information about restrictions from the state Virginia can be found here.

April 1, 2021 Current guidance for Highland’s guest groups

Highland Retreat is committed to working alongside groups to make a safe experience for you while you are here for your retreat. Below is some guidance to help make your retreat as safe as possible during this time.

  • Individuals are not permitted on Highland Retreat grounds if, in any of the 14 days prior to their arrival date, (a) they have had any signs of a respiratory infection (temperature of 100 or greater, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), (b) they have had a household member with any signs of a respiratory infection, or (c) they have been or had a household member who has been in contact with someone with a known exposure to a COVID-19 case.
  • The State of Virginia requires wearing face coverings by anyone aged 5 and over in indoor spaces (meeting spaces, dining rooms, office, public bathrooms, etc) and when in outdoor settings if physical distancing of 6’ is not possible (pavilions, trails, recreation, etc).  Persons with health conditions or disabilities that prohibit wearing face coverings are exempt from this requirement.  Highland Retreat does not expect persons to wear masks if interacting only with members of their immediate household and while in personal sleeping areas, eating, or bathing.
  • Per regulations from the VA Health Department, Highland Retreat will not permit any overnight retreats for unrelated minors sharing sleeping facilities (e.g. camps, school retreats & youth groups). This restriction will be lifted after May 1.
  • Total group size may not exceed 50 persons in indoor settings, or 100 persons in outdoor settings.
  • Meeting room/bedroom occupancy (assuming 6’ distancing between unrelated persons) are as follows:
    • Mountain View – Hearthside/Main Kitchen: 50 persons
    • Mountain View – Crestview: 20 persons
    • Mountain View bedrooms: 3 unrelated/unvaccinated persons
    • Red Oak Lodge – Oakview: 50 persons
    • Red Oak Lodge – Woods Edge: 40 persons
    • Red Oak Lodge bedrooms: 4 unrelated/unvaccinated persons
    • Creekside Cottage: 2 unrelated/unvaccinated persons
    • Dogwood Cottage: 5 unrelated/unvaccinated persons
    • Tabernacle Pavilion: 100 persons
    • Sassafras Pavilion: 70 persons
    • Mt Everett Pavilion: 50 persons
  • Highland Retreat recommends groups not have buffet or carry-in style meals, but instead have designated persons responsible for plating food for the group.
  • Highland Retreat will supply groups with some basic sanitization supplies with instructions so that groups can sanitize their common areas (kitchens, common bathrooms, meeting rooms, etc).
  • Highland Retreat staff will not come into guest’s sleeping area(s) or meeting space(s) while guests are using the facility unless it is address a specific issue that cannot be resolved without coming into the building.
  • Recreation equipment is available to be checked out from the main office and should not be shared by unrelated persons.

Note: The guidelines above have been in effect since September, 2020; in April, the maximum group sizes increased.

July 1, 2020 – Update from Executive Director Kent Kauffman

Since March, Highland’s COVID-19 taskforce has been meeting regularly to evaluate the most current guidance and regulations issued from the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC. Our taskforce includes a medical doctor and a school administrator, along with representatives from Highland’s Board and staff.

As of July 1, Virginia has entered Phase 3, which allows businesses like Highland to serve larger groups and provide more services, as long as certain guidelines can be achieved. There are a number of things we are doing to serve guests differently, following the advice and directives of our COVID-19 taskforce. Here are some examples:

  • Our housekeepers have received additional training to help them maximize safety for themselves and our guests.
  • Common bathhouses are sanitized regularly throughout the day, in addition to daily cleanings.
  • Capacity in the pool area is currently limited to allow 10′ between unrelated swimmers.
  • All staff wear masks when having face-to-face conversations where 10′ of separation isn’t possible.
  • Kitchen staff wear masks and wash hands more frequently. Serving utensils are used by kitchen staff only.
  • All recreation equipment is stored in the main office, and is either sanitized or given a three-day rest between uses.
  • Capacity for meeting spaces is currently limited to allow appropriate physical distancing between participants.

Even as we are carefully taking precautions such as these, we are incredibly thankful to have an outdoor setting where physical distancing will often occur naturally. We are excited to be able to serve larger groups again, and hope to see many of you here with us in the near future

April 3, 2020 update

Highland Retreat’s Board of Directors has stated that, in accordance with current government guidance, no overnight groups may stay on Highland Retreat grounds. While all guest facilities are currently closed, day use visitors and volunteers are still welcome on Highland grounds, provided that there are no gatherings of more than 10 people in any designated area. This is in effect immediately and will extend through June 10, 2020, to coincide with the Governor of Virginia’s executive order issued on March 30, 2020. The board of directors has appointed a task force to make ongoing recommendations and policy changes regarding COVID-19.

For Guest reservations

For retreats being cancelled by Highland Retreat within a time of closure due to COVID-19, a COVID-19 Deposit and Cancellation Policy will amend our standard Deposit and Cancellation Policy. This new policy permits a full transfer of any prepaid deposits to a future reservation date. Groups cancelling outside of a current time of closure still fall under our standard Deposit and Cancellation Policy.

March 23, 2020 – Letter to group leaders from Guest Services Coordinator Ben Tyson (sent to May to mid-August groups)

Dear Group Leader,

We want to take the opportunity to proactively communicate with you concerning Highland Retreat’s response to recent developments concerning COVID-19. We are making every effort to ensure the safety of our guests, staff and facilities by complying with government regulations, best practices, and CDC recommendations. Yet we are hopeful that this current challenge will not disrupt your visit and that you can enjoy your time at Highland Retreat as planned.

  1. If it becomes necessary for Highland Retreat to make any changes to guest retreats in the spring or summer, you will receive a specific email from me pertaining to your group’s retreat.
  2. A COVID-19 taskforce has been created by the Board of Directors to evaluate and respond to information from various health care agencies. Updates to our current COVID-19 policies can be found at www.highlandretreat.org/covid-19-updates  
  3. Our housekeeping staff will receive extra training concerning COVID-19 and best practices for cleaning surfaces, laundry, hands and more. We will make sanitation supplies available to all visiting groups as well.

At present, our standard cancellation policy is still in effect for retreats from May forward. Our hopes are that you can be patient along with us and continue planning for your upcoming retreat. As a group leader, we encourage you to keep up to date on current travel restrictions (e.g. based on age, travel, or vocation) and statements from government officials.

This is a confusing time and we are glad to discuss any concerns you may have. Our deep desire is to weather this storm and get back to the work of providing a beautiful outdoor setting for groups like yours, and our commitment is to stay focused on that mission even during the challenge of COVID-19. 

May God provide for you and keep you safe during these times and all times.

March 16, 2020

Highland Retreat’s Board of Directors has stated that, in accordance with current government guidance, no group larger than 10 persons may meet on Highland grounds. This policy is in effect immediately and will initially extend through April 30th, 2020. During this time period, a special COVID-19 cancellation policy will supersede our normal cancellation policy. Additionally, the board of directors has appointed a task force to make ongoing recommendations and policy changes regarding COVID-19.