A Safe Return to Fencing Competition is Near. Get Hyped.

Note: This blog post was written and posted on March 8, 2021. Vaccination numbers and CDC guidance are constantly evolving, so in all likelihood, the data and sources presented in this article will be obsolete within the next few days. Check the CDC website for updated metrics and more information on guidance.

Get your weapons ready. Grab your armory toolkit, your weight and shims, and a bottle of WD-40. Because a safe return to Fencing is coming soon. There is hope.

According to NPR, 9.2% of the United States has now been administered a double dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, with 17.7% of the population receiving their first round[1].

President Biden recently projected that there would be enough Covid vaccinations available for the US by the end of May[2], and just earlier today, the CDC issued new guidance that fully vaccinated people can “visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing,” though still urged us to “avoid medium and large-sized in-person gatherings.[3](aka NAC’s and such)

The optimistic shift in guidance is an indication that perhaps tournaments as super spreader events will soon be a thing of the past.

Suppose President Biden’s projections of May vaccine availability become true, and any American wanting a vaccine will be able to receive one. According to MU Health, when 80-90% of the population is vaccinated (or previously infected), we will have achieved a state of herd immunity[4].

Does herd immunity mean a safe return to NAC’s and other competition? Eugene Vortsman, a former foil fencer and now Emergency Medicine physician seems to think so:

“It’ll be safe if people are vaccinated. Increased viral load happens with active infection, so with vaccination, you lower infectiousness from the virus, leading to lower transmissibility. If you prevent and minimize infection, the amount of virus in the carrier is less than if they were actively infected.

Let’s say at upcoming NAC’s, there are hand washing stations, alternatives to handshakes, improved ventilation in the venue and minimized skin to skin contact, I’d feel good about maskless competition to the best of our knowledge at this point. These recommendations might change depending on how the Covid variants present themselves.”

Vortsman also called on USA Fencing to incorporate flexibility into registration deadlines and cancelations though to accommodate surges in illness and other unexpected public health issues.

While there is hope, for now, don’t change your behavior. Mask up, socially distance, and continue following CDC travel recommendations.  The next post will cover some concrete recommendations USA Fencing can incorporate to bring us back to competition safely.

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/28/960901166/how-is-the-covid-19-vaccination-campaign-going-in-your-state

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/02/politics/biden-merck-johnson–johnson-vaccine/index.html

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

[4] https://www.muhealth.org/our-stories/covid-19-vaccine-key-reaching-herd-immunity

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