As 2020 comes to a close, US Equestrian extends our sincere appreciation to all of our competition participants, officials, and organizers for their unwavering commitment to following the USEF COVID-19 Action Plan. We have all experienced a tremendous amount of disruption and change to our daily lives this year. The efforts each and every one of you have made to wear face coverings, socially distance, and frequently wash your hands and avoid indoor social gatherings have been paramount to allowing the safe return of many equestrian competitions during the ongoing pandemic. The ability to have competitions continue has been a bright spot for participants and has kept many people who make their living in the equestrian industry employed.
USEF Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mark Hart, who has been working closely with CDC and WHO officials, strongly encourages members to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as availability allows. “Thanks to the unprecedented global collaboration of the scientific and pharmaceutical communities over this past year, we now have safe and incredibly effective vaccines. It can’t be emphasized enough, the role that vaccines will play in bringing this pandemic under control by achieving earlier ‘herd immunity’ (70-85% of the population) and hence a return to some sense of normality in our personal and professional lives. While it could be late Spring before the vaccine is widely available to the general public, we could potentially achieve umbrella immunity here in the US by late summer or early fall 2021. While there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for ending this pandemic, we are still facing several more months of high COVID-19 infection and death rates until the curve is flattened with increasing vaccination numbers. We all have a role in preventing many of these intervening infections by continuing to closely adhere to well established public health measures (keeping masks on, social distancing, good handwashing and avoiding indoor social gatherings) as well as getting vaccinated as soon as it is available to you.
“There is concern among public health officials that there is some hesitancy by certain segments of our society to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those individuals should be assured that the review and approval process has been independent and transparent, made by scientific and public health experts who have no allegiance to the federal government or pharmaceutical companies. Another concern is recent reports of new ‘strains’ of COVID-19. Like all RNA viruses, the COVID-19 virus has had some expected and naturally occurring genetic variants documented which to date have been seen to be more ‘transmittable’ but possibly less lethal. Fortunately, there is no evidence that the current approved vaccines will not be effective against these observed variants. There are multiple ongoing surveillance programs worldwide to monitor these genetic 'drift' mutations and possible considerations for vaccines.”
While vaccines may not substantially decrease the COVID infection rates for at least the next 3-4 months, active preparations are ongoing for the day when we can gradually allow USEF competitions to host spectators once again. We are currently developing the necessary protocols to evaluate when this can safely occur. The hope is that once COVID infections are under better control, we will be able to permit a restricted level of spectators. This goal will be subject to certain public health conditions as well as all applicable local and state requirements. For the time being, spectators will continue to be prohibited from USEF-licensed competition grounds. The USEF recognizes the disappointment faced by the many fans who enjoy the sport as well as the countless owners who have missed the thrill and excitement of being an active and crucial participant in the development of their horses. Their continued support is greatly appreciated and has allowed our riders and horses to continue to reach their goals in an otherwise uncertain year.
While we cautiously look ahead to reopening events to spectators, the ability to ease the Action Plan requirements is contingent upon the continued progress in controlling the spread of the virus. We must all diligently follow the current Action Plan mandates in order to continue to achieve the success we have seen since restarting limited competitions last June.
Thank you for your continued support of the USEF COVID-19 Action Plan and our community effort to keep our sport open. Please continue to refer to the USEF COVID-19 Action Plan for further updates.