You had questions about how USEF sanctioned horse shows will operate when competition restarts on June 1. We’ve got (some) answers.
Earlier this month, the USEF released their COVID-19 competition toolkit. We caught up with the USEF communications department not long after to get specifics on how this would work. Naturally, readers still had questions, so we went back to the USEF to get further answers.
Below is that email conversation.
Question: The USEF’s mandatory requirements for participants state: “Participants must self-monitor their temperature before entering competition grounds. Temperatures below 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius) may enter the grounds.” It reads as though—and readers have commented this on our article—the show grounds, USEF, etc. are taking it in good faith that participants are self-monitoring and being honest about whether they’re symptomatic? Why are the requirements such that participants are self-monitoring and are others expected to simply take the participants’ word for it that they’re not running a temperature? What about the possibility of asymptomatic carriers?
USEF: The USEF COVID-19 Action Plan requires participants to accept personal responsibility and adhere to the mandatory temperature monitoring, so they do not put others at risk. Competition organizers have the authority to adopt policies or require action that extend beyond the USEF mandatory requirements, which could include temperature monitoring of all individuals entering a competition venue. Through the enforcement of social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the use of PPE and face masks or face coverings, organizers can reduce the risk of exposure and mitigate the possibility transmission on-site at a competition venue.
Q: That’s good to know but it doesn’t fully answer my question. The basic requirement reads as if show grounds and organizers are to have participants self-monitor for a high temperature and thus take it on good faith that no COVID-19 carriers are among the competitors. Is that assessment accurate?
Everyone has a role to play as we make a safe return to competition and continue to fight COVID-19. USEF guidance mandates that participants are required to self-monitor their temperature once daily prior to entering the competition grounds and anyone with a temperature of 99.5° F (37.5° C) or higher may not enter the facility. Organizers can choose to put additional requirements for temperature monitoring in place and we are considering mandating that organizers do random temperature checks throughout the day on competition grounds. This is an evolving situation, not just for equestrian sports, but the entire world, and we are constantly monitoring the situation, working closely with our medical advisors, and making adjustments to policies as we learn more about the virus so we can safely hold competitions for the sport we all love
Finally, as previously stated, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the use of PPE and face masks or coverings are mandatory on competition grounds, as they can reduce the risk of exposure or spread of the virus by asymptomatic carriers.
Q: USEF requirements indicate show organizers must create a mandatory COVID-19 response plan—could you walk me through what such a plan might look like, and what organizers would need to consider that they might not be thinking of?
USEF: Competition organizers are required to create an Emergency Response Plan specific to a COVID-19 incident or outbreak that includes local medical resources and addresses outbreak protocols including medical evaluation, isolation and quarantine, and reporting. The competition organizer must provide training for competition staff, volunteers and licensed officials regarding all procedures and requirements associated with the Plan. The competition organizers must ensure vendors and service providers are included in the communication and training requirements associated with the Plan and that a copy of the Plan is disseminated to all applicable competition personnel.
Q: What training resources do organizers need to be looking at?
We are developing a sample COVID-19 emergency response plan for organizers and have hosted a series of webinars on Managing a Safe Return to Competition for members, competition organizers, secretaries and licensed officials. We have had several thousand participants in the webinars and addressed questions live and FAQ are posted on USEF.org. We also have provided a COVID-19 resource hub which includes information from the WHO, CDC, and links to local and state government guidance.
Q: One point in the organizer requirements mentions scheduling arrival and departure times—how will or how can that work? What steps can organizers take, if scheduling arrivals and departures, to ensure the process is as smooth as possible?
USEF: There is no standard formula that can be applied to all competition venues, as the size, scope, and length of a competition day can vary. Each competition organizer will need to assess their venue’s traffic flow, access points, and competition timetables to best schedule arrivals and departures to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements.
Q: Considering how many showgrounds utilize temporary portable restrooms (e.g. Porta-Pots)—requirements state that participants must follow sanitization guidelines—now, organizers will all hopefully be ensuring that there’s hand sanitizer, soap and water where needed but how will this work?
USEF: Competition organizers are responsible for maintaining a consistent and thorough sanitization schedule of restroom facilities throughout the duration of their competitions. They are also responsible for providing ample access to handwashing and sanitizing stations for participants, support staff, service personnel and competition staff. Competition organizers will need to determine and implement their plan for complying with these requirements. If requirements are not met, Stewards and TDS are required to report back to USEF.
Additionally, members and participants can submit non-compliance violations via the Competition Evaluation Form. Ultimately, we must all work together and follow health guidelines for a safe return to competition.
Q: According to the May 8 edition of the COVID-19 Toolkit, stewards and technical delegates (TD) had the authority to remove non-compliant persons from the grounds—USEF has since changed that policy—which now seems to put the onus of enforcement on the show organizers, but still requires stewards and TDs to report non-compliance to the USEF. Why was this change made?
USEF: Everyone on the competition grounds has a role to play in keeping everyone safe. There have always been certain responsibilities that come with holding a USEF-licensed competition. While this is an abnormal time, the responsibility remains the same. Organizers agree to conduct competitions in accordance with all USEF rules and regulations.
The language regarding the role of USEF Stewards and Technical Delegates has been revised to be consistent with the existing rule. Organizers are responsible and have the authority at their competition to remove non-compliant individuals from the competition grounds. Stewards and Technical Delegates are present to be a resource for participants, provide clarity on the rules to organizers and participants, and document both adherence and non-compliance with USEF rules and regulations in their report to the USEF.
If a USEF Steward and Technical Delegate witnesses or is made aware of, a situation of non-compliance, they will inform the individual to correct their behavior and notify the Competition Organizer.
Q: Why does the onus for enforcement and compliance rest almost entirely on competition organizers? How can or how will the USEF assist organizers in enforcing COVID-19 protocols and compliance? How will non-compliance be handled by the USEF, if necessary? How will the USEF ensure COVID-19 protocols are followed?
USEF: USEF is committed to facilitating a safe return to competition, but a successful return will require commitment from all involved. We have been working closely with medical advisors, competition organizers and licensed officials to provide a detailed COVID-19 action plan, toolkit and guidance on how to make a successful and safe return to competition.
USEF Stewards and Technical Delegates must report examples of non-compliance in their mandatory reports submitted to USEF. Members and participants can submit non-compliance violations via the Competition Evaluation Form. These reports and complaints will be reviewed internally and addressed on a case by case basis. If necessary, USEF will revoke competition licenses for non-compliance.
Q: Are or will there be penalties for non-compliant USEF members?
USEF: A USEF Steward or TD must report the incident in their Steward/TD report submitted to USEF. Further assessment of disciplinary action will be determined on a case by case basis.
Q: Why is the USEF opening shows June 1?
USEF: As state and local authorities ease restrictions, the possibility exists that equestrian competitions may occur. Therefore, our team developed the USEF COVID-19 Action Plan for Operating USEF-Licensed Competitions in the COVID-19 Environment (Plan) to assist USEF-licensed competition organizers and participants. If held, USEF-licensed competitions must operate in accordance with the Plan, which is based on federal, state and local regulations, WHO recommendations, CDC guidelines and USEF requirements. This Plan consists of both mandatory requirements and recommended best practices to help competition organizers and participants with conducting their risk assessments and making decisions that are best for them.
Along with the above questions, we also asked the USEF how they would ensure COVID-19 protocols are followed. The USEF did not respond to that question.