April 5, 2021
USMS had planned to partner with NEKOSA’s 10 mile Kingdom Swim race for the 2021 USMS Ultramarathon-Distance Open Water National Championship in Newport, Vermont.
The event had been sanctioned in late 2020 and registration opened under established USMS rules and policies. Recently, NEKOSA decided to require COVID-19 vaccination for all participants. USMS has been regularly reviewing our sanction guidelines to ensure a safe and manageable return to events. As part of these reviews, the USMS Board of Directors established the following USMS position:
‘USMS encourages members to be vaccinated for COVID-19, but we understand it is a personal decision based on individual factors. USMS continues to recommend that event directors and clubs follow federal, state, and local health recommendations, guidelines, and requirements for all USMS activities. If a facility, local municipality, or agency requires participant vaccination as a condition of hosting or permitting USMS activities, those requirements must be factored into planning those activities. USMS is not requiring COVID-19 vaccination for participation in sanctioned events or club activities. Please continue to check USMS's COVID-19 resources for events and clubs for safety guidelines and follow all federal, state, and local regulations related to the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on USMS events and clubs is being monitored continuously and updates will be shared as warranted.'
While we can understand NEKOSA’s approach and the comfort full vaccinations could provide, USMS informed the event director that a vaccine requirement was not currently possible under a USMS sanction, particularly without mechanisms for verification, exceptions, or privacy considerations. The event director decided to move forward with the vaccine requirement, though it is not currently required by state or local officials, with the understanding that it would mean not hosting the event as a sanctioned event or USMS Open Water National Championship.
USMS is committed to providing members a safe and fun return to competition through partnership with local sanctioned events and will continue to update the USMS COVID-19 Event Resources page with updates and best practices.