Virginia Division of USA Fencing Statement Regarding Phase III and COVID-19

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To all Fencers, Parents, Clubs and Coaches:

As a follow up to the COVID-19 Guideline discussion during the Virginia Division’s Annual Meeting earlier this month (7/2), and now that the entire state has entered Phase III, we are sharing our view of what should or should not happen in our clubs.  The Commonwealth of Virginia Phase III guidelines and USA Fencing’s Return to Fencing Guidelines have been linked for reference.

As stated in three different locations of the VA Phase III Guidelines, businesses must “Establish policies and practices for maintaining appropriate physical distance between persons not living in the same household. Maintain at least ten feet of distance for establishments where exercise activities, singing, or cheering is performed”. (This is also restated in both the Fitness/Exercise Facility and Recreational Sports “Additional Guidelines” sections.)  As a result, we do not believe that any activity where two people are less than 10 feet from each other (including bouting/fencing) should occur in any VA club during Phase III.

Per the USA Fencing Return to Fencing Guidelines, “USFA resumed its sanctioning of club activities on May 1, 2020 for clubs in locations where clubs are permitted to operate or reopen by local and state laws, regulations, executive orders and other legal mandates regarding COVID-19. USFA’s sanction, and thus its insurance coverage, will apply only to areas in which clubs can be open legally. It has been and will remain the responsibility of each club to stay abreast of and comply with the state, local and other legal requirements governing its own location. USA Fencing (and the VA division of USA Fencing) cannot, as a practical matter, oversee member clubs’ compliance with applicable laws, which vary widely from place to place. Nor is it within our competence to provide legal advice.”

Created by club owners who are also officers, here are some additional minimum requirements, most of which are part of either of the above guidelines or have been collaboratively determined as best practices by a number of clubs here in Virginia and throughout the country:

  1. Contactless Check-in:  Allows for COVID-19 tracing and makes sure the total number of students does not exceed maximum.
  2. Temperature Check:  Contactless temperature check to ensure body temperature is below 100.4 F.
  3. Limited capacity and Social Distancing:  10’ between fencers and 10’ between fencers and coach.  Limit parent access and discourage additional visitors from remaining in the club.       
  4. Extra Sanitation:  1 to 100 mix of 5% bleach solution application to all hard surfaces upon completion of each group session.  Soft surfaces are either washed daily or sprayed with bleach solution and left to air dry.  
  5. Hand washing before and after practice.  Hand sanitizing before, during, and after practice to minimize the spread of germs.
  6. Increased ventilation:  Open doors, increase or install commercial floor fans to improve air movement and create a negative air flow.  Many clubs are investing in HEPA ionization filtration systems for their HVAC systems or standalone as well (if they have an HVAC) or other UV based air filtration systems.
  7. Mask-wearing:  Face coverings are required.  Face coverings must be worn under fencing masks at all times.  We do not recommend the use of masks with pre-installed face protections since they do not meet FDA or CDC standards.
  8. Equipment Policies:  Bags should be spaced a minimum of 6’ apart.  No loaner equipment to fencers.  Water fountains, water coolers, and coffee stations are not to be utilized.  Soft equipment (balls, bean bags, foam swords) should not be available for use.
  9. Activity policy:  Interactive fencing games with a prop are not permitted.  Private lessons should occur under controlled circumstances with appropriate distancing.  Drills in pairs under controlled circumstances and with appropriate distancing, eliminating deep target attacks, fleches, and in-fighting.  Drills are 3 minutes on and 3 minutes off.
  10. Cross Club “Pollination”:  We strongly discourage fencers from training outside of their primary club during this time.  In a number of cases, clubs have already implemented a 14 day quarantine policy if a student has trained at another club.

If fencers, parents, coaches or clubs have questions or comments regarding any of the above, please do not hesitate to write to, or reach out to any division officer directly.

(Updated 7/19) Removed the bullet that discussed Bouting. This was discussed earlier and the 2nd talking point was deemed confusing by some in the community.)