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March 14, 2021

Last updated on May 16, 2021 - updates in yellow

Already had Covid? See Dr. Krebs comments below on the question does already having Covid count as a vaccination. Added June 30th.

These policies were developed with the input and cooperation of Dr. Steven Krebs. Dr. Krebs graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1989 before completing his residency in 1993 in Internal Medicine at St Joseph Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Krebs has been board certified since by the American Board of Internal Medicine and specializes in hospital care of severely ill adults. At present, Dr. Krebs is teaching faculty at the University of Kansas Hospital Topeka Campus. As a hospitalist and co-chair of the hospital's critical care committee, he has been involved in all aspects of the recent Covid-19 epidemic, including facility preparation and in the care of innumerable hospitalized Covid cases. Unfortunately, Dr. Krebs has had a "front row seat" to the very real nature of the severely ill Covid patient and its high morbidity and mortality. In addition, Steve Krebs, and his team Oh What a Bonanza, have been an annual participant in the Wild West Relay since 2012.

These are the current policies that will be in force for the 2021 Wild West Relay and Flaming Foliage Relay. As the guidelines from the CDC, the State of Colorado, and various counties who issue our permits evolve, our policies may change. But these are the policies you should expect and be willing to follow if you decide to participate in our relays.

Our Covid policy is partially based on these recent announcements:

  • There will be a vaccine for every American by the end of May.
  • All adults will be eligible to be vaccinated starting May 1st.
  • The results published by Israel, where a higher percentage of their population has been vaccinated, has shown that the Pfizer vaccine has proven to be as effective as advertised as far as keeping people out of the hospital with severe cases.

Where can you get vaccinated? For Coloradoans, go to https://covid19.colorado.gov/for-coloradans/vaccine/where-can-i-get-vaccinated. One location I did not see on this list is UC Health. I mention them as they were the first to contact me for my vaccination. Improve your chances by registering on the waiting list with multiple locations.

Some runners may feel our policies are over the top or too strict, or that so and so race is not requiring participants be vaccinated. Other races are free to come up with whatever policies they choose. I have a long history of safety first over my outdoor career. For example, I had a small rafting company in the early 80's that ran a Class V river. I required our clients to wear helmets only to be openly mocked by other rafting companies. The funny thing is, a year or two year later, these same rafting companies had their clients wearing helmets.

Here are the policies currently in place for the Wild West Relay and the Flaming Foliage Relay:

  1. Proof of vaccination completed a minimum of two weeks prior to race day will be required. No proof = no participation; no exceptions. Why is proof required? It is like why the signing of a waiver is required. A participant may say they accept responsibility for their participation, but only a signed waiver will stand up. The same with showing proof of vaccination. If everyone in the relay knows that everyone else has also been vaccinated, the comfort level goes way up.

    Why am I requiring vaccinations when other races are not? Three reasons. First, in a relay, participants are riding in close contact with others in their team vehicles. I am under no illusion that people will wear masks while in their vehicles together.

    Second, people are going to be making multiple visits to portable toilets along the route. Each toilet will be visited potentially by hundreds of other people. Fecal matter, which can become airborne, carries the Covid virus.

    Third, there will be higher concentrations of people at the runner exchanges, especially at the van exchanges. This is unavoidable.

    I am aware that there are different opinions on getting a vaccine. If you are not comfortable getting vaccinated, we hope to be able to welcome you in 2022.

  2. Teams need to know that the entire team will need to be present at the start this year for check-in to show their vaccination record cards along with their ID. Copies of COVID-19 Vaccination Cards will not be acceptable; the original will be required and will be checked. If one person on a team does not have their card, or their card is deemed not authentic, the entire team will not be permitted to start. A medical practitioner will be checking the validity of each vaccination record card. UPDATE 3/16 - the medical director has agreed that a photo of your vaccination card that can be on your phone will be acceptable. Also, VAN 1 can bring the IDs and Vaccination Record cards from Van 2 to the start for check-in.

  3. Additional safety equipment will be required for each vehicle: enough hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will need to be presented at check in along with the other standard safety gear of reflective vests, head lamps, red blinking lights, etc.

  4. Masks will be required to be worn covering both the mouth and nose when outside of team vehicles. UPDATE 5/16 - With the recent CDC announcement and with the guidance of Dr. Krebs, since all runners, volunteers, staff, drivers in the relay have been vaccinated, masks will not be required because we are around other vaccinated people. However, if you enter any stores, gas stations, etc. on the route, etc., we do recommend wearing a mask in those situations since others in those environments may not be vaccinated.

  5. Active runners will be required to wear a mask when entering the runner exchange before their leg. The mask can be removed 100 feet after departing the runner exchange. Runners must carry the mask with them on their leg and utilize them when within six feet of other participants or if stopping to assist another runner. The mask will also need to be in place 100 feet before entering the runner exchange at the end of your leg.

  6. As the vaccines are not approved for those under age 18 at this time, we will not be accepting high school teams this year. UPDATE  4/21 - Since vaccinations are now available down to age 16, high school teams are now accepted for the WWR.

  7. Indoor sleeping or access to the showers at the van exchanges at the North Park High School in Walden for the WWR and the Lake County High School in Leadville for the FFR will not be available this year. Come prepared with warm sleeping bags and/or tents for sleeping outside.

  8. Teams should have a serious discussion and come to an agreement on how they will handle their time together in the team vehicles. Suggestions for topics to cover are: even with vaccinations, should team members quarantine for two weeks before the race? Get tested once or twice immediately prior to the race? Wear masks in the vehicle?

  9. Failure for even one person on a team to comply with these policies will result in the entire team not being able to start or to be disqualified from the race.

  10. There will be no refunds, deferrals, or switching from one relay to another for teams who do not follow these policies.

With everyone vaccinated, we will in essence have created our own safety bubble. Everyone's comfort level will allow us to enjoy another great relay experience.

Paul Vanderheiden - Race Director

Already have Covid? Here are Dr. Krebs comments on Covid and Vaccinations

So this is hard because there is some reality to what a Covid survivor is saying; those that have had Covid19 may be immune because they have incurred the wrath of the virus. We don't yet have clarity on what % of infected people are immune and (more importantly) if having had Covid protects against the variants. It is not clear that a "mild case" activates the immune system as robustly as a severe case or the vaccine.

Explanation
Since the goal is a fun and safe event, if we had "proof" of immunity from an infection that could potentially be considered a vaccine surrogate; problem is that right now there are 2 commonly available blood tests related to potential Covid immunity. For both; CDC, NIH, and manufacturer specify that they currently cannot be used as a marker of immunity.

Available tests include
1. Qualitative Covid titer; this gives a YES or NO answer to the question "has this person's immune system reacted to Covid19"
2. Covid M spike antibody level; studies do show these levels go way up with immunization and with "severe" infection

Whether correct or not CDC, NIH, and immunology leaders continue to opine that the vaccine(s) are more likely to provide immunity against the variants than does having survived Covid19 and that there are no currently applicable standards for what represents immunity. Recommendation remains, at present, even if your sure you had Covid19, you are strongly encouraged to pursue vaccination.

BTW recent study printed in NEJM showed vaccine appears safe in pregnancy.

From an intellectual standpoint, with all candor, I believe data will eventually prove that a high titer M spike antibody is a marker of immunity, but that could be more than a year away. As such, while Covid survivors may well have a point, right now we have no clear data or expert recommendations to sway the "everyone should get vaccinated" mandate for what is an elective/fun event. Moreover I completely acknowledge that data is evolving and by Flaming Foliage, things may be different. To be honestly consistent and to honestly maximize safety, I would leave your vaccination ruling in place for WWR this year.

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