I’m certain many of you have been following the COVID news closely. At FIRST, we have been too. There’s some understandable uncertainty about how things will look in the months to come, so I’d like to give you as much information as I can right now about what we’re up to at FIRST HQ:
- We’re preparing COVID guidelines for events
- Given the pandemic impacts different regions in different ways, these guidelines will continue to rely heavily on local conditions and health requirements
- Every FIRST Robotics Competition event will have COVID information about their specific event posted on their event page at firstinspires.org within the ‘Site and COVID Information’ document. We are asking events to keep this document updated as things change
- We’re reviewing ways to accommodate season disruptions, including what happens if a team is unable to attend an event
- This does not mean that current policies, including payment policies, will change, only that we are looking at them considering the uncertainties COVID continues to create
- Plan A continues to be a traditional FIRST Robotics Competition season, i.e., in-person, two-day events for Districts and three-day events for Regionals, and an in-person FIRST Championship, with standard team counts
- We are working on plans B and C, which could include shorter, smaller events, and, if needed, remote participation activities like what we did in the 2021 season
- Our plans could include changes to the way we handle some awards
- Based on community feedback, we have already given Regionals and Districts the option of doing Dean’s List interviews remotely, with interviews taking place within the week before the event
- Districts that chose this option must do so for the entire District, not event by event, to maintain consistency within a District
- The decision to allow this choice was not driven by COVID, but by community feedback
- Community feedback did not support doing Chairman’s Award interviews remotely, so that is not currently an option, though this may change
- FIRST will publish a list of all events/Districts that have chosen to do Dean’s List Award interviews remotely in December.
We want to give teams as much finalized information as we can before event preferencing opens to assist them in their decision-making. Because of this, we are rescheduling the opening of first event preferencing; it will be open from October 14th to October 20th. This will give us more time to work on the issues above, and more time for the field to identify event venues and dates. We can’t promise we will have all the information above locked in by event preferencing, but having more time increases that likelihood. Note: other dates, such as second event preferencing and drive-base opt-outs will be changing as well. We will have more details for you about those shortly. At this point, we are not changing any team grant application deadlines. Please get those applications in on time! And please see the team grants page for some of the grants available.
Looking over what I’ve written so far, this seems like lots of doom and gloom. I don’t mean it to be! I’m still looking forward to an amazing season and hopefully seeing you in person! We’re just taking the necessary steps, considering the uncertainties we all currently face. Stay safe.
This is exactly the update I was hoping to get. Thanks Frank!
Here’s what I got from a quick scan of docs for currently listed regionals:
- Quebec Regional: Vaccines mandated, masks mandated, seating limited
- Great Northern Regional: Masks are recommended but not required.
- Idaho Regional: Masks are encouraged.
- Iowa Regional: No information available.
- Lake Superior Regional: Following the CDC Guidelines (No details available)
- 10,000 Lakes Regional: Masks required for everyone on campus regardless of vaccination status.
- North Star Regional: Masks required for everyone on campus regardless of vaccination status.
- Monterey Bay Regional: Masks required per MPUSD Safety Plan
- Northern Lights Regional: Following the CDC Guidelines. (No details available)
- Orlando Regional: No current regulations or restrictions. Follow CDC guidelines for masking when applicable or for unvaccinated. Encouraged to wear a face covering or mask.
- Rocket City Regional: The VBC actively follows Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for Business and Employers recommendations (No mentions of masks at all)
- Seven Rivers Regional: Nothing that is currently restricted and are pretty much 100% open […] wear a mask if you want to
- South Florida Regional: We will still encourage the wearing of masks
- St. Louis Regional: All guests over the age of two will be required to wear a mask at all times
- Utah Regional: Face coverings are required for all guests while in the arena
- Wisconsin Regional: Request that non-vaccinated guests wear a mask
Well that’s awful disappointing, non-committal and frankly embarrassing.
[a little snarky] I am sure what you were expecting. It is very hard to create order out of Chaos. Covid is proving itself to be very unpredictable. [/a little snarky]
My District (PCH) only has the kick off scheduled.
Embarrassing for who: FIRST or the events organizing?
Its only August, I am not surprised there is limited or scattered information out at this time.
I think the bigger takeaway from that list, more than the exact policies of events, is that policy for COVID safety at events has been shifted from FIRST to local organizations, who have largely deferred to venues (at least initially).
I was mostly disappointed at how often the buck was passed to local event folks and furthering that to the venues themselves. This is not a difficult boundary to set, and yet FIRST seems content to deflect responsibility; social or other.
[definitive snark] C’mon, like it’s hard? [/endsnark]
To be fair though, imagine how immensely complicated and challenging it would be for HQ to make a blanket statement/policy for all events? Like forget even about international events for the moment, just trying to deal with different states is a nightmare.
Every state has different policies in place for what is acceptable. And it’s not like you can say, “well just make it a little more strict in some states to match other states”. It’s literally illegal in some states to mandate masks . How can you possibly make a “one size fits all” policy at this point?
Refuse to support events in areas where it is unsafe to do so.
Yes but then we have to cancel all of first because not everyone is allowed to compete /s
(Please recognize this is just sarcastic humour and I mean no offense to anyone by this)
By refusing to accept this notion. The game plan I would’ve liked to see
- These are the minimum safety standards we expect
- Events that cannot comply will not happen until they’re able to come into compliance.
But as I said on an earlier thread, it was unrealistic to expect FIRST to take a strong stance on this.
Is this even true? I read through Texas Executive Order GA-38 as well as Florida SB 2006 but those both seemed aimed specifically at masks in schools and as best I can tell wouldn’t be applicable to FIRST events.
My apologies if this is inaccurate. I live in Canada and don’t pay a ton of attention to my own politics, let alone another countries. This is purley hear say from friends and family.
Maybe you should write the event safety plan and send it to FIRST if its not that hard?
Blanket mask requirement is a good place to start!
This has the same vibe as “you can’t point out faults of event voulenteers unless you event voulenteer yourself.” I would think the point of having a parent organization in charge of events is so they can regulate what standards are acceptable, you know, like how they do with pit space, pit/venue safety, requiring certain KVs, etc.
I feel like for past things, FIRST has talked a ton about making the event experience consistent across regions, this seems like a massive step away from that.
Providing a consistent event experience is a good thing for teams. In a pandemic, I’m not sure what people are expecting in August to be released for March/April events given it appeared things were trending in a positive direction and suddenly is unfolding in the other direction (just get the stab already folks). How consistent of an event plan for differing regions can we have this far out in place?
Original post by FIRST indicates they are working on a plan. I’ll wait to judge things until that comes out. Until then, I’m not surprised to see the array of COVID guidelines on different regionals for events very far out in the future and where FIRST has pushed back the guidance for when to have registration in by for October.
Let’s have a little faith and hope in the organization in the next few months they can make some good moves to develop plans for next season.
When that plan comes out, then let’s judge that.
I am not qualified or equipped to be aware of the MOU between FIRST, their event coordinators, venues, etc. However, FIRST is perfectly capable of finding out which states have mask / vaccine bans, or finding competent people to write that policy.
It’s not difficult for them doesn’t mean I’m personally going to write the plan, but since you asked… here’s the basic guide of what I’d want;
"Up to and including mandatory masks at all times and vaccine card checks to attend any FIRST Robotics Competition event, all volunteers, teams, and mentors must adhere to the highest level of required safety precaution for others in the spirit of gracious professionalism. The only exception for events having less stringent rules are due to federal, state, or local regulatory precluding it.
Any team member or mentor in violation may result in the team being ejected from the venue, and any volunteer found doing the same may be ejected from the venue, and banned from future volunteering."
It doesn’t take 18 months to say that.
And the best part here is, if things get better and COVID goes away, there are no consequences for removing these regulations before the event takes place.
The opposite is not as true. Especially for things like attendance restriction. If suddenly you’re 1 month away and restrictions have gone from “your whole team can attend” to “10 people, including mentors”, all because FIRST was hoping and praying things would get better, you’ve just created a logistical problem for every team attending that could have been avoided had you been more cautious upfront.