Share your Covid event experiences! (2022 official events)

And that’s the thing isn’t it? The rules get set in advance, hopefully by people with insight and a desire to be safe. When it’s clear enough to them that it’s possible to hold an event without a mask requirement, then deciding not to wear a mask isn’t really an issue, and people who can’t come because they need additional precautions can know this in advance and decide to stay home or go elsewhere.

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This is just it. And this is what’s so hard from a planning perspective during a pandemic. FIRST asks events to lock in their plan a month in advance, and the implication is that it should only change if absolutely necessary for increased safety. This is very difficult when conditions are changing, but I agree with FIRST’s desire to lock in. Teams and volunteers need to know the rules with enough time to plan and make their own assessment for personal safety.

Given this constraint, the logical option is to lean towards more cautious, since there’s no risk with being “overly” safe. On the flip side, if protocols are set loosely and conditions worsen, there is tremendous risk – literal increased risk of death – in being under safe.


Kinda looks like no one watched the webcast? Huh.


Tech Valley technically had a mask mandate but aside from one sign near the pit entrance there wasn’t really any way of knowing it. While the majority wore masks properly, there were a lot of people either not wearing masks or wearing it below their nose and I did not see any type of enforcement or even ever hear an announcement reminding people about it.

The first blue box sends an interesting message.


When tracking the protocols, I’ve noticed a lot of the areas that are on the more anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-test side of the spectrum all tend to have similar messaging around how attendance at the event is optional. I think the implication is that unlike a school or a hospital, if you’re not happy with the protocols, just don’t go.

It’s really too bad, since this sentiment fails to acknowledge people who have weak immune systems or otherwise are at increased risk by being around people who are being unsafe.


I was not a big fan of how they enforced the mask policy at the Oklahoma Regional. I’m fine with them requiring the masks and approaching individuals or their coaches when the policy was violated and asking them to leave if they don’t comply. Stopping the entire competition because you can see a few people without masks on in the stands around lunch time did not seem like the right way to handle it. Also declaring that “everyone in the arena must be wearing a mask” and then turning around and handing the mike back to the emcee, who wasn’t wearing a mask, seems a bit odd.

EDIT: Other than that issue, I though the event was great and well run.

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I totally empathize. I miss that we can’t take my son, “mini-mentor” to events. (He’s my 6th grader who has been “doing” FRC since pre-school.) He is too vulnerable, and there were a lot of people (at Milford) Saturday with chin supports or not wearing them at all. It wasn’t GP.


decide to stay home or go elsewhere.

I find this trend of making things unaccessible for those with disabilities and then act like it is a choice disingenuous and downright discriminatory. A student can’t just decide to go to another event. We manage to wear pants and safety glasses for a competition, I fail to see why we can’t take a reasonable precaution (a decent mask) for the safety of others.

This rant brought to you by a mentor with a student engineer on a vent, a medically fragile child, and a parent on chemo.


Orange County was awesome: Hand sanitizer everywhere, strict check-in, everyone wearing masks! Two events under my belt, same as before. I did wear N95 masks, new ones each day and will again in any future event. Sang “Happy Birthday” silently while washing my hands in the bathroom scrubbing nails and cleaning thumb joints for ~20 secs. To try to be safe around others as a 3-day Event volunteer twice.

  • Pine Tree in Waterville Maine
  • Same as last weekend. Masks were required for everyone. Mentors had to fill out an attestation of health form for their entire team stating that everyone was either fully vaccinated or had a negative Covid test in the past 72 hours, as well as were experiencing no symptoms. Volunteers had to fill out a similar form for themselves, but they had to be fully vaccinated no exceptions Teams were limited to 25 people per team. There are no spectators.
  • Once again, protocols are in line with NEFIRST’s official Covid protocols. There were two town halls about the new Covid protocols, as well as a link on the website and any information was in welcome packets. It was reminded via pit admin and the MC at least once during the event.
  • They were a bit less strict than expected. At one point while I was inspecting a team there were unmasked people in their pits. My age makes it difficult to be taken seriously when requesting people put masks on, so I just wore my N95 and carried on. There were some other masks under the nose, but for the most part it was followed. Way better compliance than in the general population, so I can’t complain too much.
  • No food in the venue made it a lot easier for people to follow guidance, though it did suck when teams found themselves working through lunch. I had to make sure students and mentors both took breaks to eat. There was a garage door that was open for a good chunk of the event which really helped with ventilation.
  • Maine at the time of the event was one of the worst areas in the country as far as Covid goes, but still improving. Being fairly rural, their Omicron wave came a lot later than much of the countries, and they were still coming out of it. But things are overall a lot better than they have been.
  • Food is still a point of issue, especially for volunteers imo. I worry about volunteer retention week by week, especially if people are volunteering for multiple weeks and catch Covid at the volunteer lounge. Outdoor eating options is a struggle in the North East this time of year, though the current warm spell may make it easier which is good.

Heartland: for participants

  • Masks required? Nope
  • Masks encouraged? Nope
  • Vaccine requirement? Nope
  • Health check/self check? Nope
  • Any form of contact tracing? Nope
  • Social distancing? Nope
  • Hand sanitizer stations? Average amount for a school in my opinion

I could go on but I think you get the picture.


At Tallahassee:

  • The venue (Florida A&M University) had signs expecting masks and hand washing in the restrooms. Maybe 5% of us were masked, probably less.
  • High-fives became virtual ones and shaking mini-pom-poms.
  • Each team was given 10 “pit pass” wrist bands to reduce pit crowding - which brought pit congestion down closer to where I would have liked to see it before 2020.
  • The venue had really good air circulation; not sure if it was always that way, or if it was updated for COVID.

In other words, too little in my opinion. I switched from my usual cloth mask to N95s. I did unmask in the volunteer lounge, because I was eating or drinking 90% of the time I was there anyway.


FIM Escanaba:

  • Masks were required, but several caveats. I saw several adults in the stands straight up not wearing masks, I saw probably 10-20% of all people with masks below the nose, a couple pulling the mask away from their face to talk. Also school was still in session and I think does not require masks and students pass by the pits on their way to class (1/3 of the pits are on one side of the cafeteria). There was enforcement of masks and safety glasses for those entering the pits. Also eating in the cafeteria requires you to not wear a mask.
  • Finals “handshake” was clapping at each other from our drive stations.
  • Judge “handshake” at awards replaced by clapping

San Diego:

Very Open air and to the elements. Water collection at entrance to practice field/pits (from Rain)
Masks mostly worn.
Several announcements to wear a mask. A vast majority I saw did.
I saw no hand sanitizer, several sinks in bathroom out of soap
Checked ID /Covid status

Overall good event, volunteers were great


PNW Sundome (Saturday only):

  • The vax policy was dropped last week, so I was able to walk in without anyone talking to me. They did have someone there to hand out masks though, but only for one of the entrances.

  • Teams were doing a mostly decent job of mask wearing. Many noses were present though. Spectators with “pit passes” on the other hand were completely maskless. Knowing the area, I wasnt about to push the issue.

  • I do not remember any announcements to wear a mask. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t any, I just wasn’t aware of them.

  • The event had signs for not congregating in large groups, but this wasn’t really followed.

  • The event had wristbands, but I was able to go in/out of the pits freely without one.

In addition, no food in the stands (ostensibly because of venue contracts with the fairground vendors). It didn’t seem to be enforced.

Finals handshake was a salute and judges line was pom poms.

Pits were not limited entry.
Requirement of vax or negative test.

I asked the RPC about this beforehand, when the site said ‘masks required’ and then the vol email said ‘masks optional’.

The response I got was that since the county had moved into ‘green’, the university / venue had moved to mask optional, even if they didn’t take the signs down over spring break. I also noted the hand sanitizer stations had not been refilled, which was a bummer.

I do recall you and I may have been one of five people around the field continuing to mask - and I did the same as you, only removing my masks in more private areas like the volunteer lounge (or when I needed a drink at the scorers’ table).

It was definitely weird to see so few masks at a competition, hailing from a district with full mask requirements and no spectators… there’s a bit of me that was happy to see ‘normal’ returning, even a little, and a lot of me that’s concerned it’s happening too soon and we won’t be able to keep having events safely.

The cool thing I noted, though? In my travels down (I drove to minimize exposure in big public spaces) I got chastised for masking… but not a single person at the regional was rude to me about it - and in fact, other volunteers around the field were totally in support of me when I explained that I was headed back to MidKnight this week and didn’t want to share any buggies back to NJ if I could help it.


I’ve been to two regionals now (Hueneme Port and San Diego). Both required masks, and proof of vax/test.

It’s nice to be back in person, and really the only difference is that I have to talk louder in order be heard, and sometimes tap someone so they know I’m going to tell them something because they can’t see my mouth moving. Otherwise very normal.

We’re going to a third event (Vegas) and I’m not sure masks will be required, we’ll see how that one goes.

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