COVID-19 Impact on FIRST Events (Updated March 12, 2020)
Dear friends, colleagues & partners,
It is with deep disappointment that I share an update on the immediate suspension of the current FIRST season and the cancellation of both Championship events. This decision has been made based on guidance from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and state and local health officials, as well as the declaration of states of emergency across many states/countries, the ever-expanding travel restrictions for schools, and in light of developments over the past 24 hours. The health and safety of our community is our top priority, so we have decided to suspend all season play across all Programs worldwide, effective immediately, including the cancellation of both FIRST Championship events. Please know that FIRST Championship registration fees will be refunded.
This difficult decision was grounded in FIRST’s commitment to put the health and safety of our community above all else. During this challenging time, we have been working closely with our program delivery partners (PDPs) and event organizers around the world to navigate and mitigate the risks to our community due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As a result, many of our events in the United States and around the world have been canceled or postponed, including more than half of all future FIRST Robotics Competition events. We acknowledge and appreciate the thousands of teams, parents, mentors, coaches and volunteers who have poured their hearts and souls into this season, and we share your disappointment.
The mission of FIRST has always been to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, and we continue to be deeply committed to this mission. We know that you will have questions, and we will provide answers in the following days and weeks as we navigate what has been an unprecedented time.
Larry Cohen, President of FIRST
For the past several weeks, FIRST has been monitoring the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and working closely with our Program Delivery Partners and event organizers to help manage its impact on our community.
In this challenging time, the fundamental guiding principle we have used, and will continue to use, is that we will follow the guidance and policies as established by community and public health officials when making decisions regarding event planning. These policies include travel advisories and other prevention recommendations, which in some cases have resulted in the cancellation or postponement of events. As always, we remain committed to the health and safety of the FIRST community.
FIRST Event Updates
While some FIRST partners, teams, and volunteers have been impacted by this ongoing outbreak, the majority of FIRST events continue to operate as scheduled. This includes both the FIRST Championship Houston and FIRST Championship Detroit events in April, which remain unchanged in both scope and schedule. Due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, FIRST will refund the 2020 FIRST Championship registration fee if the event is cancelled by FIRST.
Following the guidance and policies of community and public health officials, FIRST has worked with several event organizers and Program Delivery Partners to support the cancelation or postponement of some events due to local concerns related to the coronavirus.
We recognize that teams have put an enormous amount of work into preparing for these events, and we regret when they are canceled or postponed for any reason. We are working closely with PDPs to determine how best to accommodate postponed events both within or outside of this current season and will follow up as details become available.
FIRST will continue to actively monitor this rapidly evolving situation and will adjust operations as needed based on guidance and policies as established by local community and public health officials.
If you have a question about the status of a specific event, please reach out to local event organizers. For questions about FIRST Championship, and other general inquiries, contact FIRST Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel and Event Health Precautions
When making your travel and event decisions, we recommend that you follow guidance from your local community and public health officials, as well as agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, including travel advisories and other prevention recommendations.
CDC guidelines encourage the following preventative actions, which are also applicable to preventing the spread of many viruses:
- Stay home if feeling unwell, developing a cough, or running a fever
- Practice hand hygiene, including frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth
- Practice respiratory etiquette, including covering cough and sneezes with a tissue, and then disposing of the tissue in the trash
- Clean frequently touched surface and objects daily (including tablets and cell phones)
- Perform self-monitoring, and seek medical care immediately if feeling unwell
FIRST has issued such guidance to its Program Delivery Partners and event organizers, including specific recommendations related to common practices such as the posting of signs promoting hand hygiene, cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, reduction of hand-to-hand contact such as alliance handshakes and the award “high-five line”, and the procedures around sharing of safety glasses at events.