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
We know that you and your team will have many, many questions on what’s next. Please give FIRST HQ and FIRST NC a few weeks to sort things out to learn how we can best meet the needs of our teams, students, volunteers and parents.
Thanks for your patience and understanding during these strange times.
I am writing to share the hugely disappointing news that as a result of the evolving Covid-19 situation and the recent announcement by the UNC system to ban all events greater than 100 people on any campus, the ECU and UNC Asheville District Events have been postponed. The new dates for the ECU and UNCA District Events have not yet been set, though they will occur after the FIRST Championship in Houston in April.
We recognize that teams have put an enormous amount of work into preparing for this event, and we regret having to share such disappointing news. We are working closely with FIRST to determine the best way forward for all of our teams during this challenging time.
Please stay tuned as we continue to assess the situation and make determinations on how best to proceed. The health and safety of our teams and volunteers is of utmost importance to us.
We are monitoring the covid-19 situation on a regular basis.
Today, Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. The state of emergency declaration is a mechanism that will help speed supplies to the state, allow access to federal funds, provide emergency management personnel flexibility in responding and protects consumers from price gouging, Cooper said.
Here are new statewide recommendations from NC Department of Health and Human Services:
Wash hands often
Avoid touching your face
Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently
Stay home if sick
Plan in case you need to miss work
For those in a higher-risk group, such as those over 65 or those with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or with weakened immune systems, avoid mass travel and large gatherings
Facilities that serve as residences for high-risk groups, such as nursing homes and assisted living communities, should restrict visitors.
Event organizers should urge anyone who is sick or considered high-risk to not attend, and adopt lenient refund policies.
Event organizers should find ways to give people more physical space to limit close contact.
We have checked with our hosts at ECU and they are comfortable with our event moving forward as planned. The school is on spring break this week, thus limiting the risk of exposure on campus.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM:
• As of today, the ECU event is still a go.
• Please tell any sick students and parents to STAY HOME.
• Please do not invite the elderly or any family members with compromised immune systems to the event.
• Bring your own safety glasses. NO SAFETY GLASSES WILL BE LOANED TO TEAM MEMBERS OR MENTORS FOR ANY REASON.
FIRST NC will continue to implement strong hygiene practices throughout the event including limiting safety glasses to guests only. Please help us keep our community healthy.
FIRST North Carolina and FIRST recognize that the health and safety of FIRST teams, volunteers, and staff must be our top priority. We are following guidelines from state and county health departments, and the CDC. Decisions regarding event planning are made based on the guidance and policies as established by community and public health officials.
We are taking steps to ensure good hygiene practices and taking common-sense measures for public health at our events, including:
Suspending the use of high-fives during the awards recognition and using an alternative way to celebrate our teams
Communicating with our volunteers regarding steps we can all take at competitions to promote good hygiene practices
Placing hand sanitizer at various locations throughout our events
Posting signage at events to promote handwashing and other pro-active hygienic practices
Regularly wiping down driver stations and other high-touch areas.
The mission of FIRST North Carolina is to inspire the next generation of engineers, computer scientists and STEM leaders. Our goal is to strengthen the school to STEM career connection by implementing the FIRST progression of programs in every school and school district, kindergarten through grade 12.
FIRST North Carolina wants students to thrive in a high tech world with an unbridled passion for skilled trades, engineering, computer science, and corporate problem-solving. FIRST's hands-on approach enables students to "test drive" these areas to see where their interests and aptitudes fit.