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Few masks seen at football games, except on members of the Cavalier Marching Band

The University says it plans to make an effort to increase masking at games

<p>The Good Old Song, which is usually played by the band after every field goal and touchdown, was played over the stadium’s speakers.</p>

The Good Old Song, which is usually played by the band after every field goal and touchdown, was played over the stadium’s speakers.

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More than 36,000 people packed Scott Stadium to watch the Cavaliers’ first two football games against William & Mary and Illinois on Sept. 6 and Saturday, respectively. The student sections contrasted a surge in cases nationwide and at the University, with new cases among students averaging 15 per day in advance of the first game and 14 per day before the second.

Some on social media expressed skepticism about allowing spectators at the game given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, but students packed the stands — many for the first time ever.

The University’s current masking policy requires unvaccinated people to wear their masks at all times and requires everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in University-owned indoor spaces — at football games, this includes elevators, bathrooms and hospitality suites. Though the game was outdoors, University leadership urged students to mask up at the game in an email update sent Sept. 2.

“We strongly encourage everyone — vaccinated or unvaccinated — to [wear a mask] in order to limit opportunities for the virus to spread at the game,” the email read. 

Masks were mandated for unvaccinated spectators, but the University did not check vaccination status at any entry gates.

“We are hoping for a higher level of compliance at games going forward, both with our indoor making requirement as well as our strong recommendation that all attendees wear masks outdoors when they are not actively eating or drinking,” University spokesperson Brian Coy said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily. “The University is preparing additional signage and other reminders to be posted around Scott Stadium at future games.”

The only student group that was required to wear masks during both games — other than unvaccinated students — were members of the Cavalier Marching Band, which makes up part of the 96.6 percent vaccinated student body. 

According to fourth-year College student Aster Rasnic, who plays the alto saxophone for the band, the band was notified by Provost Liz Magill the day before the game against William & Mary that wind instruments could not be played in the stands and that all band members must be masked in the stands.

Rasnic said they and some of the other band members aren’t sure what the point of the policy was.

“It's good to be back and we're really thankful for the opportunity to do what we love doing, but at the same time, we can't really help but wonder exactly who we're protecting, seeing as I saw maybe six people in the stands outside of the band who were masked,” Rasnic said.

The band’s pregame and halftime shows were performed normally, but only the drumline could perform in the stands, as opposed to the full band. The Good Old Song, which is usually played by the band after every field goal and touchdown, was instead played over the stadium’s speakers.

The University tried to hold the football game in a way where members of the community could participate while minimizing viral spread, Coy said. 

“The band played on the field, as they usually do, and in advance and after the game,” Coy said. “In the stands, however, the wind instruments present quite different risks. Playing wind instruments in a large crowd is a high-risk activity that our public health experts recommended we should curtail in order to reduce the potential for viral transmission at the game.”

The Centers for Disease Control does recommend “temporarily suspending” musical performances that involve singing or playing wind instruments and has found that some wind instruments such as the clarinet and trumpet are higher-risk in terms of spreading airborne particles. 

Kiwi Kiwinda, a fourth-year College student and bass player for the marching band, said the band was willing to be flexible, but that the timing of the decision made things difficult. 

“It definitely sucks when the admin comes in and cuts out most of our performance at the last minute,”  Kiwinda said. “I would say that I know limiting the spread of COVID-19 is absolutely the most important thing. The pandemic is certainly not over and we all have to be ready to adapt.”

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