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Masking announcement follows Cavalier Marching Band petition to play wind instruments during football games

The petition garnered widespread attention before U.Va.’s masking policy change

<p>Students and members of the band have taken issue with this, citing recent <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210629120841.htm"><u>research</u></a> indicating that vocalization — including speaking, singing and yelling — has a greater capacity to spread aerosols than wind instruments.&nbsp;</p>

Students and members of the band have taken issue with this, citing recent research indicating that vocalization — including speaking, singing and yelling — has a greater capacity to spread aerosols than wind instruments. 

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The University alteration of their masking policy for student musicians in Scott Stadium follows a petition for the Cavalier Marching Band to play wind instruments amassed more than 8,400 signatures since it was posted Monday. Previously, the University prohibited the band from playing wind instruments in the stands during games, claiming excessive risk of COVID-19 spread.

Students and members of the band took issue with the University's decision to prohibit them from playing, citing research indicating that vocalization — including speaking, singing and yelling from fans in the stands — has a greater capacity to spread aerosols than wind instruments. 

The mask mandate has been extended to the end of the fall semester, with the exception of activities that are “particularly difficult” while wearing a mask — like marching band performances, cardio exercise in IM-Rec facilities and some drama performances — per a University-wide email sent Friday afternoon by Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis

“The marching band is working to implement similar public health measures like obtaining bell covers for wind instruments and will return to playing in the stands during football games as soon as possible,” the email read. 

According to Ethan Van Berkel, first-year Architecture student and tuba player in the band, this could be as early as the Cavaliers next game — this Saturday against Georgia Tech. 

“[Our director] ordered the bell covers and they will get here [Saturday], so we are very excited to be back in the stands as soon as possible,” Berkel said. 

Berkel thinks the petition played a role in changing the University’s policy, especially because it reached so many people — one commenter sent their support from Georgia Tech, and Berkel said the petition reached friends at other schools like James Madison University as well. 

The University now joins most other Atlantic Coast Conference schools which have worked with their bands to bring live music to sports games. Virginia Tech allows band members to play with bell covers and extra masking precautions, and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s band split into two groups that play in the stands with additional masking and bell covers.

Maria Parnell, fourth-year Engineering student and creator of the original petition, plays trumpet in the marching band and said she is grateful that the petition reached so many people. 

“It was really great seeing everyone come together from different parts of U.Va. and supporting this common cause,” Parnell said. “I think [the University] saw that there was a lot of momentum behind this issue.” 

While Berkel is worried about what the extension of the mask mandate will mean for the band in indoor basketball games, he is looking forward to being back in the stands for the time being. 

“We have this small victory, and we’re going to appreciate that,” Berkel said.

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