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URC2020 Finals Cancelled In Response to COVID-19

posted Mar 10, 2020, 7:37 PM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Mar 16, 2020, 6:49 AM ]
Updated March 16, 2020

Sunday evening, March 15, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance recommending the cancellation or postponement of events consisting of more than 50 people in the United States. The URC2020 Finals are scheduled to take place in approximately 10 weeks, but would bring together more than 500 individuals from around the world. In light of this recent guidance, the University Rover Challenge and Mars Society have made the decision to cancel the URC2020 Finals.

This was a decision made with very heavy hearts, but the reality is that the latest CDC guidance made this an easy and obvious decision. As we have emphasized in each of our announcements regarding the COVID-19 situation, the number one priority of URC is the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the local community.

We will begin notifying teams of their System Acceptance Review scores throughout this week. For those of you who are facing restrictions or disruptions to your academic and living situations, we wish you luck in adjusting to your new routines. We also hope that you and your families stay healthy and safe during this situation. Please continue to follow the guidance of your universities and local communities, and practice prevention measures. Additional guidance for the response in the United States is also available from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).

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March 14, 2020 Update

Now as much as always, the number one priority of URC is the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the local community. At this point our primary concern is less about the situation in late May (which is still incredibly difficult to predict), and more about the situation over the next few weeks for teams who are facing university closures or other restrictions. URC is continuing to monitor the status at each of your universities (when information is publicly available). We anticipate additional announcements will be made by universities early next week, which we will be monitoring and factoring into our decisions.

Because this situation is so dynamic, we are not (as of today) in a position to make a rational and well-reasoned decision about the competition at the end of May. However, we will be delaying the announcement of System Acceptance Review results so that no teams will be rushing to make travel arrangement when so much uncertainty continues to exist.

We must also advise teams of the importance of following your university's and local officials' guidance! Your rover is important, but not as important as your own health, and the safety of your community. This is a public health situation - each of our individual actions have an impact on the world around us, and we each have a responsibility to act with a social conscience! Student Team Leads in particular have a responsibility to ensure your teams are following local guidance. If your university has restricted access to labs or large group meetings, you are responsible for ensuring your team follows these rules! Social distancing continues to be a critical component of the global response to COVID-19.

We will continue to be in touch with teams over the coming days and weeks as we navigate this situation. If you have any concerns at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly. More information about COVID-19 and the response in the United States can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

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Original Post (March  10, 2020)
As many of you are likely aware, there is currently a global health situation related to Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. URC and the Mars Society are continuing to monitor how this is developing, in addition to monitoring the guidance published by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The number one priority of URC is the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the local community. With that in mind, it is impossible for us to predict how the COVID-19 situation will evolve over the next 2.5 months. It would be premature for us to make any decisions at this point in time. We are planning for URC2020 to take place as scheduled at the end of May with the understanding that hard decisions may follow in the weeks to come. Updates will continue to be sent out via the URC-Announce email list and posted to the URC website. However, we encourage all of you to consult with your team members and your university about your team's decision to attend.
  • Is there a scenario in which URC2020 would reschedule?
    Unfortunately there is no foreseeable scenario in which URC2020 would reschedule. We are still planning to hold URC2020 on the original schedule, however a non-zero chance exists that it would be necessary to cancel the event at a point in the future. Any decisions will be made as early as practical and communicated promptly to teams.

    URC2020 has not been cancelled at this point in time!

  • How does this impact teams making travel arrangements?
    We expect to notify teams of the System Acceptance Review (SAR) results the week of March 16. Teams who qualify for the URC2020 Finals are strongly advised to purchase travel insurance and/or fully refundable reservations/tickets. URC is not liable for the cost of any travel cancellation of teams.

    Further, we do not yet know how the COVID-19 situation will impact the visa application process for international teams. While we provide letters of support to teams applying for visas, we cannot control the approval process, or travel restrictions from certain regions of the world.

    In the event that URC2020 still takes place, but isolated "hot zones" still exist around the world, teams will need to exercise caution with connecting flights and overall trip itineraries.

  • What else can teams/students do at this point?
    Follow the advice and guidance of your local officials and the World Health Organization. Most importantly, WASH YOUR HANDS and follow other common sense prevention measures!!!!

  • Where is more information available?
    More information about COVID-19 and the response in the United States can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html  
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