ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Many high schools in Alabama are moving forward with the regular fall football season this year, despite the coronavirus pandemic. That means both football teams and marching bands are returning to the practice field. But most are taking precautions to keep students safe.
Rehearsals started this week at Elmore County High School. Band Director Anthony Vittore says social distancing is key.
"These kids understand it can't be the same as it was last year," he said.
Band members wear face masks when they're not playing their instruments. And a nurse takes their temperature when they arrive on the field. They maintain 6-feet of distance between players, whether on the field or in the stands.
But the students say it's worth it, especially the seniors.
"Honestly, it's really important to me that we're trying so hard to have a season this year because it's my last chance," said drum major Abigail Luster.
A new study by the University of Colorado-Boulder shows wind instruments can produce the type of aerosols that spread COVID-19. But performing outdoors while socially distanced might be enough to prevent infection.
The same study determined that cloth instrument covers could help prevent viral spread, without dampening the instrument's sound. It also recommended that all instrumentalists face forward, so as not to play toward each other.
“It’s challenging for us because we understand it’s a risk,” Vittore said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, we’re gonna have a good time and have fun.’ We have to make sure that we can do this in an environment that they’re going to be safe.”
Vittore says he’s trying to create a balance between safety and enjoyment - adhering to relevant health standards while still providing students with a positive experience.
“As teachers, our job is to make sure that when our students tell their kids about 2020 and all the havoc surrounding the virus, they also say, ‘But you know what? It wasn’t all bad.’”
Early in the pandemic, scientists had warned against singing and playing wind instruments, especially when indoors and in close quarters. But many now believe there are ways to do it safely. The Alabama Music Educators Association expressed concern about the issue in the spring. To be safe, some music teachers say they will avoid group performances this fall and will offer music history and music theory lessons instead.