National Anthem Singers Silenced by COVID-19 Guidelines as Athletes Play

March 22, 2021 Updated: March 22, 2021

Saddleback Valley Unified School District recently cleared its schools to resume sports and performing arts—only to later cancel live musical acts due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Natalie Moreta, a senior at Mission Viejo High School (MVHS), was selected to sing the national anthem before an upcoming football game, only to have her performance canceled March 19. The performances of other students who were set to sing at different games were also canceled.

Natalie’s mother, Sarah Moreta, told The Epoch Times she is frustrated with COVID-19 rules that seem contradictory.

“It’s just an inequality in the view of the performing arts in spreading this virus,” Moreta said. “How is one person standing in a field by themselves with a mask on spreading coronavirus, when [with football] 50 people are going to run on the field after she gets off and run around and tackle each other and rub on each other and scream and spit and bleed, but they’re not passing the coronavirus?”

Under California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy¸ gatherings for live artistic performances are not permitted indoors or outdoors in counties in the purple or red tiers.

The California Department of Public Health modified its guidelines March 22 “to clarify that band, drumline, choir, and drama are low-contact activities and to announce that guidance on observers for youth and adult recreational sports is being developed.”

Outdoor sports were allowed to resume in Orange County Feb. 26.

Moreta said she didn’t want to make the discussion about school sports versus performing arts, but instead wanted all activities to be viewed as equal.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, only one or two students were allowed to sing the national anthem at a time, and before nixing performing arts, MVHS was reserving all remaining performances for the eight seniors in choir, Moreta said.

It would have been their last opportunity to perform before graduating.

The issue received plenty of attention when Moreta posted the problem on a Facebook page for Mission Viejo residents, where, in a private group, the post received nearly 500 likes and more than 500 comments from other parents upset about their children not being able to participate in performing arts.

“She’s a senior, so as you can imagine it’s affecting her enormously,” Moreta said. “She was so looking forward to performing in front of people. … She was so excited to sing in front of somebody, and I was excited to watch her, and I don’t care if it’s her or one of her peers, I want to see these kids getting out there and doing what they love, what makes them get out of bed in the morning. It’s just so sad.”

Moreta also wrote a letter to SVUSD Superintendent Crystal Turner, the school board, and other Mission Viejo officials to try to create change on the issue.

“Every child in our district has the right to get back what they have missed,” she wrote. “To get back what makes them want to get out of bed in the morning.

“We have lost too many kids this year due to depression, loneliness and abuse. If you are truly focused on social emotional health then I beg you to make the right choices. Let our kids do what they love; all of our kids and all of the activities.

“I am only one parent who has finally had enough and there are so many more of us out there. No one is going to complain that the band performed, a girl got to sing, or a theatre group put on a performance; and if they do, then they probably should have stayed home anyway.”

The SVUSD didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewVanVoorhis