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Wolf: PIAA has decision to make

Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he wasn’t sure there is anything the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association could say that would make him change his recommendation of no sports for the rest of the year.

During a press conference in York County, Wolf emphasized his remark last week about no sports being played until Jan. 1 was just a recommendation.

“(The PIAA) has a decision to make on their own,” Wolf said. “I’m just one person — maybe I’m the governor — but I’m one person that has an opinion on what we ought to do here.”

Wolf seemingly put the ball in the court of the PIAA to make a decision about whether or not to proceed with fall high school sports. At a press conference last week, Wolf said his recommendation was to play no sports, whether interscholastic or recreational, until Jan. 1, 2021. It set off a firestorm of responses from the PIAA, including holding an emergency board of directors meeting last Friday where the board voted to postpone the fall sports season by two weeks.

PIAA executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi sent a letter to the governor earlier this week asking for an opportunity to meet with Wolf and his staff to present their ideas about how to hold a fall sports season safely. Wolf said during his press conference Thursday he has received the letter but has not yet read it.

The PIAA confirmed Thursday it is meeting with Wolf’s staff today and will have a statement following the meeting.

Wolf said multiple times the priority should be on returning students to their education and making sure they receive their education.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to get our kids back to learning,” Wolf said. “I don’t see how transporting, whatever age population, across county borders is going to help the effort to mitigate this disease and get us back to learning. So let’s put that on pause. The focus should be on learning. And anything that interferes with that, we ought to be careful.”

“We’re making the recommendation based upon the same evidence (used by) Penn State to cancel sports until Jan. 1, that the Big Ten used to cancel all sports until Jan. 1, and that the Pac-12 used to cancel all sports until Jan. 1,” state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It was the same data about the contagiousness of the virus, about the impact on children which we are seeing in more and more states. The idea that children would not get sick from this is untrue. Children have gotten sick, and some kids have gotten very, very sick, including (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome) which can lead to heart disease and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, and can have lasting effects. So the idea that children are somehow immune from this disease is untrue. That they can’t have serious side effects from this disease is untrue.”

Lombardi has continually said throughout the summer the PIAA would follow the state’s recommendations on whether or not to play sports this fall. The group released Return to Competition Guidelines at its July board of directors meeting to allow for a safe return to athletic competition. Those guidelines built off the health and safety protocols enacted by each school district in the commonwealth before offseason workouts could begin this summer.

Now, Lombardi and the board of directors need to decide whether they will follow the recommendation made by the governor last week, or if it will follow its own guidelines and return to play. The board of directors is scheduled to meet Aug. 21 to once again discuss returning to play.

“We need to have (students) be back in school and we need them to be learning,” Wolf said. “And anything we do that interferes with that does all of Pennsylvania a disservice and does a disservice to all of (the students). But what I said was a recommendation. I also recommended that this summer Pennsylvanians avoid going to the Jersey shore. That’s my recommendation. But you do what you want and school districts are going to do what they want. But this is my recommendation. It was then and it still is.”

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