Gov. Tom Wolf gives OK for fans at high school games
On the same day Gov. Tom Wolf changed guidelines to allow for spectators at high school sporting events, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to pass a bill which would put the decision on fans in the hands of local school boards.
Wolf updated guidelines regarding sports early in the afternoon to reverse course on his previous mandates of no spectators being allowed at interscholastic sporting events. While it was a step toward parents being allowed into venues to watch high school and junior high sporting events, Wolf maintained his previously set limits of 250 people for outdoor gatherings and 25 people for indoor gatherings.
The 250-person limit includes both participating teams, officials, coaches, stadium workers, bands and cheerleaders. The same holds true on indoor events.
“Spectators may attend sporting events, but count towards the statewide large gathering limitations (25 or fewer people indoors, 250 or fewer outdoors) and must follow the Universal Face Covering Order and social distancing guidance when arriving, attending, and departing the event,” the adjusted guidance posted Wednesday read.
But mere hours after Wolf’s updated guidelines were released online, the Rep. Mike Reese, R-Mount Pleasant, introduced House Bill 2787 onto the House floor for a vote. Reese’s bill allows individual school districts to “develop safety protocols for permitting visitors and spectators to attend sports and in-person extracurricular activities.” The bill also calls for school districts to determine limits on the gatherings for both indoor and outdoor extracurricular activities “to ensure social distancing.”
“This bill allows school districts, who are responsible for the safety of our children, to make those decisions much like we allowed them to make the decisions on getting children back in the schools,” said Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana in support of the bill. “They know what’s best. They know how to handle this. With proper CDC guidelines, we can have more than 250 people at a football field. We must allow these decisions to be made at the local level.”
The bill passed by a vote of 155-47 and will be moved to the Senate for a vote. Area representatives Garth Everett, R-Pennsdale, Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Twp., David Rowe, R-East Buffalo Twp., Stephanie Borowicz, R-McElhattan, Tina Pickett, R-Towanda and Clint Owlett, R-Liberty all voted in favor of the bill.
Since voting to allow schools to proceed with the fall sports season, the PIAA and its Board of Directors have been trying to work with the Wolf administration to change the limitations from a hard number cap to a percentage of a facility’s capacity. PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi had previously asked for an allowance of 25% of a facility’s capacity.
The updated guidance from Wolf still calls for anybody attending a sporting event to wear a mask and to socially distance while in the stands. The PIAA included guidance for fans in its Return to Competition guidelines just in case fans were eventually allowed into events.
The PIAA guidelines include social distancing among people who do not reside in the same household. It also requires spectators to stay off the field of play and stay away from the bench areas.