Latest Wolf administration guidelines lift spectator ban at high school sporting events, with conditions


Any spectators count toward the state’s COVID-19 mitigation limit of 250 people or fewer for outdoor events, or 25 people or fewer for indoor events, the state says.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The office of Governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced changes to the COVID-19 guidance regarding spectators at sporting events in the commonwealth.

Spectators will now be allowed to attend the events, but they will count toward the state’s gathering limitations of 250 people for outdoor events and 25 people for indoor events. 

And they also must follow the state’s Universal Face Covering Order and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The guidance leaves it up to individual school districts to devise a way for spectators to attend sporting events while still conforming with the state’s COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

The Wolf administration re-iterated its recommendation that high school and youth sporting events should be postponed until at least the end of the year.

But the final decision should be left up to locally elected school board members and administrators, the administration said.

“The administration is providing this strong recommendation and not an order or mandate,” the guidance says. “As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning, or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports.”

If schools decide to hold sporting events and allow spectators, the administration said:

  • All sports-related activities must adhere to the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening  (25 or fewer people for indoor activity, 250 or fewer people for outdoor activity)
  • The facility as a whole may not exceed 50 percent of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law. 
  • All individuals present at the facility at which such activities are held count towards gathering limitations and must comply with face covering order and social distancing guidelines.

In addition, the administration said:

  • Seating areas, including bleachers, must adhere to social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet of spacing for anyone not in the same household. To assist with proper social distancing, areas should be clearly marked.
  • Everyone age 2 or older must wear face coverings (masks or face shields) at all times, unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet, or fall under an exception listed in Section 3 of the Secretary of Health’s Order on Universal Face Coverings.
  • Caregivers or spectators should not enter the field of play or bench areas.
  • Non-essential visitors, spectators, and volunteers should be limited when possible, including activities with external groups or organizations. Parents should refrain from attending practices, or volunteering to assist with coaching.
  • Caregivers and coaches should assess levels of risk based on individual athletes on the team who may be at a higher risk for severe illness.
  • Caregivers should monitor their children for symptoms prior to any sporting event.  Children and athletes who are sick or showing symptoms must stay home.

Professional sports organizations are permitted to practice or play outdoors with 250 or fewer people in attendance and indoors with 25 or fewer people in attendance, provided they follow orders issued by the Secretary of Health and recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health or athletics-based organizations, the Wolf administration said.

Sports organizations are not required to submit a safety plan for approval to DOH if fewer than 250 people are present at an outdoor site or directly outside of the site. 

The same is true for college athletics in Pennsylvania, the guidance says.

“While (college) institutions may resume in-person sports-related activities, the decision to do so is at the discretion of the institution, and such events may only occur in compliance with the Phased Reopening Plan and this Guidance” the administration said.

“All sports-related gatherings must conform with the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening (25 or fewer people for indoor activity, 250 or fewer people for outdoor activity); the facility as a whole may not exceed 50 percent of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law.”

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