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Gov. Wolf: Gathering limits for school sports voluntary 'at least for the moment'

CHRIS HARLAN
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during his press conference at PA CareerLink in York Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Wolf was highlighting the importance of job-finding resources in light of the unemployment cause by the COVID-19 outbreak in the state. Bill Kalina photo

Gov. Tom Wolf would prefer schools adhere to his gathering limits at sports events, but acknowledged Tuesday they’re not legally binding “at least for the moment.”

A week ago, the state’s gathering limits of 250 individuals outdoors and 25 indoors were ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. On Tuesday, a request from the governor to stay that ruling was denied, clearing the way for larger crowds statewide — including inside football stadiums.

Wolf has said those gathering limits prevent coronavirus spread.

Asked Tuesday if schools now can surpass the 250- and 25-person limits, Wolf said: “I’m not a lawyer but since the stay was turned down, it sounds like at least for the moment, I guess, that court ruling stands.”

A number of Pennsylvania schools already are planning to allow an increased number of spectators.

Wolf and state Health Secretary Rachel Levine urged schools to use caution. The two answered questions Tuesday at an unrelated press conference.

“The guidance is: ‘Be careful,’” Wolf said. “It’s sort of like anything else when you get with other people. The more you do that, the closer in contact you are … the more probable it is you’re going to get the virus. Right now, the court simply ruled that the 250 max isn’t constitutionally correct. Who knows what the right number is. All I know is, when you bring people together, the covid virus finds it easier to infect other people.”

He added that many schools have voluntarily adhered to the 250-person limits.

“Over this past weekend when that limit had been thrown out and they hadn’t made a decision on the stay at that point, people still self-regulated,” Wolf said. “They said we’re just not going to show up, and so we didn’t seem to have much of an issue.”

The state Department of Education released a statement Friday encouraging schools “to voluntarily enforce the 25-person indoor and 250-person outdoor gathering limitations while all of us wait for the court to rule on the stay request.”

Levine said the administration is “very concerned” about larger crowds at events.

“That’s how the virus spreads,” Levine said, “and that’s how we see clusters and outbreaks.”

Wolf on Monday vetoed a bill that gave school districts authority to ignore the state restrictions and implement their own gathering limits for events. Lawmakers who sponsored House Bill 2787 are working to override that veto.