Wolf acknowledges spectator situation 'confusing' for schools, but no updated guidance yet

The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks to media at York Grace Brethren Church in York City, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The gathering limits ruled unconstitutional two weeks ago are back in place statewide, leaving some high school athletic directors to ask: Now what?

“It is confusing, I acknowledge that,” Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday, “and I’m working really hard and as quickly as I possibly can to come up with guidelines that I hope recognize the differences in different school districts.

“But, yeah, it’s confusing.”

However, Wolf provided no timeline for when those guidelines might be ready other than “soon.” On Thursday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily restored the governor’s restrictions that limit gatherings to 250 individuals outdoors and 25 indoors.

The ruling forced school administrators across the state to decide how many spectators they’d admit to this week’s football games. Some banned all spectators while many moved ahead with plans already in place.

Asked whether he was comfortable with schools allowing 1,000 fans or more, Wolf said he wasn’t, but insisted this issue isn’t about him.

“It’s not me,” Wolf said. “Let’s stop on the ‘me.’ It’s the virus. What is the virus is looking for? The virus is looking for places where people gather together with close contact. I think that’s what we’ve got to keep in mind.

”If we can do things to mitigate — to wear masks, to practice social distancing, to avoid crowds and other people when we can — that’s going to be helpful. I think we’ve got to recognize that’s the reality we’re all dealing with.”

The governor was answering questions at an unrelated press conference.

Many schools find it difficult to fit football spectators under a 250-person limit. The 25-person indoor limit makes volleyball games difficult to organize, even without spectators.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny/Westmoreland, said last week the governor might be willing to adopt a percentage-of-capacity plan for interscholastic sports. The PIAA had previously asked Wolf to allow up to 25% of a facility’s capacity.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for school sports, said in a written statement on Thursday that “we are hopeful that there may be some modifications to the restrictions." But the PIAA added that as a result of the ruling, and without further action from Wolf, it's telling member schools that the statewide spectator limits of 25 for indoor games and 250 for outdoor games are back in effect, including for playoffs.