Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf lifted on Wednesday a ban on spectators at sporting events, including at the high school level.

Spectators will now be allowed at Pennsylvania sporting events, including Pre-K-12 sports, this fall, but those fans will count toward the state gathering limitations.

This revision was made to the COVID-19 sports guidelines on Governor Tom Wolf’s website.

The state gathering limitations for sporting events are 25 or fewer people for indoor events and 250 or fewer for outdoor events. In addition, facilities “may not exceed 50% of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law,” per the guidelines.

The guidelines also say that spectators, along with everyone else in attendance at games including coaches, officials, athletes and staff must wear face coverings “unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least six feet.”

Later on Wednesday, the state House of Representatives passed House Bill 2787 by a 155-47 vote. The bill would allow school districts to make decisions regarding fall sports and spectators. It will now move to the senate.

Smethport High School athletic director Rick Woodring is happy that fans will have the opportunity to attend athletic events, but the logistics have to be worked out.

“I’m glad to see that fans will be permitted,” Woodring said. “We are going to have to just try to work out how we can identify which fans will be able to attend and how many.

“What’s gonna have to happen, if we’re gonna have to get for each game an accurate count of who is involved in that game — players, coaches, statisticians, trainers, officials, chain gang, clock operators, possibly ambulance. We’re gonna have to get those numbers of what they are for that particular night. We’re gonna have to know that in advance so we know how many slots are open that can then be filled by fans.”

Woodring also said that number is bound to change week-to-week depending on roster sizes and number of coaches.

The situation has a chance to be problematic for sports like football, depending on the roster sizes, number of coaches as well as officials, trainers and more. Since indoor sports like volleyball are limited to just 25 or less people inside, there’s really no chance for spectators. Sports like soccer and even junior high football will be more doable when it comes to holding spectators.

“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” Bradford Area High School athletic director Mike Erickson said. “We’re all working on ways we’re doing live streaming and everything and now we’re doing it again. I feel good for some of the parents, but there’s no way we’re going to be able to let every parent in for a Friday night football game. Some sports we will though. It’s going to be not fair for some of them. It’s going to be difficult.”

“It’s just going to make what has already been a very very difficult fall even more difficult for us on our end, but on the flip side of it, maybe the parents will be able to see some games,” he later added.

Smethport and Bradford will play in a four-county bubble which includes Elk, McKean, Potter and Cameron counties. Competitions for participating schools begin on Sept. 14, with football games kicking off on Sept. 18.

Band members and cheerleaders from home teams will be permitted at games within the bubble.

Woodring said these discussions regarding the logistics will have to happen soon with the Sept. 14 date less than two weeks away.

“The other question comes up with the slots available: Do we share with the other visiting school or not? And I think all the schools within the bubble will have to discuss that so that everyone is on the same agreement and page,” Woodring said. “So that discussion is going to have to be done quickly so we can all determine what to do with the slots available for fans at each game and that number will deviate depending on the size of the squads that are participating in the event.”

“We just don’t have a clear guidance yet on what is going to be expected or what’s going to be even permitted for that matter,” Erickson said. “Ultimately, I think it’s going to be up to what the superintendents in the bubble decide that we’re going to do.”