What to Know
- Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday recommended that youth and recreational Fall sports be postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said they were "tremendously disappointed" by Wolf's statement and that their schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics."
- A final decision on Pennsylvania fall sports has not been made. The PIAA Board of Directors will hold a meeting on Friday.
Pennsylvania's governor said Thursday youth sports should not resume until January, a recommendation that "disappointed" the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA).
Gov. Tom Wolf made the comment at a news conference on a separate subject, following up with a news release that described it as a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The administration is providing this strong recommendation and not an order or mandate,” Wolf's news release said. “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.”
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The recommendation from Wolf's Health and Education departments applies to individual and team sports, both school-related and other recreational leagues, and to games and scrimmages. It does not apply to college and pro sports.
“The guidance is that we ought to avoid any congregate settings. And that means anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us,” Wolf, a Democrat, said Thursday morning in Harrisburg.
“And we ought to do everything we can to defeat that virus. So any time we get together for any reason, that’s a problem, because it makes it easier for that virus to spread. So the guidance from us, recommendation, is that we don’t do any sports until January first," he said.
The PIAA reacted to Wolf's recommendation on Twitter Thursday afternoon, stating they were "tremendously disappointed" by his statement.
"Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics," a PIAA spokesperson wrote.
A final decision on fall sports in Pennsylvania has not yet been made. The PIAA Board of Directors will meet Friday afternoon and release an official statement.
A spokesman for Republicans in the state House, Jason Gottesman, called the governor's statement an “unjustified and inconsistent decision" that raised questions about student-athletes seeking scholarships, and about the process that led to Wolf's recommendation.
“For reasons beyond understanding, the governor waited until practices have already started, equipment has already been purchased, fees have already been paid, and dreams of a return to normalcy have already been formed by athletes and families alike,” Gottesman said in a release.
The state Health Department's latest guidance, issued July 15, said the resumption of K-12 sports under the PIAA and the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association is a decision to be made by school boards and other school governing bodies.
Some schools have already canceled fall sports, and leagues have pushed back start dates.
The Health Department guidance said statewide limits on the number of people who can gather together during the pandemic still apply — 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors, under the current “green” phase of Wolf's reopening scheme.
“During the yellow and green phases of reopening, sports-related activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials and staff only. The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities,” the July 15 Health directive states.