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Indoor, outdoor sports to see increase in spectator capacity starting Friday

The Pa. Department of Health has released new guidelines for 'safe gathering limits' across the Commonwealth. How will that affect spectators of high school sports?

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — The Pennsylvania Department of Health has released new guidelines for 'safe gathering limits' across the Commonwealth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidelines were announced via a press release Tuesday morning.

Among the highlights are definitions of what an event or gathering is defined as by the Department of Health, how businesses must conduct business, and an amendment to two sections of the July 15 mitigation orders that will now include a "maximum occupancy calculator" for both indoor and outdoor events.

Here are the calculators:

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for indoor events: 

For every event with 0-2,000 people, the allowable indoor rate of maximum occupancy a venue can allow is 20 percent.

For every event with 2,001-10,000 people, the allowable indoor rate of maximum occupancy a venue can allow is 15 percent.

For every event with over 10,000 people,  the allowable indoor rate of maximum occupancy is 10% or up to 3,750 people.

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for outdoor events:  

For every event with 0-2,000 people, the allowable outdoor rate of maximum occupancy a venue can allow is 25 percent.

For every event with 2,001-10,000 people, the allowable outdoor rate of maximum occupancy a venue can allow is 20 percent.

For every event with over 10,000 people, the allowable outdoor rate of maximum occupancy a venue can allow is 15 percent or up to 7,500 people.

"These changes will assist schools in allowing parents and guardians to view their school sports programs while complying with safety standards," said the The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Pa. Department of Health's press release, venues must require attendees to comply with 6-foot social distancing requirements, to wear masks or face coverings, and to implement best practices such as timed entry, multiple entry and exit points, multiple restrooms and hygiene stations. 

Of course, this raises the question of how this affects the prospective spectators of high school sports across the state.

Within the limits, the PIAA still believes it's important for each school district to develop their own plan.  "Discussion with your school board and local solicitor may be appropriate so that each school considers all relevant factors in making its own decision to how many spectators to admit for a contest. The attendance of families at contests for support and supervision is important and that permitting this to occur should be a priority in setting limits." 

The PIAA is set to hold a Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday, October 7 at 2:00 p.m.

Many area school districts had plans to expand their attendance capacity last week, until the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Governor Wolf's original limitation of 250 people for outdoor sports and 25 for indoor sports.  Most schools will now adapt those guidelines to fit the relaxed capacity limits for this Friday.

"We've been working hard on the plan we created to have in place when football played Wilson," said Manheim Township Athletic Director Jason Strunk.  "Things went well and it took care of our parents which is paramount to what we're trying to do.  So when I saw it today, it was a feeling of relief."

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