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PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi says it is "at least worth attempting a fall sports program"

Dr. Lombardi said that during an Athletic Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon. He also addressed the issues of gyms and spectators.

LANCASTER, Pa. — "Because of the important benefits, we believe it is at least based on information known to us, and the advice from schools, our medical advisors, it is worth at least attempting a fall sports program," said Dr. Robert Lombardi, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association or PIAA.

During an Athletic Oversight Committee hearing, Dr. Lombardi cited data collected this summer from a sampling of 30,300 COVID-19 pre-screenings of athletes. He said those screenings resulted in four positive tests which is a .013%.

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"It is our view that continued screenings and the implementation of health protocols will help mitigate the risk of participants," said Dr. Lombardi. “While we cannot guarantee that problems will not arise, we believe we have developed a reasonably safe environment for competition at the interscholastic level."

The hearing came after Governor Wolf has continuously recommended sports wait until January of 2021. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has cited data from a camp in Georgia where a COVID-19 outbreak occurred but says there is no substantial data from within Pennsylvania... at least not yet.

"Kids aren't back at school, and they're not in school sports, so I can't have the data about that until it would happen," Dr. Levine said at a press conference in York last Thursday.

During the hearing, Dr. Lombardi stressed gyms should be limited to 25 percent of their respective capacities, not 25 people, as is currently recommended under state guidelines for indoor facilities. Lombardi specifically referred to girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo. He also addressed the no spectator limitation.

"We are opposed to this limitation. We believe the presence of limited spectators, especially immediate family members are important. If the minimum is two family members, we would attempt to work with that," said Dr. Lombardi.

If a student-athlete gets injured, Lombardi said the family could assist in treatment and assessment. As a coach for youth football over this past summer, Senator Scott Martin (R) of Lancaster County said the league required at least one parent to be in attendance. Senator Martin also remarked how families have been at the games and spaced out with reported no issues.

Dr. Lombardi also said he believes student athletes will do what they can to protect themselves, their teammates, and furthermore their season.

The PIAA has repeatedly met throughout the summer; the Board of Executives will meet again this Friday to make a final decision on whether to start fall sports. They will also discuss how to conduct postseason for fall sports.

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