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PIAA: No fans permitted at fall high school sports events

In its "Return to Competition" guidance, the PIAA says "sports activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials, and staff only."

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's Board of Directors voted on Wednesday to accept the recommendations of its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which has given its approval to return to the fall sports season on schedule.

But according to the "Return to Competition" guidance released by Pennsylvania's high school sports governing body Wednesday afternoon, all sports-related activities at the PK through Grade 12 level will be closed to spectators.

"In the Preliminary School Sports Guidance document which was released by (Governor Tom Wolf's) Office on June 10 and updated on July 15, any sports-related activities in Yellow or Green phased counties must adhere to the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening (25 in yellow, 250 outdoors and 25 indoors in green)," the PIAA's document says. "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.

"At this time spectators for K-12 events are not allowed," the PIAA document reiterates. 

The PIAA document says the addition of spectators is "contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities," and that it expects to receive additional guidance from the governor's office and the Department of Education.

Should spectators eventually be allowed, the PIAA said, attendance will be subject to limitations that were also included in the Preliminary School Sports Guidance from the Department of Health, including:

Seating areas, including bleachers, must adhere to social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet of spacing for anyone not in the same household. 

  • To assist with proper social distancing, areas should be clearly marked. 
  • Adults must face coverings (masks or face shields) at all times.
  • Spectators should not enter the field of play or bench areas.
  • Nonessential visitors, spectators, and volunteers should be limited when possible, including activities with external groups or organizations.

The PIAA's entire Return to Competition Guidance document is available here. It includes guidelines for each individual fall sport, as well as coaches, officials, athlete parents or guardians, media, host/visiting schools, gameday workers, and others. 

Earlier this month, the SMAC voted unanimously to recommend that fall sports practices begin with heat acclimatization on August 10 and full practices August 17 -- as long as COVID-19 safety guidelines and protocols are strictly adhered to. 

"Based on currently known information, the Committee believes that STRICT ADHERENCE by schools and teams to their school-adopted plans and the Governor’s School Sports Guidance should provide a reasonably safe environment for student athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics as currently scheduled," the SMAC said after its vote. 

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