Wolf, Levine will ease up on number of fans
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine amended existing COVID-19 orders to allow for adjusted capacity to gathering limits Tuesday morning.
For outdoor events such as high school, college and professional football, the rates are broken down into three different categories.
In venues with a capacity of 2,000 seats or less, 25 percent of capacity will be allowed. Stadiums with 2,001-10,000 capacity will be allowed a 20 percent maximum occupancy and stadiums that have a capacity of more than 10,000 people are allowed a 15 percent maximum occupancy rate with a ceiling of 7,500 people.
Indoor orders were also split into the same categories but with less allowance. Venues 2,000 and under will be allowed 20 percent capacity, 2,001-10,000 will get 15 percent and more than 10,000 is set at 10 percent with a maximum occupancy set at 3,750 people.
Altoona’s Mansion Park is set to host a pair of high school football games this weekend. Chambersburg will travel to play the Mountain Lions at 7 p.m. on Friday, and Chestnut Ridge will visit Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic on Saturday night.
The Altoona Area School Board voted to allow 25 percent capacity at indoor and outdoor sporting events at its meeting Monday night, going against Tuesday’s order. The allowance numbers set at the meeting were 600 people inside the AAHS Fieldhouse and 2,500 people at Mansion Park.
Altoona was forced to offer refunds for tickets purchased for its game against Hollidaysburg last week, which would have been the largest crowd of the season. Tickets were still being refunded Tuesday, but fans can also use a ticket from the Hollidaysburg game to attend this week’s game against Chambersburg.
Depending on Mansion Park’s official capacity, which has been listed as high as 10,400, it falls under either a 20 percent capacity order or a 15 percent capacity order.
“If you look at what was released, it’s really kind of strange,” Bishop Guilfoyle athletic director Joe Landolfi said. “If you are up to 10,000, you can have up to 20 percent. So that would be 2,000 people. If you have 10,100 capacity, you can only have 15 percent. So, that’s just more than 1,500. That doesn’t make sense. The numbers don’t make sense. We’re going to make sure we’re in step with what Altoona is doing and comply with the Department of Health regulations. Everything will work out fine. It’s easier for us than it is for Altoona, by far.”
The Marauders and Chestnut Ridge both play in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, which at one point this season was not allowing spectators from opposing teams. That will not be the case Saturday.
“We are sending two tickets for each Chestnut Ridge player and their coaches,” Landolfi said. “We have also invited their cheerleading squad. As of right now, that’s where we are.”
Blair County’s second biggest high school football stadium will also be in use Friday night when Hollidaysburg hosts Central Dauphin East.
Hollidaysburg’s Tiger Stadium seats a maximum capacity of 7,000 and will have a 1,400 maximum spectator policy set for Friday’s game.
“Each student participating including band, cheer, players and student staff will get four vouchers to purchase a ticket into the game,” Golden Tigers athletic director and football coach Homer DeLattre said. “The opponent will also be given up to two spectators per player participating.”
Tuesday’s decision came after Gov. Wolf faced scrutiny from many following the veto of House Bill 2787, which was designed to put spectator rules in the hands of local school districts. The bill failed to reach a 67 percent majority to overturn the veto in the House of Representatives.
“While I am happy that more families will be able to unite to watch their loved ones engaged in school sports and activities, I am frustrated by Gov. Wolf’s nonsensical actions,” said Republican representative Mike Reese, who drafted House Bill 2787. “Fall sports have been ongoing for several weeks and had the administration been more responsive, this could have and should have been addressed in August.”
Democratic representative Frank Burns, who represents Cambria County, also expressed relief that in most cases, family will be able to attend their children’s games.
“Although this is not perfect, it is much better than the previous restrictions which, among other things prohibited parents and grandparents from watching their son or daughter play,” Burns said. “There’s few things as American as fall sports, and while this change might not go as far as we’d like, letting families and fans back into the stands in our communities is a step toward returning Pennsylvania to normalcy.”