August 06, 2020
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a strong recommendation on Thursday that all school sports season be canceled until Jan. 1 in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The governor's comments came as a surprise at the end of a morning briefing on the state's coronavirus response. In late July, the PIAA released guidelines for the return of high school sports in the fall that included proposed schedules with timelines to resume activities and competition.
"The guidance is that we ought to avoid any congregate settings," Wolf said Thursday. "That means anything that brings people together is going to help that virus get us. We ought to do everything we can to defeat that virus. Anytime we get together, for any reason, that's a problem because it makes it easier for that virus to spread. The guidance from us, the recommendation, is that we don't do any sports until Jan. 1."
Some school districts, including Norristown Area School District in Montgomery County and Uniontown Area School District in Fayette County, already have canceled their fall sports seasons or contact sports, at a minimum. Other high schools have planned to move forward with modified and delayed seasons, such as Mid-Penn and Lancaster-Lebanon leagues.
The PIAA, responding to Wolf's comments, said the organization is "very disappointed" in the decision and will meet Friday to review next steps.
The recommendation comes as school plans more broadly remain in flux ahead of the start of the academic year. In Philadelphia, initial plans to start the year with a hybrid schedule that included in-person instruction and online class was later revised to go completely online until at least mid-November.
Wolf's briefing on Thursday morning was primarily focused on expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing. The state has firmed up partnerships with Walmart and and Quest to improve capacity and laboratory analysis.
To date, Pennsylvania has completed the ninth most COVID-19 tests among U.S. states, according to the CDC. The 1.6 million tests administered in Pennsylvania equates to roughly 13% of the population.
"If we want to mitigate the spread of this very contagious virus, we must continue to understand how it's impacting Pennsylvania. Most importantly, improving access to testing helps Pennsylvanians who want and need to test for COVID-19," Wolf said. "Testing also provides us with critical data to understand where the disease is in our communities so that we can take the necessary proactive measures to stop the spread and continue to protect the public."