An appellate court on Thursday reinstated Gov. Tom Wolf’s authority to limit the size of gatherings. But the impact of the decision on spectators at high school sports events, in the near and long term, is unclear.
Judges D. Brooks Smith, Michael Chagares and Patty Shwartz of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Wolf’s request for a stay of an earlier decision, by District Judge William Stickman IV of Allegheny County, that Wolf’s COVID-19-related limits on gatherings to 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors was unconstitutional.
Stickman had ruled on a lawsuit brought by business owners from Butler and Washington counties.
Attorney Thomas W. King III, who represents the plaintiffs, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Thursday, “We are going to fight. If we have to go to the Supreme Court about it, we will.”
Stickman issued the order Sept. 14, and denied Wolf’s motion to stay Sept. 22. Since then, many Pennsylvania school boards have voted to allow spectators at sports events in numbers that exceed the original 25/250 limits.
On Sept. 21, Eastern Lancaster County School District increased its spectator limits at extracurricular events to 33% of capacity, which translates roughly to 148 people indoors and 990 people outdoors.
Elizabethtown, Hempfield, Lampeter-Strasburg, Manheim Central, Manheim Township and Warwick have since adopted similar measures.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said Thursday it is advising schools to stick to those measures.
“Based on Governor Wolf stating several times that ‘It is a local school decision,’ we will follow that and advise schools that they should make these decisions locally based on their adopted Health and Safety plans,” PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz said in a statement released Thursday.
Twenty-seven sports events, including 12 football games involving Lancaster-Lebanon League schools, are slated to be played today.
Warwick will host a football game with Manheim Central tonight. Officials there said Thursday that the school district would sticking with a previously determined allotment of four tickets per football player, cheerleader, and band member, and two tickets for each Manheim Central player.