The numbers 25 and 250 are a thing of the past in terms of people allowed at indoor and outdoor public gatherings in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced Feb. 6 that attendance at public venues will be allowable on a percentage basis. That move took effect last Friday.
Outdoor venues with seating capacity of 2,000 or fewer can be filled to 25% capacity, 2,001 to 10,000 to 20%, more than 10,000 to 15%.
Indoor venues holding up to 2,000 people can be filled to 20% capacity, 2,001-10,000 to 15%, more than 10,000 to 10%.
“Pennsylvanians must continue to social distance and wear masks as we prepare to fight the virus through the fall and winter,” Wolf said in a prepared statement. “Those things are still imperative to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“We know everyone has sacrificed in many ways and today's announcement reflects a gradual adjustment to our lives as we learn how we can do things safely until we have a cure, or an effective vaccine is widely available.”
Levine emphasized this relaxing of restrictions on gatherings is subject to change.
“We will closely monitor cases and outbreaks and if our case investigation and contact tracing efforts determine that events or gatherings are the source of an outbreak, we can and will dial back these new limits,” she said in a statement.
That's why Slippery Rock Area High School athletic director Dan Follett isn't holding his breath.
“Our gym holds 1,000 people, so we're allowed to let 200 in,” Follett said. “That helps our volleyball situation a little bit. Now all of the players can be on the benches instead of in hallways.
“Basketball would be another story. We get about 500 fans for our (boys and girls) games. But that's two months away. We've had four or five changes (from the governor's office) already this fall. A lot can happen between now and then.”
A Judeo-Christian Revival was held at Michelle Krill Field at Historic Pullman Park in Butler on Saturday. Dean Selfridge, stadium operations manager, said that event was unaffected by Wolf's latest ruling.
“I believe religious gatherings like this are exempt anyway,” Selfridge said.
The ballpark has a youth baseball invitational on Saturday, a home run derby Sunday, and a cheerleading competition Oct. 24.
“(Wolf's announcement) is welcome news for some of those events, especially the cheerleading,” Selfridge said. “Some parents will be allowed in to watch, whereas before they may not have gotten in.”
Pullman Park has a seating capacity of 1,400, meaning 350 people can now be present for events inside the park.
Two rivalry football games on Friday — Mars at Knoch and Grove City at Slippery Rock — were affected differently.
Knoch's stadium holds 3,300, meaning 660 can be permitted at the venue. The Mars game was also Knoch's homecoming.
Mars won, 48-13.
“We have to account for football players, band members, cheerleaders, parents, homecoming court people ... it adds up in a hurry,” Knoch athletic director Kurt Reiser said.
He said the increase in allowable numbers gave students more of a return to normalcy for homecoming week.
Slippery Rock's football stadium seats 3,000, meaning 600 were allowed in. Follett said the school handled the Grove City game the same way it handled the Rockets' home game with Hickory two weeks ago.
“We were able to have about 600 at that game, so this ruling doesn't change much for us,” Follett said.
Tickets were distributed. No tickets were sold at the gate.
Freeport hosted Knoch in a rivalry volleyball match Thursday in what would normally be a packed gym. With Wolf's relaxed spectator restrictions not in effect until Friday, the limit of 25 people in the gym remained.
That 25-person limit was also in effect Oct. 7 at Freeport's home volleyball match, which was also the Yellowjackets' Senior Night.
“This is so disappointing,” Freeport volleyball coach Tom Phillips said. “Parents (couldn't) even ... attend their kids' Senior Night.
“When the governor presents a new mandate like this, why can't it go into effect right away? This is so frustrating for so many people, kids and adults alike.
“We played a match at Mars the other night and we had players in the hallway, away from everyone else. Then, we all ride home on a bus together. I don't get this ... I don't get it at all,” Phillips added.
Knoch is now permitted to have 210 people in its gym for home volleyball matches.
“At least both teams can be in the gym,” Reiser said. “It's a step in the right direction. We have 33 girls on our varsity/junior varsity roster, so it was hard even conducting pre-game warmups. At least that's all going to change.”
Tornado band back
Butler has two home football games remaining. Art Bernardi Stadium has a seating capacity of 6,500, meaning 1,300 can be at the venue for a game.
That will bring the marching band back to games, but not much else will change, Butler athletic director Bill Mylan said.
“That (1,300) sounds like a lot, but it really isn't,” Mylan said. “Our band has 192 members. You give out four tickets to football parents, band parents, two each for the visiting team's players, they dry up.
“For volleyball, we can have 400 in the gym. That should handle our normal attendance figure there. Basketball will be different.
“I'm not sure what we'll do there. We've had to turn fans away at home basketball games recently. Now, we'll probably be able to give four tickets to each player and not much else,” Mylan added.
The Starlight Drive-In theater in Center Township has hosted concerts and graduations among other civic events in recent months.
Wolf's latest ruling will have no impact on the facility, co-owner Beth Manson said.
“Everything we have here is attendance by vehicle,” she said. “No one gets out of their cars and they have to be parked so many feet apart.
“This ruling will not concern us. We're a unique venue in that people drive in and drive out without ever leaving their vehicle.
“We've stayed ahead of the game that way,” Manson added.