Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a briefing in June.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday his guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic recommends that high school sports be delayed until Jan. 1 because of the virus.

Wolf made the statement as he ended a briefing on the disease while answering a reporter’s question about allowing parents to attend high school sporting events.

“The guidance from us, the recommendation is we don’t do any sports until Jan. 1,” Wolf said.

He also said people need to avoid congregate settings because large gatherings allow the virus to spread into the community.

After learning of Wolf’s comment about high school sports, officials from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association arranged a meeting Thursday afternoon with the governor. No details of that meeting have been released.

“Today, Gov. Wolf issued a statement of strongly recommending no interscholastic and recreational sports until January 1st. We are tremendously disappointed in this decision,” the PIAA stated in a release. “Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics.”

The PIAA Board of Directors will meet Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education, in a release issued Thursday afternoon, jointly supported Wolf’s statement and recommended that school and recreational youth sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021, but stressed that it was only a guideline. The ultimate decision on sports at the high school level will fall on local school boards.

“The administration is providing this strong recommendation and not an order or mandate,” the statement said. “As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports.”

Heat acclimatization practices for Pennsylvania football teams can begin Monday. The start of official practice is Aug. 17. The first day football teams can play is Sept. 10, but the first scrimmage dates for golf and girls tennis are Aug. 20 and 22, respectively.

“I’m hoping the PIAA gives us some guidance that we can take to the school boards,” Canon-McMillan athletic director Frank Vulcano said. “We were expecting a statement from the governor as early as Wednesday, but what was said today is not a mandate.

“I thought we had a good game plan in place. The WPIAL moved the start date of football back two weeks so school could get going, then sports would start.”

The recommendation does not apply to college and pro sports, though gathering limits remain at no more than 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors.

The announcement about sports followed a news conference on Walmart adding new COVID-19 drive-up, self-testing locations in Pennsylvania, including stores in West Brownsville and Uniontown.

The downside is the commercial laboratory Walmart uses can take up to two weeks to deliver results due to a national backlog of tests, state Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.

“That’s too long,” Levine said.

Pennsylvania announced 38 new deaths from the virus Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 7,282 since March.

Levine said there were 807 new cases Thursday in the state, including 100 from Allegheny County.

Fayette County’s death toll grew by one, bringing its total to five.

Washington County’s case count grew to 808 after 23 new cases of the virus were announced Thursday. Greene County’s total held again at 110.

Staff Writer

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley.

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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