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State Announces New Gathering Guidance

HARRISBURG, Pa – Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine announced an amendment to the state’s gathering restrictions Tuesday.

The new guidance, which goes into effect Friday, Oct. 9, is a three-tiered system that allows gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, up to a certain percentage of capacity. The percentage varies based on the venue’s total capacity.

“Pennsylvanians must continue to social distance and wear masks as we prepare to fight the virus through the fall and winter,” Wolf said. “Regardless of the size of an event or gathering, those things are still imperative to stopping the spread of COVID. 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.”

The calculations for number of people allowed are as follows:

Maximum Occupancy Allowable Indoor Rate 
0-2,000 people 20% of Maximum Occupancy
2,001 – 10,000 people 15% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people 10% of Maximum Occupancy up to 3,750 people

 

Maximum Occupancy Allowable Outdoor Rate 
0-2,000 people 25% of Maximum Occupancy
2,001 – 10,000 people 20% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people 15% of Maximum Occupancy up to 7,500 people

 

Wolf had previously said gatherings were to adhere to a strict 25 indoor and 250 outdoor limit, and has repeatedly stressed his belief that the restrictions are necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

That guidance has come under intense scrutiny from legislators and parents across the state and is the subject of pending litigation.

On Sept. 14, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV ruled that the gathering restrictions were unconstitutional. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of that ruling while it is being appealed.

The state legislature passed HB2787, which would have put the final decision on spectators in the hands of individual school districts, but Wolf vetoed the bill and the house was unable to get enough votes to override the veto.

Wolf said last week that he would work with the PIAA “and others” to create new guidance, especially as it pertains to high school sports. The administration and Pennsylvania Department of Health said the new guidance could be rolled back if new outbreaks of the virus were traced back to larger gatherings.

“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,” Levine said. “Public health and safety are our first concern and will always remain as such.”

In announcing the new guidance, the state made a distinction between the types of gatherings to which these calculations apply.

“An event or gathering is defined as a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days, including fairs, festivals, concerts, or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusement parks, individual showings of movies, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multi-room venue,” the announcement said. “Conversely, groups of people who share a space within a building in the ordinary course of operations, such as in an office building, classroom, production floor or similar regularly occurring operation of a business or organization, are not events or gatherings.”

Though new gathering guidance is in place, venues must still ensure people are following the state’s mask mandate, adhering to social distancing whenever possible “and implement best practices such as timed entry, multiple entry and exit points, multiple restrooms and hygiene stations.”

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