HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Professional sports can resume in Pennsylvania where the governor’s stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus is no longer in force, but without spectators, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Wednesday.
Those teams and competitors will be allowed to practice or play in counties where Wolf’s “yellow” or “green” designation applies in his stoplight-colored three-phase reopening plan.
To resume, a team or a league must develop a coronavirus safety plan that has been approved by Wolf’s state Department of Health and it must include testing or screening and monitoring of all “on-venue” players and personnel, the administration said.
Fans or spectators cannot be permitted inside or outside the sporting venue property, the administration said.
Meanwhile, Wolf lifted some dine-in prohibitions for restaurants and bars in counties in the yellow phase, allowing them to serve people seated in outdoor areas.
His administration also said that, under green-phase guidelines that first take effect Friday in 18 counties, gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited, including concerts, festivals, conferences, sporting events, movies or performances. Most businesses serving the public in a building or defined area can only operate at up to 50% or 75% maximum capacity, depending on the type of business, while also enforcing social distancing requirements.
Pennsylvania follows New Jersey and New York in allowing pro sports to resume practice and play. Youth sports are allowed to resume in areas in the green phase.
Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA have all been on hiatus since mid-March and the NFL has been holding its organized team activities “virtually,” though the reopening means players could potentially participate in person when mandatory mini-camps are held next month.
The NHL announced that it hopes to return at some point this summer with an expanded 24-team playoff format in two host cities.
Pittsburgh is among the finalists to serve as an NHL “hub” and Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday that players will be allowed to work out independently in small groups at the team’s practice facility in Cranberry starting as early as next week. Any official NHL-sanctioned “training camp” would not start before July 1.
Rutherford said the team will be meticulous in following health guidelines whenever players return.
“We are very sensitive to what’s going on and we will be very careful with it,” Rutherford said.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Diontae Johnson said Wednesday he doesn’t anticipate playing in front of fans anytime soon.
“It’ll be different,” Johnson said. “The game just wouldn’t feel right. It’s just like another practice.”