The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), the Allegheny County Health Department and the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) issued statements Friday on high school fall sports and how they plan to ensure such activities meet state and county guidelines for outdoor gatherings.
PIAA’s board voted to allow for fall sports to be permitted throughout the commonwealth beginning Aug. 24 but added that it will be at the determination of local school districts to decide if students can participate.
“The PIAA board of directors has heard the thousands of voices of student-athletes, parents, coaches, officials as well as community leaders that have contacted us,” the organization said in a press release. “We remind those individuals who have strongly advocated for athletics that they must keep strict adherence to school health and safety plans.”
The PIAA board said it would continue to monitor school participation in fall sports programs and that it reserves the right to pursue alternate solutions if necessary.
At the local level, the Allegheny County Health Department and WPIAL have outlined the new guidelines it will implement for fall sports, one of which being the prohibition of spectators in attendance at in-person K-12 sports-related activities.
ACHD and WPIAL also outlined additional guidelines for participating schools to adhere to for fall sports which include:
- Players being expected to take personal health assessments on the day of each game
- Physical distancing of at least six feet at all times when participants are not actively engaging in direct competition
- Coaches and other team staff wearing masks at all times unless they meet a state-level exception to Pennsylvania’s universal face coverings order
- Players not sharing uniforms, towels, apparel or equipment among themselves
- Individuals being expected to supply their own water bottles or other hydration beverage as no team water bottles can be shared among players
Due to these restrictions, the health department and WPIAL said that each team will be considered a “pod” which cannot exceed the county’s requirement of groups of 50 people or more. A maximum of three “pods” can exist at any given match, one for the home team, a second for the away team and the third for those who are actively engaged in a competition.
“The considerations outlined by the PIAA, along with these guidelines, are all aimed at limiting groups that would be in close contact with one another for an extended period of time while outdoors,” the health department said in the press release outlining the guidelines. “When met, these plans can provide a safe environment for interscholastic athletic events to occur in Allegheny County while simultaneously complying with the Health Department’s gathering restrictions.”