High school and recreational sports are being put on hold for the remainder of 2020 after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced statewide restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus on Thursday.
“The decision makers have it tough,” said Kennett girls’ basketball coach Vince Cattano. “I know the players and coaches are looking forward to getting in the gym. We miss our daily grind. I’m hopeful that this can be done safely in January. This has been challenging times for everyone.”
High school sports in the state will be shut down for the next three weeks, starting at midnight on Saturday, according to a release sent out by the governor’s office during his Thursday press conference. All practices and competitions will be halted until the restrictions expire at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4.
“This is tough news,” said West Chester Rustin boys’ basketball coach Keith Cochran. “I really feel for the kids and the community. But, hopefully this will allow us when we start to have a full season without stoppages.”
The state has seen a surge of COVID-19 cases since the start of November with record-highs reported in new daily cases and hospitalizations, and deaths have reached triple-digit totals per day.
“We know that COVID-19 thrives in places where people gather together,” Wolf said in the release. “Therefore, these mitigation measures target high-risk environments and activities and aim to reduce the spread of this devastating virus.”
The release noted an increase in cases among school-age children and that the surge “increases the risk that asymptomatic participants will spread the virus at a game or practice, in the locker room, while traveling to and from events, or at team meals, parties or other gatherings.”
Professional and college sports were not included in the state’s measures. Closures of gyms, theaters and casinos, and a ban on indoor dining at restaurants were also included in the state’s restrictions.
High school sports competition was slated to begin Friday in most parts of the state after the PIAA chose to stay the course at its Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday despite requests by the Pennsylvania Principals Assocation and Pennsylvania Associated of School Adminstrators to delay the start of the season.
The PIAA instead voted to allow teams to compete and schedule games through the end of the state postseason in the event of not qualifying for playoffs or being previously eliminated.
A measure adopted earlier this fall allows teams the maximum amount of time to schedule games. The decision becomes all the more important after Thursday’s decision to shut down for three weeks.
“As you can imagine, the news is disappointing as we were really looking forward to getting the season underway,” said West Chester Henderson head girls’ coach Greta Neff. “The balance between social, emotional, and physical health is always a tough line to walk.
“I appreciate the Governor’s leadership and that he took the ‘gray’ out of the situation. I’m holding out hope that we can get rolling in January and continue through March. I just want to see this senior class get an opportunity to finish their careers the way that they hope.”
The PIAA on Wednesday also changed the PIAA basketball playoffs to district champions only and modified the state wrestling tournament to just eight qualifiers in each weight reaching Hershey.
Pennsylvania high school sports already adopted health and safety guidelines including social distancing, disinfecting equipment and spectator policies. Locally and in most other leagues, student-athletes will be required to wear masks during competition (excluding swimming).
“The governor and the state are focused on making decisions that they feel are in the best interest for us all,” said Tom Schurtz, the girls’ basketball coach at Downingtown East. “We would love to be back in the gym, but right now that’s not an option. I think that it simply reinforces that we shouldn’t take any of these small moments for granted. Not having what you want only makes it that much sweeter when you get it back.”