HARRISBURG (AP/KDKA) – A federal appeals court on Thursday temporarily restored Pennsylvania’s pandemic restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, putting on hold a judge’s ruling that threw out statewide limits on crowd size.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, may once again enforce size limits on gatherings while it appeals the lower court order.
U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV in Pittsburgh, an appointee of President Donald Trump, had ruled against the state’s size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, saying they violate citizens’ constitutional rights to assemble. The state has been enforcing a gathering limit of more than 25 people for events held indoors and more than 250 people for those held outside.
The office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro asked the 3rd Circuit to intervene, saying crowd-size limits are a “life-saving mitigation tool” to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Stickman had also invalidated other Wolf administration pandemic orders that required people to stay at home and mandated “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down. Those orders have since lapsed and Wolf has said he has no plans to enforce them again.
“We have to recognize we have a virus out there, and I don’t like it, you don’t like it, no one likes it. And yet, that virus is out to get us. And so we have to be careful about how we gather together, and I think that’s the important thing,” Gov. Wolf said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“At the same time we got to make sure we’re being reasonable and realistic about how we do things. And so I’m doing everything I can — listening to folks and continuing to change as I did with restaurants, continuing to make sure the guidelines we have in place are reasonable.”
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Stickman’s Sept. 14 order prompted many Pennsylvania schools districts to allow more fans in the stands at high school football games and other athletic contests.
Several local school districts, like Hampton Township, North Hills, West Jefferson, Butler, Ellwood City and Karns City changed their fan policies in the wake of Strickman’s ruling, which had called gathering limits unconstitutional.
“I’m working right now with school districts and others to do what we can to recognize the contexts that are different in every community,” Gov. Wolf said when asked about allowing more than 250 fans at games.
He went on to say “stay tuned, we’re working on it as we speak.”
The PIAA says they’re hopeful some modifications will be made to gathering limits. Until then, they say they’ll comply with the 25 indoor and 250 outdoor gathering limits.
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