COVID-19 Update, May 26: Wolf seems to throw cold water on HS graduations, pro sports restart

By Mike McGann, Editor, the Times @mikemcgannpa

As Gov. Tom Wolf thanked Pennsylvanians for doing their part to drive down the number of new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, he seemed to throw cold water on the idea of high schools holding graduation ceremonies and a restart of pro sports in the Keystone state any time soon.

Responding to a question during Tuesday’s press conference, referencing moves made by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that would permit socially distanced outdoor high school graduations as well as allowing pro sports teams to resume work in the state, Wolf didn’t answer directly, but seemed to indicate he opposed creating any situation that would lead to a large gathering of people.

While obviously something being watched closely among schools in Chester County — with at least 15 high schools facing a cancelled graduation — Wolf’s comments seemed to tamp down any optimism that he would allow ceremonies as have been done in other states, outdoors, with minimal family and spacing of graduates.

And while Wolf’s comments impact all of the state’s pro teams, the biggest impact might be on the Eagles and Steelers — who would be looking to reopen their in-state training facilities, as NFL teams in other states have been given the green light to do in June. While the other pro sports have options for reopening out of state, it could be difficult for the NFL teams to find a new temporary home.

The Phillies and Pirates would have the option of running their operations out of their Florida spring training bases in Clearwater and Bradenton, while the NBA’s 76ers are likely to decamp to Orlando with the rest of the NBA. It appears the NHL may use a similar “bubble” format. It’s less clear what the plan would be for the Philadelphia Union of the MSL.

Wolf did say he was working with pro sports teams and leagues to formulate plans, but reiterated his concern about mass gatherings of any kind.

Still, Wolf was upbeat in his comments, as the new case numbers generally continue to fall in the state — and as more counties move toward partial reopenings. He gave tribute to the public for following guidelines for social distancing, wearing masks and hygiene.

“We’re able to make this progress toward safely reopening our economy because people are taking precautions and keeping themselves and their communities safe – whether it is a person wearing a mask or a business changing their operations to protect employees and customers,” Wolf said. “I thank each and every one of you for doing your part.”

According to the state Department of Health, new cases fell the 451 on Monday for a total of 68,637. 13 new fatalities were reported, bringing the state death toll to 5,152. Both of those daily numbers are notably lower than just a week ago.

On Friday, Wolf announced eight additional counties will move to yellow and 17 to green, effective at 12:01 a.m., this Friday. All remaining counties in red are expected to move to yellow by June 5 at 12:01 a.m.

The counties moving to yellow on Friday include Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill.

The 17 counties moving to green, also on Friday, include Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren. Centre County is eligible to move to green on May 29, so county officials chose to vote today to decide to move ahead and Centre will now be the 18th county to move to green on Friday.

Counties that remain in red on May 29 and are expected to move to yellow by June 5 include Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia.

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