Appeals court allows Pennsylvania to restrict crowd size

PHILADELPHIA -- 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.

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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.

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.

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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.
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