Gov. Wolf increases crowd limits for most of Pennsylvania, but guidelines under review in Philadelphia

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Coronavirus-related crowd restrictions for both indoor and outdoor events were loosened for most of Pennsylvania on Tuesday by Gov. Tom Wolf, who called the shift "a gradual adjustment to our lives as we learn how we can do things safely" until there's a vaccine for the virus or cure for the disease.

The rules, which go into effect on Friday, October 9, will dramatically increase the current limits, allowing bigger crowds at a range of events, including school sports.

However, Philadelphia officials said the new rules will not be going into effect in the city on Friday.

In a news conference held shortly after Wolf's announcement, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said city officials will review the guidelines and expect to have an update on Tuesday, October 13.

Farley said Philadelphia has unique considerations, including the fact that it is the largest, most densely populated city in the state; it is the hardest hit by the virus; and it has large venues that attract people from across the state and country.

Wolf's announcement acknowledged that cities such as Philadelphia can establish their own guidelines.

The extra time to review Wolf's decision will not impact Lincoln Financial Field, since the Eagles are on the road this weekend to face the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

A statement issued by Steelers President Art Rooney II on Tuesday afternoon said they are limited to 7,500 people at Heinz Field for Sunday's game, including players, coaches, stadium staff, etc.

Based on the limitations, 5,500 seats will be made available to fans, according to the statement. Priority will be given to season ticket holders.

The Philadelphia Union, who play in Chester, Pennsylvania, released a statement supporting Wolf's announcement and said more details about fan attendance will be coming soon.

"Look the fans are everything in the game. The fans are what's missing right now," said Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. "Not having them there has been soulless. It has this awful empty feeling."

For banquet halls like Drexelbrook in Drexel Hill, a 15,000 square foot facility, the news is both good and bad.

"We will be helped because now we can do more than 25 people in our ballroom. We will be hurt because tents that we already rented for X amount of guests now will not apply," said Domenic Savino, owner of Drexelbrook.

The state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, cautioned that the changes may not be permanent.

"We will closely monitor cases and outbreaks and if our case investigation and contact tracing efforts determine that events or gatherings are the source of an outbreak, we can and will dial back these new limits," Dr. Levine said. "Public health and safety are our first concern and will always remain as such."

Wolf and Levine said the changes apply to temporary groups of people meeting over a limited time period, including fairs, festivals, concerts and shows, as well as larger and more permanent events such as performances at amusement parks, movies, business meetings and conferences.

According to the amended orders, for indoor events -

  • If a venue has a maximum occupancy of 0-2,000 people, the allowable indoor rate is 20% of maximum occupancy.

  • If a venue has a maximum occupancy of 2,001 - 10,000 people, the allowable indoor rate is 15% of maximum occupancy.

  • If a venue has a maximum occupancy of over 10,000 people, the allowable indoor rate is 10% of the maximum occupancy up to 3,750.

According to the amended orders, for outdoor events -

  • If a venue has a maximum occupancy of 0 - 2,000 people, the allowable outdoor rate is 25% of maximum occupancy.

  • If a venue has a maximum occupancy of 2,001 - 10,000 people, the allowable outdoor rate is 20% of maximum occupancy.

  • If a venue has a maximum occupancy of over 10,000 people, the allowable outdoor rate is 15% of maximum occupancy up to 7,500 people.

Capacity is determined by a venue's established occupancy limit as defined by the National Fire Protection Association's life safety code.

Venues must require attendees to comply with 6-foot social distancing requirements, to wear masks or face coverings, and to implement best practices such as timed entry, multiple entry and exit points, multiple restrooms and hygiene stations, the Department of Health said.

"Pennsylvanians must continue to social distance and wear masks as we prepare to fight the virus through the fall and winter," Gov. Wolf said. "Regardless of the size of an event or gathering, those things are still imperative to stopping the spread of COVID."

Wolf's limits of 25 indoors and 250 outdoors were thrown out by a western Pennsylvania federal judge, but on Oct. 1 the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the governor's limits while that decision is appealed.

The Wolf administration's guidance says it does not apply to groups that share a space within an office building, classrooms, production floors or other "regularly occurring operation of a business or organization."

When venues are not hosting events, the Pennsylvania Department of Health says occupancy restrictions outlined in the green phase of reopening continue to apply to businesses.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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