Athletes, as well as faithful mini-golfers, tennis players, and horseback riders, received some good news on Wednesday as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf allowed for professional, college, high school, and youth sports to resume, and lifted restrictions on other outdoor venues.

With all Pennsylvania counties slowly reopening after the coronavirus shutdown, the governor announced that private and public schools can start voluntary sports workouts provided they create a health and safety plan that is approved by the Department of Education. Wolf called the protocols “a starting point for summer sports teams.”

All coaches and spectators should wear masks and social distance, he said. Athletes should be screened for symptoms and “avoid unnecessary physical contact.”

He also updated previous guidelines to allow for the reopening of outdoor facilities for mountain biking, miniature golf, motorsports, go-karting, rock climbing, disc golf, paintball, horseback riding, tennis, archery, or shooting, and other similar venues. These facilities are not permitted to open any indoor areas, aside from bathrooms and entrances.

Andre Wright at the Athletic Recreation Center in North Philadelphia with a closed park sign due to the COVID-19 outbreak on April 9.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Andre Wright at the Athletic Recreation Center in North Philadelphia with a closed park sign due to the COVID-19 outbreak on April 9.

“I want all Pennsylvanians to remain active and to enjoy all the recreation the commonwealth has to offer,” the governor said in a statement, “but we must do so safely and with social distancing top of mind.”

Wolf’s announcement comes a day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy relaxed the state’s limit on outdoor gatherings to 100 people, up from the previous limit of 25, and allowed for outdoor recreational and entertainment businesses — including outdoor mini-golf courses and boardwalk games — to reopen. Amusement parks, water parks, and arcades were excluded from the reopening.

In Pennsylvania, school-affiliated summer sports teams should limit coaches, athletes, and spectators to 25 people in “yellow” counties and 250 people in “green” counties.

Recreational and amateur sports teams can practice and play games in the green phase. It was unclear from the state guidelines what these teams are permitted to do in the yellow phase. At least one suburban county, Chester, said Wednesday that Wolf was allowing no organized competitions or games until the green phase.

While Wolf has green-lighted college and professional sports, individual leagues and the NCAA have the authority to decide how and when sports at those levels will resume.

Pennsylvania on Wednesday reported an additional 410 confirmed coronavirus cases and 48 deaths. In Philadelphia, there were 129 cases and eight deaths.

In New Jersey, officials reported 611 additional cases and 74 deaths as the state continued in stage two of the four-step recovery plan.

All 67 counties in Pennsylvania are in the yellow or green phases of reopening. In the yellow phase, which the Philadelphia region is in, people can gather in groups of up to 25 and return to in-person work if necessary. Child-care centers and retail stores may reopen with restrictions. In some places, outdoor dining is allowed.

In the final green phase, all restrictions are lifted, but people are advised to continue social distancing, frequently wash their hands, and wear masks in crowds.