Penn State Has a Plan for Fans at Beaver Stadium, But State Not Ready to Give OK
Penn State has a plan for fans in the stands at Beaver Stadium this fall, but state officials' concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have so far made that proposition a no-go, according to Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour.
"I think at this point it's their concerns about where we are as a state with the virus and they're not willing to extend it to that point, at this point," Barbour said during a video conference call Thursday afternoon.
"Now they're open and we continue to work with them. So we can, and will continue to work throughout this with them to see what flexibility might exist, either through innovation, or through change or improved conditions."
Per ongoing state health guidelines, outdoor sporting events are limited to no more than 250 people. That figure includes players, coaches, officials and support staffs. Penn State Athletics announced earlier on Thursday that it was preparing to play the fall sports season without spectators because of current guidance from Gov. Tom Wolf's administration.
Barbour, who noted conversations with the state had been ongoing for months and are continuing, expressed that Penn State's plans included socially distanced fans throughout Beaver Stadium capping attendance at 23,275 people. Fans would have been seated in socially distanced 'pods' of, two, four, six or eight.
Additionally the plan included zoned entry into the stadium, limited concession openings and more than 1,000 hand sanitizing stations as well as health screenings and temperature checks for stadium workers to detect and monitor the workforce set to interact with fans coming and going throughout Beaver Stadium.
While lags in testing results and various nuances dictate the changing curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania's increase in testing across the commonwealth has yielded an increase in positive results. After dipping into roughly 300-400 new cases a day in mid to late June, the state has reported a largely upward trajectory since that point, averaging about 900 cases a day over the past two weeks.
The state reported 807 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to the Department of Health.
"I think every one of us would agree that there was a time when we were pretty sure we were going to play and then things took a turn for the worse," Barbour, who opened her media session wearing a mask.
"So, again, it's a part of why I open every one of these and lots of other things with mask wearing. There are some pretty simple things that aren't going to make COVID-19 go away, but are going to help us control this and help us be able to do in our everyday lives whether it's go to restaurants or go to parks, or if it's play sports for Penn State student athletes in the Penn State community. These are things we have to do and that we can do."
With the future of football in 2020 very much in doubt, getting the season off the ground will be a minor miracle in its own right, and doing that season in front of fans? Thursday's news may have put a fork in those hopes, but with a month to go until the season is set to begin, plenty can change.
And these days, it's safe to assume plenty will.