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Pennsylvania sports teams ask to allow fans in the stands

By MARC LEVY and MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — As Pennsylvania approached 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, several professional, semi-professional, amateur and college sports teams have submitted plans to the state Department of Health to have fans in the stands, the agency said.

The Wolf administration declined to reveal which organizations, teams or colleges have submitted plans, or whether it has approved any. But it said it continues to discourage spectators or fans from attending games to prevent transmission of the virus.

Professional and college sports remain subject to Pennsylvania’s state-ordered limit of fewer than 250 people on site for games and practices, effectively meaning that Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Penn State football games cannot have fans in the stands.

However, the Health Department said “a number” of teams had submitted plans to the agency under a provision of its health orders that allow them get approval to exceed that limit.

Penn State declined to say whether it had submitted a plan.

Penn State Athletics said it’s working with various governing bodies on scenarios “for a possible return this fall consistent with physical distancing, mask wearing and other preventative safety steps.” Its statement continued: “While we are optimistic, it is too early to project, and any potential scenario would need to meet local and state public health guidance based on developing conditions for the virus in our community and elsewhere.”

Messages were left with the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Friday:

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ALLEGHENY ALLOWS TABLE SERVICE

Health authorities in the Pittsburgh area — the epicenter of the pandemic in Pennsylvania — relaxed restrictions on indoor dining Friday to bring them in line with the state’s.

The Allegheny County Health Department had prohibited indoor dining and alcohol consumption at bars and restaurants in response to a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. The health director, Dr. Debra Bogen, revised her order Friday to allow indoor table service but said patrons must leave indoor and outdoor seating areas by 11 p.m.

The new order was to take effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

Allegheny reported another big increase in new virus infections Friday, saying 240 more people had tested positive between June 29 and July 16.

Citing the ongoing outbreak in southwestern Pennsylvania and disease modeling that shows rising infections elsewhere, the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf reimposed some statewide pandemic restrictions this week, shutting down nightclubs, closing bars unless they also offer dine-in meals and reducing occupancy at bars and restaurants.

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LATEST CASES

Pennsylvania reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the statewide total to more than 99,400.

The Health Department reported 19 new deaths for a statewide toll of just under 7,000.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania.