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The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association announced in a bulletin Tuesday that in-game officials must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to work local games.
“All officials must be fully vaccinated to officiate any postseason inter-district contest. The terms and conditions of PIAA inter-district playoff contracts will include language that all officials working those contests must be fully vaccinated,” the release said.
The mandate does not apply to local district games, which fall under the discretion of the districts themselves. PIAA assistant executive director Patrick Gebhart, who oversees officials across the state, said that once tournaments start, officials must be vaxxed.
“Any of the 12 districts can do as they see fit,” Gebhart said. “But once our tournaments start here in the fall, everyone will be required to be vaccinated. They will not be able to claim a medical or religious exemption.”
Coaches and players vaccination statuses do not fall under the jurisdiction of the PIAA, but rather under the local schools, so the new rule only applies to officials. As has become typical in American domestic policy of late, officials are leaning on vague science to make decisions.
“From everything we’ve learned so far, those that are vaccinated are much better equipped to be around everyone,” Gebhart said. “We want the seasons to move forward. I don’t think we want our officials to be responsible for a contest being postponed or canceled or having a negative effect on any of our teams in the tournament.”
“Much better equipped”…whatever that means. PIAA officials are accounted as independent contractors, so they are not being coerced, says PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi.
“They don’t have to (accept),” Lombardi said. “This is totally voluntary and any of those officials that don’t want to do it don’t have to work.”
Gebhart did say that the PIAA does not intend to demand any sort of proof beyond a signed contract. Administrators in Pennsylvania also acknowledged that the mandates could lead to a shortage in officials, but we’re going to move forward regardless.