October 15, 2020

Governor Wolf Eases Gathering Restrictions

Throughout the global pandemic, Governor Wolf has been at the forefront of COVID-19 preventative measures in the interest of Pennsylvania citizens.  In March of 2020, Governor Wolf restricted gathering sizes, issued a stay-at-home order, and required non-essential businesses to close.  However, some of the measures were challenged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Specifically, the statewide restriction of no more than 25 people for events held indoors and no more than 250 people for events held outdoors, violated citizens’ constitutional right to assemble, as found by U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV.  Judge Stickman also denied Governor Wolf’s stay request to keep restrictions in place during the pendency of his appeal arguing that the restrictions are necessary to limit exposure and death rates caused by the virus.

On October 1, 2020, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals granted Governor Wolf’s request to reinstate crowd gathering restrictions.  Governor Wolf was once again able to enforce size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings while he appealed the constitutional violation.  The Governor’s brief encompassing his argument is due to the appellate court on November 4, 2020 while Plaintiff’s response brief is due thirty (30) days thereafter.  The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will review the merits and decide whether it agrees with the District Court that the restrictions were unconstitutional or not.  A final decision can be expected in the early months of 2021.

Although, in light of most recent events, Governor Wolf has reassessed the gathering restrictions based on a new formula centered on the percentage of a facility’s capacity.  The new formula went into effect on October 09, 2020 and can be found below:

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for Indoor Events

Maximum Occupancy        Allowable Indoor Rate

0-2,000 people                       20% of Maximum Occupancy

2,001 - 10,000 people           15% of Maximum Occupancy

Over 10,000 people              10% of Maximum Occupancy up to 3,750 people


Maximum Occupancy Calculator for Outdoor Events

Maximum Occupancy         Allowable Outdoor Rate

0-2,000 people                        25% of Maximum Occupancy

2,001 - 10,000 people           20% of Maximum Occupancy

Over 10,000 people              15% of Maximum Occupancy up to 7,500 people

Events or gatherings subject to the above formula are defined as “temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days, including fairs, festivals, concerts, youth/high school and professional sports, or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusement parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen/auditorium within a multiplex, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multi-room venue.”  Individuals sharing space in a “regularly occurring” setting such as a classroom, office building, or production floor are not events or gatherings.  This also does not apply to religious gatherings held by churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, or other places of worship but institutions are encouraged to follow mask requirements, social distancing, and other general health and safety measures.

If you have questions or are in need of assistance in deciphering whether your business activities constitute “events or gatherings” under the new restrictions, please contact one of the attorneys in our Employment Law Group at 1-888-488-2638.