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Centre Commissioners address concerns over COVID-19

Wrestling tourney drew many from out of state

BELLEFONTE — With Centre County seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the past week, the commissioners are trying to address community concerns.

The commissioners were asked about a weekend wrestling tournament held in the county that allegedly violated a COVID-19 mitigation order from the Pennsylvania secretary of health, limiting indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings to 250.

More than 30 citations carrying thousands of dollars in fines were issued at the tournament, which was held at C3 Sports at 200 Ellis Place in State College, according to various news reports. The property is owned and operated by Christ Community Church.

“Rightfully so, there were community members who were disappointed about how it turned out at C3,” said Commissioner Michael Pipe. “There were photos and videos, live from the event, where you could see exactly what was happening. I think it just concerned people. We just want people to stay healthy and safe. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

The controversial tournament featured scholastic, cadet and junior wrestlers from across the country. According to published reports, there were more than 1,200 competitors and 1,500 people in attendance.

Photos and videos posted on social media showed large crowds gathered with no social distancing and little masking.

According to Pipe, one of the many issues with the wrestling tournament was the lack of advance notice to the municipality and county of the event.

“There wasn’t really any notification about the event. The municipality and College Township found out about it a day before the event. It was challenging to try to stop it,” Pipe said.

On Friday, College Township asked Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Health to seek an injunction to shut down the tournament, but that never happened and the tournament went off as scheduled and continued through the weekend.

Pipe alleged that events like that have been going on “ever since March.”

“Many have been going on under the radar. Many don’t get the kind of coverage that this one did. If there is a legislative fix, if there’s something that can happen, that would be terrific. I think most people agree it’s not a good idea to pack an indoor arena with 400, 500 people from around the country. There were a lot of license plates there from around the country,” Pipe said.

In Centre County, there are nearly 1,500 cases of COVID-19, or roughly 890 per 100,000.

Pipe said there is a definite reason for concern.

“As we see the explosion of cases locally … two of our school districts (State College and Bald Eagle Area) now have positives. We have to be very mindful of some of the events that are being held here and what that means. It all comes down with balancing public safety and trying to operate businesses and non-profits,” Pipe said.

Late Tuesday, Pipe issued a statement about the challenges that Centre County faces with the recent surge in cases. The statement read: “Our Centre County community is at a defining moment in our battle against COVID-19. Our cases are increasing at an alarming and dangerous rate. We are becoming the outlier in our region, commonwealth, and country. Please continue doing your part to slow the spread. Recently, the majority of positive cases have been discovered through surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals. Places that have controlled the spread of the virus have robust testing of this population. Isolating and quarantining are vital practices that must also occur. We need more options for testing and are working towards announcing additional resources. We continue to work with community and state partners to identify further actions we can take to keep you and your loved ones safe during this pandemic. Take care of each other. Stay safe.”

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

— Heard a presentation from the Mental Health Crisis Services Taskforce and a County Relief Block Grant update.

— Approved a contract renewal with Comcast Business to provide ethernet services. The contract includes an upgrade to the main internet connection from 50 Mbps to 500 Mbps and an increase at MDJ 49-03-2 from 5 Mbps to 30 Mbps. The contract total is $210,720 for the period of Sept. 15 2020 through Sept. 14, 2025. The contract renewal was moved to next week’s consent agenda.

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at the Willowbank Building. The meeting will be televised live on C-NET.

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