Penn State coach James Franklin is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as are his wife and many members of the football team and staff. On Wednesday, Franklin joined Gov. Tom Wolf in urging more Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated.
"The more people who are vaccinated, the better chance we have to get back to 107,000 strong here in Beaver Stadium," Franklin said. "Last season wasn't the same without the support of our amazing fans at home and on the road. We want our Ball State game on Sept. 11 to be our first family reunion in almost two years, and we want Beaver Stadium and all of Happy Valley rocking."
Wolf visited Penn State on Wednesday, convening a small press conference at the Pegula Ice Arena to encourage vaccination efforts across the commonwealth. He stopped short of incentivizing vaccinations, as other states are doing, saying instead that he believes "Pennsylvanians are just decent human beings and will do the right thing for people around them."
Wolf said that, as of Wednesday morning, 50.9 percent of Pennsylvanians had received at least one vaccine dose. About 34 percent have received a second dose, Wolf said.
Though Wolf and Penn State President Eric Barron urged people, especially college students, to get vaccinated, they did not suggest setting requirements to do so. Wolf said he has not had conversations regarding college students needing to be vaccinated to return to school this fall.
Penn State currently does not require vaccines. Further, neither Wolf nor Barron addressed whether fans will need to be vaccinated to attend sporting events, including football games at Beaver Stadium, this fall.
Asked about Penn State's next step toward opening Beaver Stadium to more people, Wolf said, "I think that's up to them."
"All the activities we missed over the winter get safer when we all get vaccinated," said Wolf, who noted that he will receive his second dose in mid-May.
Franklin and Theo Johnson, a freshman tight end, spoke on behalf of the football program. Franklin said he was "encouraged" by Wolf's announcement Tuesday that COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings will be lifted May 31.
Franklin added that "we also understand there's still much work to be done."
"This is not just about Penn State football," Franklin said. "This is about the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We know how important it is for our community and fans to have our college football and our professional teams in all sports return to full capacity.
"These teams have an economic impact on our communities and provide a sense of togetherness for every fan base. Getting the vaccine will help protect our community and our children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine. Getting the vaccine will help our local businesses by allowing them to return to normal operations and having large gatherings like football games to boost the economy. Do your part and help us get back together."
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