Carrot, meet stick.
Gov. Tom Wolf traveled to central Pennsylvania’s high church, Penn State University, on Wednesday, where he made an offer that vaccine-averse college football fans may have a hard time refusing: If they want to see the Nittany Lions in-person at Beaver Stadium this fall, the fastest way to make that happen is to get the COVID-19 jab.
“I know that Penn State fans here in Happy Valley want to get back to supporting the Nittany Lions in person again,” Wolf said during a Wednesday news conference, with Penn State’s sprawling, and currently very empty, Beaver Stadium, as a backdrop. “To do it, we need to get the vaccine.”
And if skeptical Pennsylvanians were disinclined to heed Wolf after 14 months of lockdowns and sometimes conflicting executive guidance, there was always another, presumably more effective messenger.
“The more people who are vaccinated, the better chance we have to get back to 107,000 at Beaver Stadium,” Nittany Lions head football coach James Franklin said. “We want all of Beaver Stadium and Happy Valley rocking. We know how important it is to have all our fans to have college teams to return to full capacity. Getting the vaccine will help protect our community and our children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine. Do your part to help us get back together and gathering.”
And if that wasn’t enough, freshman tight end Theo Johnson also was there to reinforce the message as well.
“This past season we really missed Penn State family cheering us on in Beaver Stadium,” he said. “In order to have 107,000 of our closest friends back this season, we ask everyone who is able to get vaccinated. I, myself, am halfway through … and looking forward to getting my second dose. We are looking forward to bring our family back this fall.”
He closed with an obligatory, “We are.”
As of Wednesday, just over half of all adult Pennsylvanians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, putting Pennsylvania 10th in the nation for first doses, Wolf said Wednesday.
“We still have some work to do at 2nd doses, we’re at 33 percent, which is above national average of 32 percent,” he continued. “We’re doing really well, but the thing is, we really need to get everyone vaccinated.”
On Tuesday, Wolf announced Pennsylvania would lift the last of its pandemic restrictions, except for the mask mandate, on May 31. The mask requirement will remain in place until 70 percent of adult Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated.
Earlier this month, the administration urged college students statewide to get vaccinated before they head home for the summer.