Bills' plan to have 6,700 fans at playoff games under review

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says his administration and the Erie County Health Department have not been a part of any discussions regarding the plan

Albany, N.Y. (WBEN) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed Wednesday the Buffalo Bills have submitted a plan to include 6,700 fans for upcoming playoff games at Bills Stadium this January. The plan is currently being reviewed by the state.

The plan would involve strict enforcement of masking and social distancing guidelines.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says the plan would be the first of its kind, and also raised concerns about the potential spread that could occur at tailgating events surrounding the game.

"We would like to do it," said Cuomo, but the plan is not approved or finalized.

Cuomo said on Tuesday that the New York State Department of Health was looking at an “experimental model” that would allow fans back at Bills Stadium this winter. He explained that the state is working with the Bills, and that it’s all a work in progress.

According to Matt Bové from WKBW-TV in Buffalo, the team released a statement on the matter, saying:

“We are continuing to work with the Governor’s office regarding the details of a plan to possibly host a limited amount of spectators at our home playoff game. Nothing has been finalized at this point.”

However, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a statement later on Wednesday regarding Cuomo's mention of allowing 6,700 fans into Bills Stadium, saying:

“My administration and the Erie County Health Department have not been a part of any discussions regarding the ‘demonstration project’ announced by Governor Cuomo to allow 6,700 fans into Bills Stadium to see a football game and we have no information to add on the proposal. Despite being on several calls with NYS officials for a variety of matters related to the COVID-19 Pandemic over the past few days, no such proposal was brought up and additionally, my recent conversations with staff from the Buffalo Bills indicated to me that while the Bills submitted numerous plans to return fans to the stadium in past months they were unsure whether any of the plans were being actively considered by the state.

"Furthermore, a decision to allow fans into the stadium must be made no later than the middle of next week in order to properly prepare for a game in two weeks, including the sale and distribution of tickets to fans and the activation of appropriate support staff for such an event. Therefore, a decision must be made by the middle of next week to properly prepare for such a game.

Finally, it must be noted Erie County does not have the capacity to do rapid testing on 6,700 individuals in either a pregame or prior day setting – the county performs on average 1,450 COVID-19 tests per week for all tests (Abbot ID Now Rapid Tests, Abbot Binax Now Rapid Tests, and traditional PCR Tests) – and that NYS or the Buffalo Bills organization would have to conduct both these tests and the related contact tracing. While we will work with NYS if needed on this proposal, Erie County has not been a part of its formulation and we have no details on how or if it will occur.”

While the Bills are still weeks away from a playoff game in Orchard Park, the community will also be watching the COVID-19 statistics in Western New York, which will likely weigh into the state's decision with his proposed plan.

The Bills have not hosted a home playoff game since the 1996 season in a 30-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jim Kelly's last game.

Stay tuned for the latest on this developing story...

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