Albany, NY – New York officials are considering a plan put forward by Buffalo Bills to allow 6,700 fans in the team’s next home game, Governor Andrew Cuomo said today.
Fans would be tested for Covid-19 before the game and masks would be required. Whoever is not wearing a mask will be removed from the stadium.
Contact tracking would take place after the game to determine whether and how the game spread the coronavirus, Cuomo said.
The fans would be spaced once inside the stadium and some sections would be closed. The ushers would be present in all sections.
Bills Stadium normally seats more than 71,000 people.
The plan for the playoff game is not yet finalized and state officials are still in discussion with the bills.
“This has never been done before and, how to do it, the devil is often in the details,” said Cuomo during a news conference in Albany. “We would like to do that.”
Bills won the team’s first AFC East division title in 25 years over the weekend. The team is 11-3 and has been one of the best teams in the NFL throughout the season.
The team’s record is good enough to guarantee a playoff game at home at Bills Stadium. It will be the first playoff game at home for Bills since 1997.
If Bills win their last two games, no AFC team will be able to beat them by failing. 2 seed in the playoffs, which would guarantee two games at home in the playoff.
Cuomo has been talking about the possibility of fans at Bills games for months. But only when the discussions started to get serious did Covid’s cases skyrocket in western New York and the rest of the state soon after.
The plan for fans in the playoff game could serve as a model for how the state can restart other major events, Cuomo said. It is possible that the combination of tests and vaccinations will allow certain events to be restarted and some places that are now closed will reopen.
The stadium itself is a relatively controlled environment and the team can manage how fans come and go, said state Budget Director Robert Mujica, who has been working on the bill proposal with state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.
The biggest concern are events that can arise around the game, such as outdoor parties, Zucker said. How to control them is the main remaining question.
The NFL playoffs begin on January 9. The date for Bills’ home game has yet to be set.
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