State officials are examining a plan submitted by the Buffalo Bills that would require COVID-19 testing for fans allowed entry into Bills Stadium for playoff games.
The program would call for testing of all fans before being allowed inside, in addition to strict enforcement of masking and social distancing guidelines. Attendees would also be required to provide information for contact tracing after the game. It’s unclear what exactly the testing window would entail.
“We’re looking to test a hypothesis,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “The National Football League currently does games without testing. The Buffalo Bills are going to have a playoff game. … Could we allow fans to the game with testing and then contact trace after the game? That’s what the Department of Health has been working on.”
It’s being examined by the state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and a trusted Cuomo aide, the state’s budget director, Robert Mujica. Cuomo said the Bills have asked to let up to 6,700 fans back into their stadium for the postseason. The team clinched its first AFC East crown since 1995. At 11-3, the Bills are tied for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which could get them up to three home playoff games depending on how far they advance. Several teams in the NFL have hosted fans this season at limited capacity.
“This would be a demonstration project. It’s a public health model. It’s never been done anywhere in the country before,” Zucker said. “What we will do, we will work with the team to get all the fans tested who are coming in beforehand – 6,700 people.”
Zucker’s biggest concern isn’t what happens inside the stadium. It is what happens before, in terms of tailgating parties and gathering.
“And that’s how disease spreads,” Zucker said. “So how do we control that? That is really the question. That’s what we are working on as well.”