Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using the Buffalo Bills’ first home playoff game in 25 years for a pilot program involving COVID-19 testing.
Cuomo said this exception to New York’s “large gatherings” guidelines would be a barometer measuring the viability for reopening his state’s businesses while vaccinations remain relatively low, and that he would be among the roughly 6,700 fans in attendance for the game, scheduled for Jan. 9 or 10.
The governor, whose state has among the more extreme lockdowns in the U.S., underscored the importance of being increasingly proactive.
“It can’t be that we start 2021 with the expectation that the economy will reopen when the vaccine hits critical mass (between 70% and 90%, according to health experts),” Cuomo said at a press briefing.
“We can’t take six months, nine months, 12 months of a closed-down economy. We can’t take the economic cost, we can’t take the psychological cost, we can’t take the emotional cost.”
The rapid-testing pilot program includes a required negative COVID-19 test for fans, along with contact tracing for all attendees in the days after the game.
Fans must wear masks from when they leave their vehicles in the parking lots until they return to their vehicles; they will be asked to leave the game if they take off their masks.
Cuomo sent health department staff to study COVID-19 protocols at stadiums in other states.
‘‘We believe we are the first state in the nation to run this kind of pilot. We believe it can be very instructive to us going forward,’’ Cuomo said.
New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Cuomo have stressed that fans avoid tailgate parties and other large gatherings.
In addition to the ticket price, fans (club seat and season-ticket holders only) must pay the $63 cost of testing.