BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills have declined to discuss it with 2 On Your Side, but sources say they have formulated a plan to allow a limited number of fans to attend home games for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're going be talking more tomorrow," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Monday.
"Signs" of Progress
Signs that the Bills are gearing up to welcome back some of their fans could be seen inside the stadium on Monday, according to one source, who reported that electronic signs were being tested out near stadium entrances advising fans of the protocols they would be expected to follow in order to gain admission. These included reminders to wear masks at all times and to stay in their assigned groups.
According to Poloncarz, the state will have to approve the Bills' plan within the next day or two, if there is any hope for having fans in the stands for the next home game, a prime time battle with Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, October 15.
Poloncarz explained that would be the amount of time needed for ticketing and other issues.
"They have a protocol in place," said Poloncarz, even offering details on the BIlls plans to first offer a limited number of seats to season ticket holders based on seniority.
"You can only buy a certain number of tickets and you have to be in your pod, and the pods would be no more that six (fans)," Poloncarz said.
Fans, he said, would also have timed entry and exit into the stadium and those times would be staggered to prevent large throngs of them from gathering when either coming into the stadium or leaving it.
As well, there would be no tailgating allowed.
"We believe that at least 10 percent of the seating could be utilized safely for fans, which is a little over 7,000 fans," Poloncarz said. "The Bills were looking at 9,000 but it's really in the hands of the state right now."
New York's Cautious Approach
Several of the the measures the Bills are considering mirror those put in place by the Miami Dolphins, who allowed 11,000 fans into their stadium when they hosted the Bills in their season opener. The game was played in south Florida, where the infection rate currently hovers around 6 percent, as opposed to just 1 percent here.
"We have better numbers. It's as simple as that," said Poloncarz, who added that in his opinion and that of the Erie County Health Department, it would be safe for a limited number of fans under the plan proposed by the Bills.
It is no secret, however, that the climate regarding COVID-19 in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis last week lifted most coronavirus related restrictions, is much different than in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to take a more cautious approach despite the dwindling number of cases.
"If the infection rate goes up then we're gonna have to close businesses or tighten up gatherings," Cuomo said on Monday, when addressing the topic of mass gatherings while not speaking directly on the Bills and their plans.
"If we do that then you're gonna make even more people unhappy," Cuomo said.
What About Everyone Else?
Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul raised another concern during a visit to Buffalo on Monday.
"We have a limit on how many people can gather right now and it's 50," Hochul said. "And so the question becomes what happens with that dynamic?"
Hochul was referring to what could occur if an exception was made for the Bills and the NFL, and no one else in New York, including those who seek to be able to host weddings or other large gatherings and who have been told they can't.
"What you're talking about is exactly why these are complicated conversations to have, " Hochul said.