A pandemic isn’t going to stop the Buffalo Bills from opening stadium gates for a playoff game for the first time in 24 years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that 6,700 fans will be allowed inside Bills Stadium on the weekend of Jan. 9-10 for the Bills’ first home playoff game since Dec. 28, 1996. It is the first step in a first-in-the-nation pilot program launched by New York aimed at “re-opening businesses safely” during COVID-19, according to Cuomo, who said he will be attending the game.
The plan developed by the state, the Department of Health, the Bills and the NFL, calls for fans to show proof of testing negative for COVID-19 by a PCR test administered 72 hours before the game at a reduced cost to the fan of $63 plus $11 for parking. BioReference will conduct drive-thru testing in the stadium parking lots.
Fans with failed tests cannot attend the game and the ticket is non-transferrable but refundable. Tickets go on sale to season ticketholders beginning Thursday.
“People watching this game in the stadium will probably be the safest in the state watching the game,” state budget director Rob Mujica said.
Masks and social distancing are required and will be enforced by security inside the stadium. There will be postgame contact tracing. Tailgating and other mass gatherings are prohibited.
“They have captured a certain energy and charisma that is effective,” Cuomo said of the Bills. “We really have to take this seriously. We really don’t want the fact that the Bills are in the playoffs to be a negative in terms of COVID.”
While indoor dining remains closed in New York, “a football playoff game is outdoors,” Cuomo said, “which is a much better situation from COVID spread.”
The Bills (12-3) unseated the dominant New England Patriots to win the AFC East division for the first time since 1995 and it is possible they could host more than one playoff game. They are one of 14 NFL teams (out of 32) who did not have fans at any of their eight regular-season home games.
“Be safe, be smart, and most importantly, be loud,” Bills owner Terry Pegula said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Post as to whether New Jersey is working on a similar program to consider allowing a limited-capacity crowd into MetLife Stadium if the Giants host a playoff game that same weekend.
—Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan
Author: Ryan Dunleavy