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Cuomo: Bills fans may be able to attend playoff game


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a pre-holiday message for New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says it’s OK to celebrate, but to do it smartly to help prevent the spread of infections.

And Cuomo is offering some hope for Buffalo Bills fans, announcing that some fans might be allowed into  Bills Stadium for an upcoming playoff game.

He says his health department is working with the team to devise a safe plan to allow a limited number of spectators into the upcoming playoff game. The plan would limit the stadium capacity to 6,700 fans and employ rapid testing of fans before the game, with contact tracing afterward.

Masks would be required, and fans who don’t wear masks would be asked to leave.

State health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says that while officials can control the behavior of fans in the stadium, it’s more difficult to control crowds outside of the venue. He addressed an incident late Sunday night — in which approximately 3,000 fans gathered at the Buffalo airport to greet the team as they flew into Buffalo after they clinched the AFC East Division and a spot in the playoffs. Many did not wear masks or practice social distancing.

“The ancillary events, the parties, are where this virus can spread,” says Zucker. “The events at the airport are a classic example.”

Cuomo says he hopes the limited access plan for Bills fans could become a model to open other large venues for gatherings in 2021, even before the majority of New Yorkers receive the vaccine.

Cuomo is not advising any new limits on Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s gatherings. The state’s current rules restrict indoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer. He advises that social distancing be practiced, and that masks be worn, and to open windows and take walks to increase time in the fresh air. He says those steps can tamp down a post-holiday surge of the virus.

“Holiday season is 10 days,” Cuomo says. “What we do in the next 10 days is going to be key. Let’s be smart.”

The governor says he also remains concerned about a new strain of the virus discovered in the United Kingdom, and he continues to call for the federal government to impose testing requirements on airliner passengers arriving in New York.

Karen DeWitt is Albany correspondent for WXXI News.