Gov. Cuomo: State is reviewing Buffalo Bills plan for 6,700 fans attending playoff game


ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Wednesday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.

On day 298 of the coronavirus pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:

  • 204,361 COVID-19 tests processed Tuesday statewide
  • 5.84% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 7.09% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
  • 5.37% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
  • 164 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 Tuesday
  • 6,864 New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus
  • 1,166 in ICU
  • 633 intubated

The governor said the Rochester and Finger Lakes region continues to show problematic trends in regards to COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalization rates. The governor said state officials would soon engage in talks with local elected officials and the regional hospital systems to come up with a plan to lower the current trajectories.

“Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Finger Lakes has been a problem for the past several weeks. It is not getting better. It’s a serious concern for us. That is a serious and deadly situation and it’s not getting better.”

The governor said the Buffalo Bills have submitted a proposal to allow 6,700 fans attend their upcoming playoff game.

MORE | Bills beat Broncos 48-19 for first AFC East crown since 1995

“Can you reopen venues using vaccinated people? We’re not there yet, but can you reopen venues with rapid testing? We’re exploring some options,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Buffalo Bills proposed 6,700 fans for their upcoming playoff game. The New York State Department of Health is working on a model where fans get tested on the way in, and contact traced after to see what the effect is.”

The governor said the state will review the plan before the playoff game, which is still a few weeks away.

“We can control how fans get into the stadium, but we can’t control the parties before or after, like at the airport last weekend. That’s where this virus spreads,” said New York State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “This would be a demonstration project. It’s a public health model and hasn’t been done in the nation before.”

MORE | Gov. Cuomo on allowing fans in Bills Stadium: ‘I would like to be at that game as much as anyone’

The governor said no final decision has been made at this time, but that if approved, this rapid testing upon entry model could be a template for future events.

“The stadium is basically a controlled area, but could you create situations that you have not contemplated, which would be problematic,” said New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica. “Those large gatherings without masks, fans at the airport, those are highly problematic and could we be creating something inadvertently. That’s one of the department of health’s concerns and that’s what they’re talking through, so nothing is final at this time.”

If the plan is approved, tailgating would still be prohibited. Once inside the stadium, fans would be required to wear a mask at all times and adhere to strict social distancing protocols. Fans who refuse to comply with these protocols would be removed from the stadium by Bills’ security personnel. Ushers will also be present in throughout the stadium to ensure all fans are in compliance. As part of the state’s review, personnel from the department of health have traveled to other stadiums outside of New York where similar protocols are in place to confirm their effectiveness.

“New Yorkers are incredibly proud of the Buffalo Bills and with their first home playoff game in more than 20 years coming up in just a few weeks, we are working closely with the team to develop a plan to allow a limited number of fans to attend the game,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The governor again expressed concern over the new COVID-19 strain discovered in the United Kingdom. Monday, the governor announced travel restrictions which require three airlines — British Airways, Delta and Virgin —to test passengers before sending flights from the U.K. to New York. All three of those airlines have since agreed to those terms.

MORE | Gov. Cuomo: New COVID-19 strain found in United Kingdom is ‘very concerning’

“Boris Johnson said it is 70% more transmittable,” Gov. Cuomo said. “How much more dangerous? We don’t know, we don’t know if it’s more deadly. We don’t know if the vaccine works on it or not. We think the vaccine works, that’s our ‘working assumption,’ but it’s real and it’s dangerous. It is traveling around the world as we speak.”

The governor was critical of the lack of response on behalf of the federal government regarding the new COVID-19 strain.

“Why aren’t we saying ‘test travelers period before they get on a place and come to the United States?” Gov. Cuomo said. “Why wouldn’t you do that? This is what happened in the spring, it is déjà vu, it is the same mistake the federal government made, that killed thousands of people and cost billions of dollars. They lost track of the virus. When did common sense leave government? When did government become so beurocratic, and so apathetic, and so slow, that basic common sense alludes them?

“New York is the only state that has made that request and NY is safer than any other state because the people who land here are being tested,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If I can do it. Why isn’t the United States doing it? I did it in three phone calls. They didn’t fight me.”

MORE | What you need to know about the new coronavirus strain

On the vaccination progress, the governor said some 89,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose, and that a “good mistake” from Pfizer and Modern turned out to be a positive.

“We actually have more Moderna vaccine that we thought because there is more vaccinations in the vial,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That was also true for Pfizer so they both made a mistake, but it was a mistake in the positive direction.”

With the holiday season in full swing, and the virus surging locally and in most areas across the state and nation, the governor again reiterated a cautious approach in the coming days.

“What we do in the next 10 days is going to be key, so let’s be smart,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The governor said the next this stretch of the holiday season could have a positive or negative ripple effect for months to follow.

“Here’s the challenge, you have an economy that is basically shut down,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You are battling the COVID rate daily. The weapon that wins the war is the vaccination. The vaccination will take months; best case scenario June, now some experts are talking September. Some people are starting to say the end of the year 2021. We can’t go through a year with the economy shut down. We can’t. We’ve only been at this for 10 months. We could not do another nine months, 12 months. How do you balance that? How do you keep open the economy safely while you’re waiting to hit full vaccination, critical mass? Never been done before. Unchartered water.”

Locally, n the latest update from Monroe County, health officials said there are currently 775 people in the Finger Lakes region hospitalized with the virus, including 125 in an ICU. The regional number of virus hospitalizations is currently at an all-time high (775) since the pandemic began.

Watch the full news conference:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.

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