The gates at Highmark Stadium will be open to everyone after all, with or without Covid-19 shots.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on social media Sunday that people will no longer need to be vaccinated to attend Buffalo Bills games or other events in the stadium, ending a restriction that had stayed in place after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lifted most of New York State’s rules on gatherings and social distancing Tuesday.
"Right now I do not have any change to report in our position on the Bills’ fan attendance issue," said County Executive Mark Poloncarz's spokesman Peter Anderson, despite the state's rollback of capacity and social distancing restrictions earlier this week.
On Twitter, Poloncarz said: “Based on few new Covid-19 cases (0 on Friday and 4 yesterday out of thousands of tests), low hospitalizations and good vaccination rates, we are rescinding the vaccination requirement to attend Bills games and stadium events. We will revisit in future if circumstances warrant.”
When contacted Sunday afternoon about Poloncarz’s announcement, his spokesman Peter Anderson responded: “At this point, no further details are available on the Executive’s decision.”
Through his spokesman, Poloncarz on Thursday had reaffirmed his belief that the vaccination rule should remain in effect.
One belief by the county executive and supporters: The state can set Covid vaccination rules, but localities can make them stronger, though not weaker.
At that time, Anderson said: “Right now I do not have any change to report in our position on the Bills’ fan attendance issue. With well over two months to go until the opening game, it seems reasonable that there should be enough vaccinated people by that time to have a 100% vaccinated attendance.”
Poloncarz has continually contended that the county, not the state, can set tougher health standards regarding who is allowed into the stadium. Although Cuomo has said the county executive lacks the legal authority to mandate that Bills game attendees be fully vaccinated, the county administration claims it has the authority to set tougher Covid-19 vaccination rules under state legislation that was passed in March.
Poloncarz had defended the full vaccination requirement by saying it was the safest way to guarantee no Covid-19 transmission or outbreaks in a stadium that can seat 70,000.