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Parents, school officials, fans frustrated with disconnect in stadium COVID-19 protocols compared to classrooms

Bills' fan says few wore mask at season opener
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Posted at 11:33 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 23:33:04-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — “I will admit coming to the game was a calculated decision,” Bills fan Andrew Brenner said.

Thousands of fans like Andrew Brenner packed Highmark Stadium for the bills season opener. But now he’s not sure if he’ll come back.

“There were maybe 5% of people that I saw who were wearing masks,” Brenner said. “I was anticipating more enforcement than I saw yesterday, which was none.”

While stadiums are packed full of fans, students of all ages are social distancing and wearing masks.

“It’s absolutely confounding to me,” Niagara Falls superintendent Mark Laurrie said.

Laurrie said the difference in policy sends a mixed message to parents, students, and staff. The Erie County Department of Health said different setting require different COVID-19 strategies; they said school is required, while going to a football game is optional.

“COVID isn’t optional. COVID doesn’t distinguish between optional and non-optional,” Laurrie said.

Students under the age of 12 are ineligible for the vaccine. Quarantine guidelines in Erie County said if there are two or more COVID-19 cases in a classroom over a ten-day period, all unvaccinated individuals must quarantine, even if masks were worn.

“If you’re applying the rules from school, to let’s say, the bills stadium, if there were two cases of COVID, the entire stadium would need to quarantine,” WNY Education Alliance founder Tarja Parssinen said.

Laurrie said students comply with mask and social distancing policies, but the inconsistency sends a poor message.

“They’re saying to us, ‘we’ll do it, because we’re in school and we know we have to do what we’re told in school, but I don’t get it, we don’t get it,’” Laurrie said.

But with the start of the school year, Laurrie said COVID-19 protocols have been effective.

“The good news about the masks is we’re not sending 5, 6 or 7 kids home quarantining, we’re not shutting down classes,” Laurrie said.

“Yes, we need to make sure they’re safe, but we also have to make sure there’s no disruption in learning and our kids can all be there,” Parssinen said.