BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County officials and Pegula Sports & Entertainment announced new health and safety protocols for Highmark Stadium and KeyBank Center Tuesday.
"We feel like like this is the right move going forward," stated Ron Raccuia, Pegula Sports and Entertainment.
Raccuia joined Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and other leaders outside the stadium Tuesday.
Beginning September 25 at KeyBank Center and September 26 at Highmark Stadium, all guests 12 and over will be required to provide proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Those who are under the age of 12 will be allowed to attend, but will be required to wear a mask at all times.
Beginning October 31, all guests 12 and over must be fully vaccinated to attend any event at either venue. Officials say you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
There will be no option to provide a negative COVID-19 test and there will be no exceptions granted.
"That when the fans are screaming at Highmark Stadium these people have been vaccinated," remarked Poloncarz.
Once the vaccine requirement is in place, masks will not be required for those 12 and older. County officials say although masks will not be required for those 12 and older, they will still be highly recommended.
Acceptable forms of proof of COVID-19 vaccinations include:
- Physical COVID-19 vaccine card
- NYS Excelsior Pass
- Clear Digital Vaccine Card
- Government digital vaccine proof from outside the state if you are not a NYS resident
You can not provide a photo copy of your vaccine card and Poloncarz is also warning against any fake vaccine cards, noting it is a felony.
"If you're thinking you're going to get around this by presenting a fake card — please don't try that — please don't try because none of use want to see anybody be prosecuted,” Poloncarz stressed. “Our department of health sanitarians will be spot checking individuals who present actual cards and then confirming there after if they’re actually in the systems.”
The county executive says this was the plan all along working with the Buffalo Bills and that it was not decided as a result of this past weekend's game — in which eight food vendors were cited for not following the masks policy.
“This is a natural flow of what’s been happening in society with testing and the virus…we were in line with what’s been done before — i even point you back to last year in the play off game…we took an unprecedented step to allow fans to come to a playoff game by setting up testing and doing all that,” noted Ron Raccuia, Pegula Sports & Entertainment.
An email was sent to Bills season ticket holders, those who are not willing to get vaccinated will be given a full refund but lose their seats and seniority for tickets moving forward.
Some Bills season ticket holders we talked with are in favor of the policy, others have sharp opposition.
Why would anyone go to a game in person at this point? You pay hundreds to be at the epicenter of controversy and inconvenience.— JustforSportz (@JustforSportz) September 14, 2021
My thoughts, I don't care who's upset. Get over it.— Patrick (@PatrickGerald70) September 14, 2021
If the unvaccinated would have worn their MASK, then this wouldn't be happening.
Only ones to blame are the ones who didn't follow the Mask requirements.
You reap what you sow. https://t.co/HrE7h16GGF
This is what was sent to Bills season ticket holders. Those not willing to get vaccinated will be given a refund but lose their seats and seniority for tickets moving forward. @WKBW pic.twitter.com/3fmU7OJFS9— Ali Touhey (@Ali2e) September 14, 2021
Bills fans with single game tickets will not be eligible for a refund and can "transfer, resell, or donate their tickets."
The Buffalo Bills season kicked off Sunday at Highmark Stadium, those not fully vaccinated were required to wear a mask at all times and regardless of vaccination status masks were required for all guests when visiting indoor settings.
7 Eyewitness News spoke to fans Monday who attended the game, one said it didn't seem there was any enforcement of the mask policy and another said they felt as if they were the only one wearing a mask. Photos shared with 7 Eyewitness News also showed little to no compliance in the concourse.
We reached out to Erie County Monday and a spokesperson said the Department of Health sanitarians were on site, and eight concession stands were cited for violating mask orders. It said one stand violated mask orders twice. We didn’t hear anything about the fans, and the Buffalo Bills did not respond to our request for comment.