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NY Gov. Cuomo Says He’ll Attend Bills’ First Home Playoff Game In Decades To Help ‘Reopen’ Economy
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes off a protective mask during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to attend the first home playoff game by the Buffalo Bills in nearly a quarter of a century after banning in-person attendance all season.

Cuomo announced the reopening of sports events for fans on Wednesday, saying that the Bills’ playoff game would serve as an initial test of reopening his state while vaccinations remain relatively low. The governor, who has orchestrated one of the strictest lockdowns in the U.S., also said he will be attending the game with the extremely limited audience.

“It can’t be that we start 2021 with the expectation that the economy will reopen when the vaccine hits critical mass,” which experts have estimated lies somewhere between 70-90% of the population vaccinated, the governor said at a press briefing. “We can’t take six months, nine months, 12 months, of a close-down economy. We can’t take the economic cost, we can’t take the psychological cost, we can’t take the emotional cost.”

Cuomo said that the game, the first home playoff appearance for the Bills since 1996, would be a pilot test for a rapid COVID testing plan that the state will use as a guide to reopen businesses next year.

“Under the pilot, which was developed cooperatively between the Bills, New York State and Bio-Reference Laboratories, 6,700 fans will be allowed to attend the game only after first obtaining a negative COVID-19 test result. Contact tracing will also be conducted after the game,” the governor’s office said in a press release. Bills Stadium is capable of seating nearly 72,000 fans.

Cuomo said that the widespread adoption of rapid testing is the only way his state can reopen.

“I don’t see a key to the door beyond this key. Really the only key you have is rapid testing. So we will be aggressive in exploring it, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Cuomo said, according to Politico. “If it works there, could you do Madison Square Garden? Could you do a theater on Broadway, could you do a certain capacity in a restaurant so restaurants can reopen safely? That is the road we are looking at.”

“I’m going to take my test, I’m going to be out there to watch the game with you,” he added.

Fans will be required to pay for their own COVID test prior to the game. As the Bills explained in a press release. “Fans will be required to pay for their testing as part of their ticket purchase to cover all associated costs. Bioreference Laboratories is providing each test for fans at a reduced cost of $63. There will also be an additional cost of $11 for parking on game day. The $11 fee is per ticket.”

Cuomo has overseen one of the most criticized responses to the pandemic of any state in the U.S. His response to the outbreak of the coronavirus early on was defined by a health order requiring nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to house COVID-positive patients released from hospitals. He left the heavily criticized policy in place for more than six weeks before scrapping it.

The governor has also ordered that addicts and others recovering in rehab facilities should be prioritized along with the elderly in receiving the initial doses of the vaccine, even though the elderly are identified as the highest risk population for COVID.

“These are congregate facilities. Congregate facilities are problematic. That’s where you have a lot of people in concentration,” Cuomo said on Monday. “Nursing homes are obviously the most problematic because they’re congregate plus older, vulnerable people. OASAS facilities, what we call the O facilities, they’re congregate — not necessarily older — but congregate facilities.”

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