At the end of his press conference on Friday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked whether or not fans would be allowed to watch the playoff-bound Buffalo Bills in person this season.
“You know, it’s a good question. We are still looking at it,” he said.
At the end of the summer, Cuomo said he would visit Orchard Park and see about the possibility of fans attending games.
“After we had that conversation … the infection rate went wild in Western New York, as you know,” the governor said. “The infection rate is now coming down. I'm going to be curious to see where we are when the Bills are in the playoff. If they get a bye, they'd be in the middle of January or something, I think. But where we are that first week in January, Jan. 9, etc., (I don't know). And there are a number of stadiums that have allowed people, but it depends on the situation in Buffalo, right. It depends on where you are in that infection rate, and where you are on that hospital capacity.
“I would love nothing more – on a personal level – than to see Buffalonians enjoy this moment. They're playing great. It is exciting. And God bless you – you know, Buffalo deserves it. Buffalo Bills fans are like none others. They have really hung in there. And it's fun hanging out in the bar with you, watching the Bills.
“But, if we're in the playoffs – if the infection rate is under control and the capacity rate is under control and we can come up with a smart, science-based way to do it – I would be all in favor. It's going to be a health decision. So, it's going to be (New York State Health Commissioner) Dr. (Howard) Zucker’s health decision. I don't know that he's a football fan, in general, but I'm going to communicate that, if there's any way to figure it out, we should try to figure it out.”
Throughout the course of the nine-month pandemic, Buffalo Bills fans have been unable to attend events inside Bills Stadium – including a now-rescheduled Billy Joel concert, and seven of the AFC East-leader’s eight regular season home games.
The team has one additional regular season home game left, welcoming the second-place Miami Dolphins on Jan. 3.
As of now, the Bills (10-3) would not qualify for a first-round bye, as only the top seed will receive a week off this season. The Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) are in first place in the AFC, and hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bills, following a 26-17 win on Oct. 19. The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2), whom the Bills defeated 26-15 last Sunday, are in second place.
The playoffs begin Jan. 9.
Overall, Western New York’s rate of new coronavirus cases has stabilized this month in Erie County, where most municipalities are in a micro-cluster action initiative “orange zone” and have dining, gathering and personal services restrictions. The seven-day rolling average is currently 6%. The Department of Health reported a high of 7.6% two weeks ago.