BUFFALO, New York, U.S. (AP) – The Buffalo Bills joined the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday as the only NFL teams to require COVID-19 vaccination testing from fans over 12 years.
The rules will be the same as for the Buffalo Sabers games at Key Bank Center next month, when the ice hockey season kicks off.
The change in Bills policy comes after lax oversight during the Bills’ season opener at Highmark Stadium on Sept. 12.
That day, unvaccinated people were allowed in, but on the condition that they wear masks all the time, following the parameters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many game-goers said few faces were covered in the packed stadium, restrooms and other indoor areas where unvaccinated fans were expected to wear masks.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the policy change was a decision between the local government and Pegula Sprots & Entertainment, which owns the Bills and Sabers.
“We believe that the only way to guarantee a safe environment is to have people vaccinated,” said Poloncarz.
There will be no option to submit a negative coronavirus test in lieu of the vaccination test as allowed by the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, the other two teams that announced vaccination requirements.
During the past regular season, the Bills had to play with an empty stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rules were relaxed to allow 6,700 fans to enter the Bills’ postseason games in January.
Under the new policy, vaccinated fans will not be required to wear face masks at Bills home games. However, the mask will be required for children under 12 years of age, who cannot yet be vaccinated.
Fans must have received at least one dose in time before the Sept. 26 game against Washington, and be fully vaccinated Oct. 31 against Miami.
Buffalo also joined a long list of cities that announced mandatory shots for hockey games. The Seattle Kraken expansion team announced last week that it will require fans 12 and older to show proof of COVID-19.
The Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks announced similar provisions, according to The Seattle Times.
In a photo taken on Sunday, September 12, 2021, fans watch the second half of the Buffalo Bills’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (AP Photo / Joshua Bessex)