ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – If the Erie County Executive’s plan comes to fruition, there will be more than 70,000 fully vaccinated fans inside Highmark Stadium for Bills home games this coming Fall. Should that happen, an epidemiologist says those fans should still be masked up.
“I think that mask use will still be necessary,” said Dr. John Sellick, the chief of infectious diseases at the Buffalo VA, hospital epidemiologist for Kaleida Health, and U.B. professor.
Earlier this week, Poloncarz unveiled his theory that the stadium could be easily and safely sold out if fans showed proof of vaccination before entering. He suggested the same for Sabres games at KeyBank Center next season. Erie County owns both facilities.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has said it is too early to make any decisions. There are differing opinions regarding whether the state would have to give a final green light to Poloncarz’s plan.
On WBEN-AM Thursday morning, Poloncarz suggested fans may not have to wear masks if they were all vaccinated.
“If you’ve all been vaccinated regardless of where you live, you don’t need to wear a mask,” Poloncarz said. “Which is also part of the thought I have, that if everyone is vaccinated in the football stadium, then you probably wouldn’t need to even wear a mask.”
But Dr. Sellick has a different option.
“I think we have to temper that thought a little bit,” he said.
Sellick says 70,000 fully vaccinated football fans shoulder to shoulder in September would still create a “high risk situation”, even though they would be outdoors.
“Number one, even though these vaccines have performed far, far, far better than anyone expected, they’re still not 100%,” the doctor said. “The other factor that goes with this is even though the evidence is emerging that once you’ve been vaccinated you are less likely to be spreading virus to others, it’s also not 100%.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.