ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Until Erie County gets below the CDC’s threshold for “substantial” Covid-19 transmission, fans attending Bills games, concerts and other events at Highmark Stadium will be required to wear face masks when in concourses, indoor areas and other enclosed spaces, a Health Department spokesperson told News 4.

Erie County announced Wednesday that these rules will be in effect for Saturday’s Billy Joel concert at Highmark Stadium. They apply to all fans, staff and vendors, regardless of vaccination status.

“This applies to events and activities at Highmark Stadium while Erie County is experiencing ‘substantial’ or higher transmission,” the spokesperson said when asked if these rules also apply for Bills games. (Update: The Bills confirmed the news later Wednesday in a statement.)

Fans are not required to wear a mask when seated outdoors.

The Bills’ only preseason game at home this year is Saturday, Aug. 28 against the Green Bay Packers. They have an open practice at the stadium scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1. The home opener is Sunday, Sept. 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released the guidance requiring masks inside county buildings beginning July 31, Highmark Stadium and Key Bank Center may not have come to people’s minds as county-owned buildings, but both are included in that original guidance.

“Masks at the stadium indoors is no different than any other building in county government,” Poloncarz said. “We own the football stadium, we own the hockey arena so we can control those and mandate it for those.”

People who attended a Bills open practice may be wondering why this rule wasn’t enforced.

“We didn’t have our full security staff on hand those were run by the Bills, but yes as of July 31 in county government including the football stadium,” Poloncarz said.

While the county doesn’t own Sahlen Field, the Bisons have also announced they’ll be requiring masks in the indoor areas including gift shops, club level suites, restrooms, and Consumer’s Pub at the Park.

Erie County has been experiencing “substantial” COVID-19 transmission since late July, according to CDC measurements (neighboring Niagara, Orleans and Chautauqua counties are also currently in this designation). Anyone entering an Erie County facility or building has been required to wear a mask since July 31, the county said.

The CDC’s definition of “substantial” transmission applies to counties with 50.00–99.99 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days (100 or above is considered “high” transmission). The health department’s most recent update said Erie County saw 70.7 new cases per 100,000 persons in the seven-day period ending last Saturday, up nearly tenfold since this time last month.

Erie County’s Covid-19 transmission rate.

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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here