The Buffalo Bills joined the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday as the only NFL teams to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all fans over the age of 12.
The rules will be the same for the Buffalo Sabers games at KeyBank Center when the NHL season begins next month.
The change comes after reports from fans of the lax mask application during the Bills’ opener at Highmark Stadium on September 12.
Unvaccinated fans were allowed to attend, but were expected to wear masks at all times according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many at the game said they saw very few face coverings in the crowded stadium, including in the toilets and other indoor areas where even vaccinated fans had to wear a mask.
Erie County Director Mark Poloncarz said the policy change was a joint decision between the county and Pegula Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Bills and Sabers.
“We believe that the only way to guarantee a real atmosphere of safety is to have people vaccinated,” Poloncarz said.
There will be no option to offer a negative virus test instead of proof of vaccination, as allowed by the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, the only two other teams to announce vaccination requirements.
During last year’s regular season, the coronavirus pandemic caused Buffalo to play home games in an empty stadium. Rules have been relaxed to allow around 6,700 fans – around 10% of the stadium’s capacity – to attend the Bills’ two home playoff games in January.
Under the new policy, vaccinated fans will no longer be required to wear masks during home games, but the mask requirement remains in place for children under 12, who are too young to be vaccinated.
Fans must have received at least one dose in time for the September 26 game against Washington and be fully immunized before the October 31 game against Miami.
Buffalo is also joining a growing list of cities announcing vaccination warrants for hockey fans. The Seattle Kraken expansion announced last week that it will require fans aged 12 and over to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
“In general, we strongly support the health and safety rules that promote and encourage vaccination,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in an email.
The Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks have also announced mandates, the Seattle Times reported.
The Independent Gt