The county executive in Erie County, New York, suggested that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory to attend Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres games in person.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, a Democrat, told news outlets Tuesday that "there is no God-given right to attend a football game."
“No Vaccine = No Entry" is what a slide that was displayed by Poloncarz read during his press conference Tuesday. Poloncarz said he spoke with Bills' management about his plan.
“I want to see that stadium full, I know the Bills want to see that stadium full. We want to return fans back to the stadium,” Poloncarz said in a news conference. “That’s why the county supports returning all fans to the stadium and (hockey) arena for this fall … We know there’s a way to do it. We know there’s a way to ensure it. That’s that all fans and staff are fully vaccinated."
Poloncarz added that "unless you are vaccinated, you will not have entry to the stadium," adding that "we can then guarantee 70,000-plus people at the stadium." He said that medical and religious exemptions will not be accommodated.
To do this, Poloncarz said he wants to use the state's recently rolled-out vaccine passport-type system Excelsior. Such passport-type systems have been criticized by civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and were banned via executive orders by the governors of Texas and Florida.
In a statement to The Epoch Times, a spokesman for Erie County said the move "will ultimately affect fans from outside of state/Canada (when the border opens up), but (like local fans) they would also be expected to produce proof of vaccination to enter the stadium or Key Bank Center."
"Fans who don’t have a smartphone or the app will be able to access and print out their vaccination record online, and the part about children is still being worked on; eligibility keeps increasing and it is only mid-April now, so there will be about three and a half months before any games are played anyway; lots of time to plan," the spokesman said.
The New York State Department of Health issued a statement to local news outlets following Poloncarz's remarks.
“The New York State Department of Health continues to work closely with the Buffalo Bills on the plan to return fans to the stands this fall, in accordance with the State’s guidance on professional sports competitions with spectators and all applicable laws and regulations,” the agency said.
“As we did last year, we will continue to cooperate and comply with all New York State and local government regulations regarding our sporting events,” the Buffalo Bills said in a statement after Poloncarz's press conference.
County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, a Republican, said Poloncarz is acting in the manner of a dictator.
"Mark Poloncarz should spend less time killing businesses, ruining our economy, and destroying the dreams of die-hard Bills fans watching games in person again," he said, according to the Buffalo News.