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Cuomo: WNY COVID numbers improving, fans for Bills playoff game still a possibility


Western New York had the highest positivity rate in the state just a month ago. On Monday, the region was the fourth lowest.

At a COVID briefing late Monday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the positivity rate for the region is at 6.43%, with the hospitalization rate at 0.04%.

"Western New York has actually made good progress. But that's on the percent of hospitalized positivity," Cuomo said. "You have Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley region, other places that we have to focus on and places frankly that have to focus on themselves."

Cuomo said numbers could be artificially skewed because of lower testing volume coming out of the holiday weekend. The Finger Lake region has the highest positivity rates in the state. 

The Buffalo Bills and New York State are continuing to work on a plan to allow fans in the stadium this January for playoff football. Cuomo said there will be more news on the matter in the near future.

“(It's) not just about attending a football game. I want people to understand we are trying to find a way to reopen businesses and use our technology to reopen businesses," Cuomo said. "It is not going to be an option for us to keep the economy closed until the vaccine hits critical mass.”

Cuomo said mass distribution of the vaccine may not come until summertime, maybe early fall.

Cuomo announced last week the State Health Department and the Buffalo Bills could allow 6,700 fans into the Bills' upcoming playoff game.

Later Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz had more to say about the Bills. Wednesday looks like the drop-dead date for a decision on having some people in the seats.

"There’s personnel related to EMS that need to be called in that are not county employees. There are certainly county employees we have to designate. Our hope is that if they would let us know by Wednesday, in two days, then we could get this all pulled off," he said. "And the other thing I continue to note is the individuals who are intimately involved in the game day operations on behalf of Erie County are those that are intimately involved in the COVID-19 and vaccine response."

Poloncarz saids the Bills also need time, to figure out who will get some of what perhaps will be their rarest tickets and who will get tested, since no one will be admitted who isn’t COVID tested. There also won’t be any tailgating allowed.

"If they announced it at like the end of next week, we might be able to pull it off, but I don’t know if the Bills could," Poloncarz said. " 'Cause, remember, you have to identify ticket holders and sell the ticket holders and then test them."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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