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Bills stadium parking becomes massive COVID testing site, as Saturday's playoff game nears

Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills' stadium after their win over the Denver Broncos to become AFC East Champions.

The parking lot at the Buffalo Bills' stadium in Orchard Park will be packed Wednesday with fans planning to see the team play the Indianapolis Colts Saturday.

Nearly 6,800 Bills fans have tickets for Saturday’s playoff game with the Colts. Commuters passing the stadium this morning will see ticket holders filling 30 rows of cars waiting to have their COVID-19 test samples taken. They will only be allowed into the stadium Saturday if they test negative.

Dr. Jon Cohen is a vascular surgeon and executive chairman of Bioreference, which is conducting the scheduled tests.

"We have 30 lanes set up at the Buffalo stadium in Orchard Park," he said. "You pull up. We verify who you are. You roll down your window. We swab you. Just a little nasal swab, not invasive. We then take that specimen with the requisition and we send it to our laboratory."

Cohen said Bioreference does 50,000-60,000 COVID tests a day, 10 million total so far. The North Jersey lab runs mass testing programs, like the recent testing of 210,000 New York City public school students, and is the exclusive provider of COVID testing for the NFL.

"Multiple, multiple drive-throughs around the country and then we were the exclusive provider for the NBA and Major League Soccer in the bubble in Orlando," he said.

Cohen said there will be a series of shuttles from Orchard Park to the main lab in New Jersey Wednesday and Thursday to ensure test results will be complete sometime on Friday. Those who test negative will get a message to be shown at the stadium gate. Those who are positive for the virus will get an email, as will New York State.

Cohen said he expects some tests to come back positive.

"That depends on what the positivity rate is in the Buffalo region when we start testing," he said. "So whatever that is, there will be some expectation. So if the rate is -- you can do the math. We’re going to test roughly 7,000 people and let’s say 5% positivity. It could be higher than that. So that’s 350 people will be positive."

Western New York's positivity rate is 8.61% as of Tuesday. In the Southern Tier it is 5.41%. The statewide rate is 7.94%.

Wednesday morning, Kelly Pegula posted video of her father, Terry Pegula, driving by testing booths in a stadium parking lot.

"Testing going pretty smooth," said the Bills owner.

Credit Kelly Pegula / Twitter
A screenshot from video of the COVID-19 testing being conducted in the parking lot of the Buffalo Bills' stadium in Orchard Park Wednesday morning.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.

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.
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