EDITORIAL: Governor fumbles Bills decision

The Buffalo Bills face the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. Sunday on CBS6 (WRGB).
The Buffalo Bills face the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. Sunday on CBS6 (WRGB).

At the end of last week, Erie County had already passed November for the highest number of monthly deaths due to the coronavirus.

By the end of this month, with the Thanksgiving-related spike on top of an anticipated Christmas spike, the county could see more deaths than it did at the height of the pandemic in April and May.

So given all that, what would possibly possess Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who has been a one-man bullhorn for taking precautions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus — to suddenly go back on all this warnings and consider allowing 6,700 people to attend a Buffalo Bills playoff game?

We understand the fans’ excitement. But let’s not forget where we are in time.

This is the same governor who practically made it against the law to have Thanksgiving dinner last month. This is the governor who wants to prevent flights to New York from the United Kingdom in order to stop a new, more contagious strain of the virus from infecting the state.

Yet he suddenly wants to reverse months of precaution — which includes prohibiting fans from attending professional sporting events — and allow the hometown Bills to host a playoff game with thousands of people in attendance?

The governor apparently didn’t even contact county government leaders or health officials about his proposed “demonstration project,” or provide any information to them about exactly how they were supposed to pull off this feat.

For instance, all the fans are going to have to get rapid-tested, and there’s going to have to be contact tracing.

This proposal means 6,700 rapid tests will have to be diverted from other people, tests that the county won’t have available for nursing home residents and staff to make those places safer, for medical professionals on the front lines, for EMTs or for essential workers and other citizens desperate for testing and who can’t get the tests when they want them.

Plus, as Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz points out, to get those fans in the stadium in time for the playoff game, a decision will have to be made by the middle of next week in order for the team to bring back the many stadium workers who’ll be needed to staff the event.

The team also needs time to figure out who’s going to be eligible for the limited number of tickets and to issue them to the fans.

The governor apparently wants to be the hero to Bills fans.

But this spontaneous proposal — particularly one done without consulting local government and public health officials and without considering the health ramifications of such a move on the fans in attendance and other citizens, at the height of the covid winter wave — is nothing for anyone to cheer about.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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