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Vaccination requirement at Highmark Stadium lacks teeth in inaugural week

When Pegula Sports & Entertainment and the Erie County Department of Health said that every fan at Highmark Stadium would need to be vaccinated prior to the team’s game against the Washington Football Team, they gave very clear guidelines and rules for entry. Those rules seem to have been loosely enforced on Sunday.

“It was a very lax screening,” said one season ticket holder. “I could have shown my Bonus Club card and they would have let me in.”

I spoke with another season ticket holder who echoed the sentiment after going through security on Sunday afternoon. They said the worker glanced at the screen, but they could have had anything up on their screen and been waved in.

The Erie County Department of Health said they turned away four patrons based on secondary checks after they went past Buffalo Bills staffers. As of this publication, the Bills have not released information on the number of people turned away. Erie County did not specify why the four were turned away.

Fans were required to have at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine before coming to the game on Sunday and screenshots weren’t supposed to be accepted. Instead, people with a physical vaccination card or a state’s digital pass were the only methods accepted. By the October 31 game against the Miami Dolphins, fans are required to be fully vaccinated and two weeks past their final dose.

At least one staunch anti-vaccination voice was inside the stadium on Sunday, as Jordan Poyer’s wife, Rachel Bush, posted to Instagram from inside the stadium. She argues that natural antibodies testing for folks who previously were infected with COVID should be a replacement for the vaccine mandate.

Late last week, fans were quick to pick up on a bit of news with food vendors and security not having a similar vaccine requirement to fans. Those employees were and are required to be masked and in Week 1, several vendors were cited for not following the procedure.

“They all have to follow certain protocols due to their employment,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said of the team contractors and employees. “Like I do know individuals on the field, and they have to be vaccinated. People working in a direct place with the public, we want them to be vaccinated.”

Players don’t have to be vaccinated because they are tested daily.

For what it’s worth, the vaccine mandate didn’t seem to have an impact on attendance at the game, as the place looked pretty full to our season ticket holders and on the television. Perhaps the resale market was a little subdued because of a bunch of available tickets, but with the border with Canada still shuttered and 10-20 percent of the season tickets sold up north, that’s going to happen for the time being.

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