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PEF members help Buffalo Bills host a playoff game

By KATE MOSTACCIO

PEF members, wearing yellow reflective vests, worked January 9 at the Buffalo Bills playoff game, ensuring social distancing and mask wearing. Members also assisted with game-day rapid COVID testing, temperature checks and planning for the event.

PEF members with the state Department of Health (DOH) were instrumental in making it possible for thousands of fans to attend the Buffalo Bills playoff game January 9, the first time the Bills have made the playoffs in more than two decades.

“We were involved as planners and coordinators of the Bills’ game day activities,” said PEF member John Ingram, a public health services representative with DOH. “The Bills and New York State Department of Health said you couldn’t get in if you didn’t have a negative COVID test. We helped with pre-game COVID testing, monitored temperature checks as fans walked in, and did testing of people on game day. After the game started, we monitored the crowd for social distancing and mask wearing.”

New York State approved a capacity of 6,772 fans, about 9 percent of the stadium’s capacity, to attend the game. The team set up a 30-lane, drive-thru facility in one of the parking lots outside the stadium for two days of pre-game testing. BioReference Laboratories in New Jersey processed samples and on Jan. 8, one day before the game, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his COVID briefing that 1.9 percent – or 137 fans — tested positive and were unable to attend.

Ingram said PEF members working the game were well-received by fans.

“A lot of people thanked us for the service that we were offering and for looking out for the public’s best interest and welfare,” he said. “We had little to no problems. The biggest problem was people refusing to put on their masks. They may have grumbled, but in the end, they did put them on. We expected resistance and belligerence, but the vast majority were not.”

Fire Protection Specialists worked with professionals from NYSDOH and NYSP to ensure fans’ safe return to Bills Stadium.

Of the 62 DOH employees working that day, approximately 80 percent of them were PEF members, Ingram said.

“Even at the administrative level,” he said. “We’re professionals and we tried to handle it professionally and deal with issues as they arrived. We tried to account for as many logistical concerns as possible. They put things together very quickly and we tried to be the best we can for the public we serve.”

For many of them, this was a new experience.

“I’ve done testing site surveillance and team leads,” Ingram said. “A lot of this was familiar to me. But, a majority of members there haven’t been involved in something like this, so it was something new.”