As cases of the Delta variant ofcontinue to surge across the U.S., some NFL teams are requiring fans to be vaccinated before entering their stadiums. The new regulations mean that thousands of football fans will now need more than an admission ticket to see their favorite gridiron stars.
The home turfs of the Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints were the first within the NFL to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 from attendees over the age of 12. On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills' Highmark Stadium, a 71,608-seat space, announced a similar requirement, making it the fourth NFL venue to do so.
The 2021 NFL season has officially begun with the coronavirus still in play. Professional football teams are following a vaccine policy that NBA and MLB teams already implemented earlier this year.
Back in May, a number of NBA and MLB team venues asked visitors to prove they'd gotten their shots. Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, were among a list of sports spaces requiring
The vaccine mandate doesn't bother die-hard Saints fan Nicole Condoll of New Orleans, who has been a season ticket holder since 2006.
"It protects the players, staff and all parties," Condoll told CBS MoneyWatch. "If enough people are vaccinated, it's harder for the disease to actually spread."
Terrence Augillard, another Saints fan from New Orleans, said the vaccination requirement is a great idea.
"I think everyone should get vaccinated," said Augillard, a season ticket holder since 1988. "The only way out of this pandemic is through people getting vaccinated."
Augillard and Condoll, who haven't been to a Saints home game since January, said they believe the vaccine mandate will not keep Louisianians from filling every seat in the Caesars Superdome this season.
Negative COVID-19 tests won't be accepted
In Buffalo, individuals age 12 or older must receive at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend games on September 26 and October 3, according to an announcement on the team's website. Fans must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for stadium entry starting October 31. Presenting proof of a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted, the team said.
The Bills' vaccine regulation comes as coronavirus rates in the Buffalo region are climbing, week after week. In Erie County, where Highmark Stadium is located, there were 1,449 new COVID-19 cases last week, a 10% increase from the previous week according to Erie County health department data.
Nationally, COVID-19 cases have grown in Kentucky,, West Virginia and .
Protecting fans, teams and staff members alike from a potential COVID-19 outbreak is a particularly tricky challenge for sports venues, which are designed to accommodate large numbers of people close to one another. Everything from the seating around the field to the line areas at concession stands and restrooms provide little room for social distancing when filled at capacity.
Ron Raccuia, executive vice president at Highmark Stadium, said in a statement Tuesday that the team is requiring vaccines to create "the safest environment for our fans that we possibly can."
"We feel like this is the right move going forward," Raccuia said.
The stadiums in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Seattle have similar entry guidelines as Buffalo. Seattle and New Orleans will accept a negative COVID test for entry. The Raiders are offering on-site vaccination at Allegiant Stadium.
It's unclear if other teams will follow the current four because the NFL has not released league-wide guidelines on vaccination of fans.
Bills fan Eric Matwijow of Orchard Park, New York, said the vaccine mandate won't keep him from attending games.
"If it stops the potential spread of the disease, then yeah, that's no problem," said Matwijow, who is vaccinated.
Matwijow said he knows some non-vaccinated fans who have already bought season tickets. He believes those people will likely skip the games and sell their tickets rather than get a vaccine.
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