In a distinct shift from his urgent public health guidance to New Yorkers to stay away from large gatherings in a pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Buffalo Bills will open its stadium to 6,700 fans to see the team play an NFL wild card playoff game either on January 9th or 10th, and that he would be joining the crowd.

This will be the first major ticketed event since the state shut down in March.

"It can't be that we start 2021 with the expectation that the economy will reopen when the vaccination reaches critical mass," Cuomo said during a Wednesday press conference. "How do we use science and testing to reopen and be smart and safe?"

Explaining that the state needed to be "ahead of the curve," the governor revealed that the Bills playoff game would be a pilot to see if other similar events could also resume. Cuomo said the state has been working with the NFL to bring this grouping of fans to Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, which can hold up to 71,870 spectators.

Every attendee must test negative before attending, and they must wear masks and agree to abide by social distancing measures. There will also be post-game contact tracing.

The 7-day average positivity rate in Western New York is 6.5%, and 5.8% in Erie County, where the Bills' stadium is located.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who expressed frustration with the plan last week, because the county has only been able to test 1,450 people on a weekly basis, has now given his blessing, since county resources won't be used:

"The plan that we have and the protocols we have in place take in all the guidance from the CDC and WHO," State Budget Director Robert Mujica said. "BioReference will be conducting the tests for two days, for 13 hours a day. Fans will be in pods. People watching the game in this stadium will probably be the safest of fans watching anywhere in the state."

While other NFL games have been occurring in front of fans since the start of the season, no teams are testing fans beforehand. The fans will need to pay for the tests, which cost $63 each and will be included in the cost of the tickets.

"We're all so excited about this," Cuomo said. "The Bills have given us good news in a year where we really needed it."

Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula also appeared via satellite and thanked the governor to his help. "The entire Bills organization misses the energy of the fans at our games," Terry Pegula said.

Kim Pegula said, "We know the fans have been waiting 25 years to be able to attend a playoff game and we're so excited to be able to allow the limited amount of fans that we can."

The Pegulas, who also own the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, and have a history of donating money to Republicans, donated a combined $55,000 to Cuomo's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. At the press conference, they asked fans to follow social distancing and be safe and be smart,. "And be loud," Terry Pegula added. Bills quarterback Josh Allen also had a message for their rabid followers, the Bills Mafia:

About 6,200 of the 6,700 tickets will be available for season ticket holders to purchase starting December 31st, and they are only available in two- or four-ticket pods. The Bills say, "Season Ticket Members will be notified based on seniority." It's unclear how much the tickets will cost.

If the Bills advance and make it to the divisional playoffs, the season ticket holders who went to the wild card game will not be able to purchase those tickets. In addition to paying for tickets and testing, parking will cost $11.