NYC Gears Up for 'Responsible Event for the World to See'

Only 15K in-person spectators, masked and vaccinated, will be allowed at NYE in Times Square
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 31, 2021 12:00 PM CST
Scaled-Back NYE Bash in Times Square Is On
A woman stands in confetti in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2021, among the few to observe the Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop. New York City is readying to embrace this new year by reviving its annual New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, limiting the number of people to about 15,000 in-person...   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

New York City readied on Friday to embrace the new year—and bid good riddance to another pandemic-marred 12 months—as it prepared to revive its annual New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. It did so as an uneasy nation tried to muster optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are now behind it, even as public health officials cautioned Friday against unbridled celebrations amid surging COVID infections from the omicron variant. The city said it would limit the number of people it lets into Times Square to witness a 6-ton ball, encrusted with nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals, descend above a crowd of about 15,000 in-person spectators—far fewer than the many tens of thousands of revelers who usually descend on the world-famous square to bask in the lights, hoopla, and shower of confetti during the nation's marquee New Year's Eve event, per the AP.

"We are very excited to welcome back visitors to Times Square this New Year's Eve," said Tom Harris, the president of the Times Square Alliance. "Our goal is to have a safe and responsible event for the world to see." Doubts had swirled over whether the city would have to cancel this year's bash, as the city posted record numbers of COVID cases in the days leading up to it, even as some cities like Atlanta had decided to cancel their own celebrations. Last year's ball drop was closed to the public because of the outbreak.

COVID-19 cases in the US have soared to their highest levels on record, at over 265,000 per day on average. New York City reported a record number of new, confirmed cases—more than 39,590—on Tuesday, according to New York state figures. But Mayor Bill de Blasio, who'll relinquish oversight of the nation's most populous city at the stroke of midnight to Eric Adams, said the festivities at Times Square would "show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this." Officials said those attending the spectacle would have to wear masks and show proof of vaccination.

Rap artist and actor LL Cool J was supposed to be among the performers taking the stage in Times Square Friday night, but he announced he was pulling out of the event because he'd tested positive for COVID. Adams, meanwhile, expressed hope on Thursday that 2022 would be "a new beginning of our resiliency," a sentiment shared by ordinary people. Paolo Bruegger, a banker from Zurich, says he's "extremely optimistic" about 2022, partly because of vaccines and new therapies against COVID-19 and partly, he added, "because it can't be worse than the last two years."

(Read more Times Square stories.)

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