Audiences tuning in to this year’s broadcasts of the annually televised New Year’s Eve Ball Drop live from Times Square in New York might think they’re just watching a rerun from last December, when COVID kept the crowds to invited first responders only.
Revelers will still ring in the New Year from the famous landmark spot next week, but there just won’t be as many of them as organizers had originally hoped thanks to the new restrictions announced Thursday as the city grapples with a spike in Omicron variant-driven cases.
On Wednesday, the city set yet another one-day testing record with 22,808 new cases, though a true comparison to the number of cases during the initial COVID-19 surge in spring 2020 is impossible because tests were very limited at the time. Because of vaccinations, hospitalizations and deaths from the current surge are far fewer than at the pandemic’s height.
Not good enough. Still super stupid. 15,000 people taking subways/buses to Times Square for New Year’s Eve as #Omicron is holiday feasting in NYC? Just NO. Why is it so hard to cancel this super spreader @NYCMayor https://t.co/3MGVwr6HOF
— Barbara Malmet (@B52Malmet) December 23, 2021
Viewing areas that normally accommodate about 58,000 people will be limited to about 15,000 to allow for more distancing, and everyone in attendance must show proof of vaccination and wear a mask, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news release announcing the changes. Mayor De Blasio also said along with Thursday’s announcement that the city is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and could impose additional precautions if needed. Among the other changes announced Thursday: revelers won’t be allowed into viewing areas until 3 p.m., much later than in past years.
New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year. There’s a lot to celebrate and the additional safety measures we’re announcing today will keep the fully vaccinated crowd at Times Square safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year. pic.twitter.com/SbStmLmfxQ
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 23, 2021
The reactions have been mixed. On Tuesday, the Fox Network pulled the plug on a planned live broadcast from the New Year’s Eve event. Other networks plan to air the festivities, including Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC, the legendary broadcast now hosted by Ryan Seacrest. CNN’s show, hosted by Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen, is also still scheduled to air as planned.
— CNN (@CNN) December 24, 2021
“New York is the best place in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve and now it will be one of the safest against COVID as well,” Mayor-elect Eric Adams said in a written statement endorsing the new precautions. “New Yorkers and visitors alike can now enjoy Times Square and the rest of our city as we ring in 2022.”