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Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration scaled back

▶ Watch Video: As holidays approach, Omicron variant fuels rapid COVID spread throughout the U.S.

New York City’s famous New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square will implement additional safety measures this year as COVID-19 cases rise statewide, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

“There is a lot to celebrate and these additional safety measures will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year,” de Blasio said in a statement

This year’s celebration will host 15,000 people instead of its usual crowd of 58,000. Visitors ages five and older are required to be fully vaccinated and wear face masks. Those who are unable to get vaccinated due to a disability will be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event. And unvaccinated minors are required to be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.

Visitors will not be allowed into Times Square until 3:00 p.m. local time, which is much later than previous years, according to the mayor’s office. 

Confetti flies after the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball drops in a nearly empty Times Square, early Friday, January 1, 2021, as the area normally packed with revelers remained closed off due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Craig Ruttle / AP

“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 statement. “The Mayor has made the right move to take precautionary measures as we learn to live with COVID and fight the Omicron variant—and New Yorkers and visitors alike can now enjoy Times Square and the rest of our city as we ring in 2022.”

The updated plans come as New York sees record numbers of new COVID-19 cases throughout the state. According to the New York Department of Health, the state reported an 8.6% positive test rate over the past seven days, and more than 28,900 positive tests on Tuesday alone. 

Multiple Broadway shows temporarily shut down this month in the wake of rising cases. And Radio City canceled its remaining “Christmas Spectacular” shows last week.

The spike in cases comes as health officials worldwide express concern about the fast-spreading Omicron virus variant, which has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country. 

But despite the spread, both de Blasio and New York Governor Kathy Hochul have tried to avoid shutdowns by making more testing available and urging residents to get fully vaccinated.

“We should avoid lockdowns,” de Blasio said in a briefing Monday. “We should avoid shutdowns. We should avoid restrictions. I’ve said this now for weeks and weeks. We can avoid all those things by getting more people vaccinated.”



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