COVID-19 surge forces NYC to scale back New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square

The big New Year’s Eve party in Times Square remains on for next week despite the Omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge, but Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the festivities will be significantly scaled back. 

Though more than 58,000 people cram into designated viewing areas in the Crossroads of the World to watch the ball drop on the final minute of the year, this year, the crowd size will be restricted to just 15,000. 

All attendees will be required not only to be fully vaccinated (and provide valid proof), but they’ll also need to mask up, even though the festivities are outdoors. Guests also won’t be permitted to come early; Times Square will be open to guests at 3 p.m., much later than in previous years.

De Blasio and Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who officially takes office after the ball drops on Dec. 31, said the decision was made in joint consultation with the Times Square Alliance and medical experts. They have not ruled out any additional changes in the week ahead, depending on the COVID-19 situation in the city. 

“New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year—we are leading the way on vaccinations, we have reopened safely, and every day we work toward building a recovery for all of us,” said de Blasio. “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.”

“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,” said Mayor-elect Eric Adams. “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 way Omicron is spreading across New York City, extra precautions might be a necessity. The city’s Health Department reported that the Five Boroughs’ 7-day positivity rate, as of Dec. 20, stood at 11.24%, with 13,123 positive cases reported that day.

Despite the surge of cases, the hospitalization rate remains quite stable, with a 7-day average of 114 people citywide being admitted for symptoms each day.

If you want to head to Times Square for New Year’s Ever, you must be fully vaccinated — meaning that you’ve received the second shot of the two-dose vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca), or the lone dose of an approved single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson, Sinopharm or Sinovac), 14 days before Dec. 31, 2021. You’ll need to bring proof of vaccination along with a valid photo ID. 

If you are medically unable to be vaccinated, you must bring with you proof of a negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event.

For more information, visit the Times Square Alliance website.

If the idea of being out in the cold among a crowd of people amid the ongoing pandemic isn’t appealing, you can watch all the festivities from the comforts of home online and several TV networks.