Amid the sharp increase of COVID-19 cases, the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration will be scaled back, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. While the public can still attend, the capacity will be lowered and both vaccination and masking will be required.
Under the new plan, all attendees over 5 years of age will need to provide proof of full vaccination (which was received by December 17th) along with a valid photo ID, and will need to be masked while in the outdoors pens. Spectators won't be allowed to enter until 3 p.m. on December 31st, which is much later than previous years when people would start entering Times Square early in the morning to stake out spots. Further, the crowd will be limited to 15,000 people—usually there are closer to 60,000—to allow for social distancing.
"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," de Blasio said in a statement. "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.”
Last year's New Year's Eve celebration was closed to the public; instead, there were musical performances, with a small group of essential workers invited to watch while in socially-distanced pens.
In November, when De Blasio and the Times Square Alliance said festivities would return to Times Square this year, the plan was to allow unvaccinated attendees if they wore masks. However, the new omicron variant's transmissibility has sent COVID case counts rising exponentially, demanding a change in protocol.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who canceled his indoor January 1st inauguration, voiced his support of the adjustment: "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. 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."
De Blasio had expressed reluctance to completely cancel the event, saying on Tuesday, "The goal, of course, is to keep it going, because it's such an important event for New Yorkers and for the whole world."
Times Square Alliance president Tom Harris said, "We applaud the leadership of Mayor de Blasio in finding a way to welcome revelers into Times Square on New Year's Eve in an even safer way than we originally planned. This year revelers will be fully vaccinated, masked, and we will have reduced occupancy in the viewing areas. We understand that everyone will not be able to be here but welcome them to experience New Year's Eve in Times Square from our live webcast, on one of the networks or on the VNYE app.”