Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration scaled back amid COVID spike, de Blasio announces

National

FILE — Confetti falls as people celebrate the new year in New York’s Times Square, Jan. 1, 2017. Crowds will once again fill New York’s Times Square this New Year’s Eve, with proof of COVID-19 vaccination required for revelers who want to watch the ball drop in person, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

TAMPA (WFLA/AP) – The city that never sleeps will ring in the New Year a little more quietly this year amid a surge in COVID cases.

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.

The changes were made as the Big Apple grapples with a spike in virus cases, fueled by the rapid spread of the omicron variant. On Tuesday, the city set a one-day record with 17,200 new cases.

The surge has led to the cancellation of concerts, sporting events and Broadway shows, but de Blasio has shown a strong preference for having the annual Times Square ball drop go on as planned.

“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,” he said.

De Blasio said Thursday that the city is monitoring the situation and will announce 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.

They’ll need to bring proof of full vaccination with valid photo identification. Attendees will also be required to wear masks.

On New Year’s Eve last year, Times Square was mostly empty, with Jennifer Lopez and other artists performing behind police barricades to small groups made up of essential workers.

After vaccines became widely available in the U.S., the city allowed crowds back to the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and other events.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams called de Blasio’s decision the right move.

“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,” he said.

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