New York City has been gearing up for a big return to in-personal celebrating at the city’s annual New Year’s Eve ball drop, but those plans are changing.
On Thursday (Dec. 23), new health and safety protocols were announced for the New Year’s Eve festivities in Times Square. Most years, 58,000 people cram into Times Square to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve and, if they’re lucky, get spotted on national television. This year, the event in New York City will be limited to 15,000 people.
Those attending the Times Square ball drop must also wear masks and provide proof of vaccination status to attend. Attendees will have to be fully vaccinated if they’re older than 5, and unvaccinated children younger than 5 must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult, according to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. Unlike in previous years, there won’t be early entry. Organizers will begin allowing people into the area after 3 p.m., according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
The new health and safety protocols are in response to New York City’s current surge in cases of COVID-19 due to the omicron variant. The city’s latest seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is more than 12,000.
“This year’s holiday season may not be the one we had hoped for, but we can still have a happy holiday season,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said in a press release. “All New Yorkers should get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. Wear a quality face mask and stay home if you’re feeling sick, no matter how mild your symptoms.”
Although scaled back, on a positive note, this year’s event will mark the return of crowds in Times Square. The ball drop happened happened last year, but crowds weren’t allowed on the streets, so the show was solely for the television broadcast.