Americans face New Years Eve at home again as U.S. political leaders and top health advisers urged people to ditch party plans and avoid larger public events as daily cases of Covid-19 are breaking all previous records.
In New York City, attendance at the Times Square celebration known as the Ball Drop – in essence, tens of thousands of people watching a 12-foot geodesic sphere encrusted with Waterford crystals descend from a long pole – was capped at 15,000, down from pre-pandemic 60,000, with organizers encouraging revelers to watch it on TV or online.
The reduction comes as New York’s new mayor Eric Adams has canceled his inaugural party and the outgoing mayor. Bill de Blasio sees his last New Year’s party severely diminished. Just last month, before Omicron hit the headlines, de Blasio was in the mood to party for two terms.
“Everyone’s going down,” he said on November 16. “We can finally get back together. It’s gonna be amazing.
But recently – the same day that New York City reported its largest number of new cases of the virus ever – de Blasio said the city would scale back its New Year’s event. Attendees must be fully immunized and wear masks.
The changes are aimed at “keeping the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year,” the mayor said in a statement.
In Chicago, Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker has yet to impose restrictions or shut down the city’s traditional fireworks display. But he warned Chicagoan this week that “Omicron and Delta are coming to your party.”
“You have to think twice about how many people will be together, keeping a social distance if you are at a party. And if you can’t, go, ”he added.
San Francisco has canceled its fireworks display over the bay for the second year in a row. The Mayor of London Breed told residents that “we must remain vigilant in doing everything possible to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant”.
Atlanta also canceled its Peach Drop where for 30 years, revelers have gathered to watch a sparkling fake peach descend to the ground.
The mayor of Atlanta then issued a press release announcing the decision.
“In consultation with public health officials, we have made the very difficult decision to cancel the Peach Drop,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a press release. “As positive Covid-19 cases increase, I encourage everyone to be safe, get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines. “
But Seattle has decided to go ahead with the Space Needle fireworks, and Las Vegas is planning an eight-minute fireworks display along the Strip. Experts and health officials have explained that the Las Vegas celebrations take place all over the city – not a heavily populated area.
“The whole city is throwing this party,” Dr. Brian Labus, infectious disease epidemiologist at UNLV, told KTNV. “We have had to deal with crowds coming to Las Vegas for the past two years. So, New Years Eve is not really new. It’s just kind of a bigger event.
Las Vegas can in many ways turn out to be the devilishly possible exception. Events in Paris, London and Berlin have been called off, while US and international health officials are calling for caution.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this month urged people to approach the holidays with caution, even if it means canceling or delaying a shindig. “A canceled event is better than a canceled life,” Tedros told reporters. “Better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and cry later. “
The Biden administration’s senior health adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, recently said that a small, limited gathering with vaccinated family members would be the safest way to celebrate.
“If your plans are to go to a 40-50 New Years party with all the bells and whistles and everyone hugging and wishing each other a happy new year – I would highly recommend that this year we do it. let’s do. don’t do that, ”Fauci said in a White House update on the pandemic on Wednesday.