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New Year's Eve Celebration In Times Square Scaled Back Due To Omicron Surge

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There is disappointing news for revelers. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square will be scaled back due to COVID-19 concerns.

"Scaled back" are the key words. This is not the no-crowd policy that we saw last year, but only about one-fourth of the typical audience size will be allowed in the area leading up to when the ball drops, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported.

"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. "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."


Nearly 60,000 people typically cram together in Times Square for the event, which includes live performances and, of course, that signature crystal ball that rings in the New Year.

"We've always wanted to come here. It looks crazy on TV," tourist Aarin Pongpipat said.

The family came all the way from Florida to join the party, which is now going to be smaller than they expected.

"I like the atmosphere of when there's a ton of people here just because that's how it would usually be, but I don't think it would affect the experience," Marcos Pongpipat said.

After waffling on the decision all week as the Omicron variant spreads in the city, de Blasio announced that only about 15,000 people will be let into Times Square this year to allow for social distancing.

"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 vaccination rules already established by the Times Square Alliance still stand. Revelers over 5 years old will be required to show proof of full vaccination with a photo identification upon arrival, meaning people must have received their second dose, or first dose for Johnson & Johnson, at least 14 days before Dec. 31.

And anyone unable to be vaccinated due to a disability much show proof of a negative PCR test.

"We would normally have about 1,000 people in each viewing area. We're going to bring that down to about 250 people per viewing area, and then we're also going to require them to wear masks. So we think all of those things will make the safest possible event for the revelers in Times Square," said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance.

Harris said even holding the event in the wake of the new COVID surge shows, "a symbol to the city that we are resilient, that we have resolve, and that we can find ways to carry on those old traditions."


Normally, people are allowed to start filling into Times Square at 9 a.m. on New Year's Eve, but this year crowds won't be allowed to walk in until 3 p.m., Bauman reported.

"This year's holiday season may not be the one we had hoped for, but we can still have a happy holiday season," said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. "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."

For more information about attending the event in Times Square, CLICK HERE.

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