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Omicron Throws Cold Water on New Year Party Plans

SAN MATEO (KPIX) -- Just a few weeks ago many Americans imagined ringing in the new year with friends and family, maybe even gathering in public.

But the highly-transmissible omicron variant caused COVID-19 cases to surge worldwide and spoiled New Year's Eve for millions, forcing them to scale back or cancel their plans.

"I had some plans to get together with some friends," said Olivia Subijano. "We changed our plans, said, 'You know we're staying home, let's just get together as a family, no friends.' We don't want to take the chances."

Lucia Ngyuen said she made plans to go out to a bar or club in San Francisco as she does every year. But, when the omicron variant began shutting down businesses including restaurants, Nguyen and a small group of friends decided to stay in instead.

"2021 was going great, it was looking good," Nguyen said. "This year everyone got tested a couple days in advance. Everyone's vaccinated and we're just going to all get together at a friend's house."

Restaurants in downtown San Mateo were busy pushing out to-go orders Friday night -- an indication that people were choosing to stay close to home this New Year's Eve.

Angela Quach will be with family to ring in the new year. She said they get tested weekly.

"So we feel fairly safe with the little pod that we've kind of expanded this year," Quach said.

But not everyone is buckling down. This year, compared to last New Year's Day, millions of Californians are vaccinated and boosted.

In Palo Alto, the owners of The Patio opened the dance floor and turned on the music at 10 p.m. for New Year's Eve revelers who felt safe enough to gather in public.

"I am positive about it that things are going to get better in the coming year," said Subijano. "Things are going to get better."

When asked what she hopes for 2022, Quach said that she hopes "everyone's well and that we kick this thing in the butt."

"Goodbye to COVID!" Nguyen replied to the same question.

Meanwhile, testing for COVID-19 is also surging across the state as many get tested before and after gathering during the holidays. Public health departments expect to continue to see long lines at test sites after the New Year weekend as thousands of students return to the classroom next week.

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