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San Francisco New Year's Eve Fireworks Show Canceled Over COVID Surge

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/KPIX) -- San Francisco's New Year's Eve fireworks show has been canceled because of the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.

The decision to cancel the show for the second year in a row was made after closely monitoring local health indicators and impacted public safety staffing levels, according to a press release.

ALSO READ: Omicron-Fueled Surge Leading to Bay Area Business Closures, Event Cancellations

The event normally draws hundreds of thousands of New Year's revelers to the city's waterfront. However, the announcement said enacting proactive measures to best protect San Franciscans and essential front-line workers remains the city's top priority.

"Most importantly, even though we have a high vaccination and increasingly high booster rate, and it's outdoor, what I think is potentially scary is that a lot of people who get infected, may be taken out of the workforce," said UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong

"While we are all understandably eager to ring in a new year with San Francisco's customary New Year's Eve fireworks show, we must remain vigilant in doing all we can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant," said Mayor Breed in a prepared statement. "Thanks to our employee vaccine mandate, our public safety workers are well-protected against COVID, but they still must take all precautions to help limit the spread. By canceling the New Year's Eve fireworks show we are reducing everyone's exposure to COVID-19, while ensuring continuity of citywide public safety operations."

Manager Partner of Waterbar and Epic Steak Pete Sittnick called the decision understandable, but disappointing. The sister restaurants have prime views of the show.

"We're still going to go forward with our party, the chefs are cooking, we're opening bottles of champagne at midnight," said Sittnick.

Sittnick said both restaurants are practically sold-out on New Year's Eve.

"New Year's Eve could actually be the equivalent of two full days worth of business, so it's always been not just a festive time, but it's also been a very lucrative one," said Sittnick. "So we're hoping everyone is still going to show up."

The Sievers family visiting San Francisco for the first time was planning to view the show from their 20th floor Marriott hotel room.

"We were hoping to see fireworks, because Colorado is usually so dry that we don't have them," said Shana Sievers of Colorado.

"I think it's probably a good decision to make sure that everybody's safe, because large crowds are probably not a good idea considering the increase of the Omicron variant," said Nicole Barrion of Virginia.

While 84% of eligible San Franciscans are fully vaccinated and 55% have received a booster dose, community spread of the omicron variant still poses a significant risk, the city said. Limiting large public events like the NYE fireworks show provides an additional layer of protection to the city's first responders amid reduced staffing levels because of isolation and quarantine requirements brought on by COVID-19.

"Canceling this New Year's Eve fireworks show not only reduces the risk of Omicron exposure, but also minimizes impacts on critical safety systems like 9-1-1, allowing dispatchers to remain available to those in most critical need," said Department of Emergency Management Executive Director Mary Ellen Carroll in a prepared statement.

"Minimizing needless exposures among our officers and professional staff is key to maintaining the police staffing levels San Franciscans expect of us, and it's important that we all do our part as San Franciscans to help reduce community transmission citywide," said Police Chief Bill Scott in a prepared statement.

As of last week, the city was seeing an average of 305 new COVID-19 cases per day, compared to an average of just 91 cases the week prior.

Betty Yu contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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