The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has led to renewed restrictions and caution across much of the country, even as the holidays lead people to travel and gather with friends and family. One of the biggest events of the holiday season is the annual New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, which features the ball dropping to signal the start of a new year.
Is the Times Square ball drop canceled?
Thanks to the surge of COVID cases, some are wondering whether the Times Square ball drop is canceled. The celebration of New Year's has not been canceled, but New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he will scale back the event because of the Omicron variant. Roughly 58,000 people typically gather in Times Square to watch the ball drop, but this year, the capacity has been reduced to just 15,000.
Every attendee will also have to wear a mask throughout the entire event, and will have to prove that they have been vaccinated before they'll be allowed to enter. These newly imposed safety measures "will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year," de Blasio said.
Times Square was almost completely empty last year.
Although this year's New Year's Eve celebration will be stripped down from the usual festivities, it's still an improvement over last year, when virtually no one was allowed to gather in Times Square to watch the ball drop in person. Only essential workers and invited guests were allowed to enter Times Square, and everyone else had to watch the ball drop on one of the many TV stations that airs the event.
New York is still moving forward with festivities, but other major cities like Paris and London have canceled them altogether in response to the surge in Omicron cases around the world.
As America's largest city prepares to celebrate the new year, they're also facing an unprecedented surge in cases. The seven-day average of confirmed cases is currently about 14,000, and that number is continuing to rise.
In spite of that spike in cases, though, the ball will continue to drop. Whether there's a massive crowd assembled in Times Square or no crowd at all, the event will still be viewable to all those who want to watch it live on TV.
Plenty of people gather in Times Square to watch the ball drop live, but the event also has a widespread reputation for being miserable to attend in person.
That misery comes from the massive crowds, the inability to go to the bathroom, and the hours you have to spend waiting in the cold just to see a ball fall a few feet. For some, though, the pilgrimage to Times Square is worth it.
This year, 15,000 people will get to see the event in person. The rest of us will have to watch it from the comfort of our homes, or go to sleep incredibly early and wake up on Jan. 1 of 2022 feeling rested and ready for a new year.