New York City is set to ring in the new year with its Times Square New Year's Eve celebration on Friday amid surging COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant.
The city's Times Square New Year's Eve celebration is going forward, though it will be scaled back. The outdoor event featuring the ball drop will have crowds limited to 15,000 people, and proof of vaccination and masks are required.
Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on NBC's Today discussed the decision not to cancel the event or scale it back further, saying "I don't believe in shutdowns" and "we have to fight our way through COVID." The mayor, who said the decision was made with the city's health care team, added, "It's really important to not give up in the face of this."
New York City Council Member Mark Levine had argued the in-person crowd should be canceled entirely as the state breaks records for the number of new COVID-19 cases, and epidemiology professor Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr told The New York Times, "Even with limited attendance, vaccination and masking requirements, gathering in Times Square will not be without risk." Times Square closed to the public for New Year's Eve in 2020.
At least one performer won't be making it out to the event, though: LL Cool J, who earlier this week canceled his Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve Times Square performance after testing positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, previously urged Americans to avoid larger New Year's Eve parties, telling CNN, "When you're talking about a New Year's Eve party where you have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating, you do not know the status of their vaccination, I would recommend strongly stay away from that this year. There will be other years to do that, but not this year."