Monday, January 24, 2022

COVID Live Updates: Times Square celebrates the New Year, but with a smaller crowd

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Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

New York City’s Times Square will roll back New Year’s Eve celebrations as an Omicron edition, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday, the same day New York state reported its highest-ever recorded daily coronavirus case. gave information.

The mayor said officials are still monitoring the situation and may take additional precautions in the coming days if needed.

As of now, attendees will have to show proof of complete vaccination and wear a mask. To make social distancing more possible, 15,000 people will be allowed in designated viewing areas instead of the usual 58,000. Visitors will be allowed no later than in previous years, until about 3 pm.

The number of cases reported in the city over the past week is the highest since the start of the pandemic, although testing was severely limited in its early days.

About 39,000 new cases were reported across the state on Thursday, which is nearly 10,000 more than On Wednesday, about 23,000 of them were in New York City. According to the governor’s office, more than 60 percent of cases reported by New York state to the genetic tracking database GISAID in the past two weeks were of the Omicron variant.

The city’s seven-day average test positivity rate as of Tuesday stood at 11 per cent, and testing had to wait for hours at several sites in the city.

In addition, on Thursday the band Fish, which regularly plays New Year’s Eve concerts at Madison Square Garden, postponed their upcoming show, a three-set performance originally intended for New Year’s Eve. was planned.

At an unrelated event in Park Slope, shortly before the Times Square announcement, Mr. de Blasio insisted that the increase in virus cases would soon subside and that the shutdown was not necessary. He said the city’s strategy of encouraging vaccines and boosters and enforcing a strict vaccine mandate would suffice.

“It’s going to be a tough few weeks, but it will only be a few weeks,” he said, “We are not holding back. We are going to fight our way through this.”

Health experts were divided about the New Year’s Eve decision. Dennis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at the CUNY School of Public Health, said he didn’t think it was a good idea to hold the event.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic with a big surge of new versions, the risks of which we still really understand, and I don’t think we want to increase that,” he said.

He said he worries that people coming to New York from other states and countries may pick up the variant and bring it home with them.

“Since New York is a global city and connected to everywhere, we have to think about those places as well,” Dr. Nash said.

But Ashish K., dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Jha said he was “really pleased” that the mayor decided not to cancel the vaccination order keeping in mind that the virus is not usually transmitted efficiently outside.

“The whole country sees this, so I think it is very important for the country to have a sense psychologically that we can do these things again and we can do them safely,” Dr Jha said.

The city said Thursday that viewers over the age of 5 must receive both doses of a vaccine approved by the FDA or the World Health Organization, if applicable, at least 14 days before December 31.

The ball drop will be Mr. de Blasio’s last day in office, marking the end of his eight-year term. Mayor-elect Eric Adams said in a statement on Thursday that Mr. de Blasio “made the right move to take precautionary measures as we learn to live with COVID and fight the Omicron version.”

Times Square Alliance president Tom Harris said the number 15,000 referred specifically to those who would be allowed to see the pen. He said that the number of pens will be reduced and will be filled only up to 25 per cent capacity.

A large number of people usually watch the ball fall from the surrounding area, including hotels, restaurants and office buildings.

“We are really excited to welcome those who are having fun,” he said. “Safety is our priority and we think an outdoor event with fully vaccinated, masked people in a less dense environment is as safe as we can get.”

grace ashford Contributed to reporting.

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