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New York City plans Times Square NYE return as Broadway sees Covid cancellations

Last year, the ball drop in Times Square was a muted, live-streamed affair that lacked the huge crowds because of Covid-19. This year revelers will have to be vaccinated.
Image: 2021 Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration
A view of the Ball Drop on the One Times Square building during the 2021 Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration, in N.Y., on Dec. 31, 2020.Roy Rochlin / Getty Images file

Amid a rise in Covid-19 cases in New York City that have canceled some Broadway performances, the city will go ahead for now with plans to welcome back vaccinated revelers to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

“We’re going to watch very carefully,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. “It’s still more than two weeks away. And if at any point we need to alter the plan, we will.”

“Because it is an event where people are fully vaccinated and all outdoors, right now that’s something we’re going forward with,” he said of the Times Square event, which was announced in November.

Cases of Covid-19 have been on the rise in New York City. The new heavily mutated omicron variant that experts believe is more transmissible has also been found in the city and is spreading, according to health officials.

Several Broadway performances were canceled in recent days due to positive Covid-19 cases or test results — including “Hamilton,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” and most recently “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” which called off Thursday night’s performance.

Broadway went dark at the start of the pandemic and only largely began reopening in September.

Last December, as the pandemic raged and with vaccines not widely available, New York City held a Times Square celebration without the large in-person crowds.

This year the crowds will be welcomed back to Times Square, but they will have to show proof of full vaccination.

"The great advantage is, outdoors and fully vaccinated," de Blasio said.

The planned return of in-person crowds comes as more Americans are vaccinated and also returning to their traditional holiday habits.

Air travel numbers around the Thanksgiving holiday approached — but did not match — levels in 2019, according to Transportation Security Administration data.

But concerns over Covid-19 cases have prompted changes in policies, in New York and elsewhere.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this month said that masks must be worn indoors unless the venue has a vaccine requirement. She cited a winter surge of the virus and said the rule would be reassessed in January.

California also returned to a statewide indoor mask mandate, which applies regardless of vaccination status.

In Los Angeles, health officials on Thursday said that rules about using a negative test to enter a large event will be tightened, shortening the time period that tests would be accepted.

“I can’t emphasize enough that the opportunity is in front of us to try to dampen the spread of both delta, which we’re still experiencing a lot of now, and omicron, which we’re about to get a lot of,” Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said.

Earlier this week the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the United States passed 800,000.