Just one week before Christmas, the remainder of New York's iconic Radio City Rockettes season was called off, as the city and state continue to deal with a surge of new Covid-19 cases.
New York state on Friday reported 20,627 cases, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began, based on an NBC News count of state and county health department reporting.
“The surge is here, it’s going to get worse, we know it’s going to get worse — especially after Christmas Day, people gathering in person,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said on MSNBC Friday.
After canceling Friday shows of "Christmas Spectacular" due to breakthrough cases, the Rockettes announced later in the day the premature end of the season “due to increasing challenges from the pandemic.”
The Rockettes had returned to the stage in November after the 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic.
Covid-19 cases have also prompted the recent cancellations of Broadway performances including “Hamilton,” which said Friday it was calling off shows through Sunday due to breakthrough cases.
Also Friday, the NFL rescheduled three weekend games, including Saturday’s Las Vegas Raiders-Cleveland Browns contest, due to outbreaks that left some teams with depleted rosters. The Browns put more than 20 players on the Covid-19 list this week.
The league said in a statement the move was because of “a new, highly transmissible form of the virus this week resulting in a substantial increase in cases across the league.”
The closures, cancellations and sports disruptions may recall — though to a far lesser degree — the early days of the pandemic.
But Hochul said “we are in a far better place” today, with vaccines and boosters.
More than 70 percent of all New York state residents and more than 82 percent of people 18 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.
“I think it’s really a much different situation than March 2020,” said Dr. Dean Blumberg, professor and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, noting that vaccines and boosters are freely available to anyone.
Blumberg also noted the availability of vaccines and boosters, and said he is "hopeful that even with all the concerns of this [omicron] variant, we have more tools available."
Though experts say delta is still the dominant strain in the United States, the omicron variant is believed to be more transmissible. Preliminary data suggest it might cause less severe illness, Blumberg said, but much remains unclear.
The increase in cases and disruptions comes at a time when many in the U.S. are planning to celebrate the holidays. Demand for testing has spiked.
A planned return of revelers to New York City’s Times Square — with proof of vaccination — on New Year’s Eve is still on, although the mayor and other officials say they are closely watching the situation.
“Mostly what I say is, stay informed and be prepared and hope for the best, and be prepared to change plans,” Blumberg said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday at an event with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that omicron will become the dominant variant.
He said that getting vaccinated, getting a booster, and taking steps like wearing a mask regardless of status in congregate settings will be key to preventing disruptions.
“If we do that, I don’t believe we’ll have to be doing any kind of shutdown with regard to businesses in your community,” Fauci said.