Decision on Holding Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration Will Be Made by Christmas

The annual Times Square New Year's Eve celebration could be in jeopardy as New York City sees a surge in COVID-19 infections from the Omicron variant, but a definitive answer on if the event will happen will be given by Christmas.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday he will make a decision by Christmas on whether the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square will proceed as planned or be canceled.

Previously, de Blasio said he wanted the celebration to be at "full strength" this year after last year's smaller event. However, with an increase in COVID-19 infections, it's not certain what the event will look like or if it's happening at all.

New York City saw a 207 percent increase in COVID-19 infections in just one week.

As of Monday, the daily average of new COVID-19 infections was 11,000. In five days, nearly 63,500 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the city. Just last week, fewer than 3,600 cases were reported per day.

Because of the sharp increase in Omicron infections, people in New York City wanting to get tested for COVID-19 are often waiting in long lines that can stretch around the block.

To help with the increased testing, de Blasio said the city will add testing sites. The federal government is also expected to help add more testing sites across the city.

New Year's Eve Times Square
Amid an increase in COVID-19 infections, the fate of this year's New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square remains uncertain. Above, a woman records the ball drop on her phone during the 2021 New Year’s celebrations on January 1 in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

De Blasio has faced questions over the past week about whether he would call for closures as a wave of new cases fueled by the Omicron variant has broken over the city.

The Democratic mayor said Tuesday that New York can't see schools and businesses closed again like the city did in 2020 when COVID-19 first spread widely.

"Adamantly I feel this: No more shutdowns. We've been through them," de Blasio said at a virtual news conference on Tuesday. "They were devastating. We can't go through it again."

In the meantime, de Blasio said the city is ramping up testing, but the biggest tool to fight the pandemic remains getting people vaccinated. De Blasio announced the city would begin offering a $100 cash incentive to New Yorkers who get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday, going through the end of the year.

The city had previously offered similar incentives for people to get their first vaccine doses.

De Blasio's successor Eric Adams postponed his inauguration ceremony, scheduled for January 1 indoors at Brooklyn's Kings Theatre.

The mayor-elect issued a statement Tuesday saying that the ceremony would be rescheduled for a later date "to prioritize" the health of attendees, staff and reporters.

"It is clear that our city is facing a formidable opponent in the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and that the spike in cases presents a serious risk to public health," Adams said.

Two other Democratic officials, the city's Comptroller-elect Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, were also set to participate in the ceremony and co-signed Adams' statement announcing its postponement. Williams has been quarantining at home after recently testing positive for COVID-19.

Adams will still take over as mayor on January 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New York City, COVID-19 Testing
New York City has become a COVID hot spot and is now confronting a dizzying spike in cases. Above, people wait in a long line to get tested for COVID-19 in Times Square, New York, on Monday, December 20. Seth Wenig/AP Photo