SNL Cancels Live Audience as Omicron Fuels Record COVID Numbers in New York

As the Omicron variant fuels a spike in new COVID infections across New York, Saturday Night Live (SNL) canceled the live audience from its final episode of the year.

In an announcement on Twitter Saturday, the comedy show said that audiences would be halted for that night and the episode would feature a limited cast and crew.

"Due to the recent spike in the Omicron variant and out of an abundance of caution, there will be no live audience for tonight's taping of 'Saturday Night Live' and the show will have limited cast and crew," SNL tweeted. "The show continues to follow all government safety guidelines in addition to a rigorous testing protocol."

Those who had tickets for Saturday's episode, which is set to be hosted by actor Paul Rudd and musical guest Charli XCX, will be "receiving more information" from the show soon, it added.

SNL's announcement comes after a number of performances, spanning from the Rockettes to Broadway shows, have been canceled in New York as coronavirus cases surge.

On Saturday, the state broke a new record for daily COVID-19 cases for a second day in a row with more than 21,000 cases. That surpassed its previous record in January, when 19,942 infections were recorded in a single day.

Meanwhile, infections rates in New York City doubled in just three days this week, reported NBC New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Saturday that there have been more than 5,000 new positive cases and over 200 hospitalizations in the past 24 hours.

SNL Canceled Over NYC Omicron Spread
SNL canceled its live audience on Saturday as Omicron cases spread across New York. Here, people line up to be tested for Covid-19 at a street-side testing booth in New York on December 17, 2021. ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

For some New Yorkers, the latest rise in infections has felt reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic, as lines for COVID testing have once again grown dramatically and some schools and restaurants are beginning to shutter. However, so far hospitals have not yet seen an emergency surge that is comparable to previous outbreaks in 2020, and health-care experts have noted that Omicron appears to cause relatively mild cases of COVID-19 in most patients.

"We're seeing a lot more treat-and-release" of patients than in earlier waves, Dr. Eric Legome, who oversees two of Mount Sinai Health System's emergency rooms, told NBC New York.

To address the latest surge, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Saturday that 40 new pop-up vaccination sites would open across the state in an effort to get more residents fully inoculated and boosted.

"This is not like the beginning of the pandemic," Hochul said in a statement. "We are prepared for the winter surge because we have the tools at our disposal. Getting vaccinated, getting the booster and wearing a mask are critical to avoiding getting seriously ill from COVID-19, so don't take a chance."

As of Saturday, data from the New York Times shows that 71 percent of all New Yorkers are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, while 82 percent have received at least one dose of the jab.

"The vaccine is still our best weapon to defeat the virus and ensure we are safe from serious illness," Hochul added in a statement on Friday.