Times Square NYE Ball Drop Celebration to Be 'Scaled Back' as Omicron Pummels NYC

The Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop celebration will be "scaled back" this year amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.

In a statement, de Blasio said that the "scaled back" celebration will have "additional protections in place," to combat the spread of COVID-19, including proof of vaccination and mask-wearing.

"New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year—we are leading the way on vaccinations, we have reopened safely, and every day we work toward building a recovery for all of us," de Blasio said in a statement. "There is a lot to celebrate and these additional safety measures will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year."

The celebration will also allow for social distancing measures to be followed as fewer attendees will fill viewing areas. According to the announcement, the ball drop celebration will host approximately 15,000 people, a significant decrease from the 58,000 people that normally attend.

In the statement, New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams praised the decision by de Blasio.

"The Mayor has made the right move to take precautionary measures as we learn to live with COVID and fight the Omicron variant—and New Yorkers and visitors alike can now enjoy Times Square and the rest of our city as we ring in 2022," Adams said.

Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance, made similar comments, saying, "We applaud the leadership of Mayor de Blasio in finding a way to welcome revelers into Times Square on New Year's Eve in an even safer way than we originally planned."

The decision by de Blasio comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have increased throughout New York City. According to data from the city's health department, over the past week, the city has seen an average of 12,613 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases.

Data from the city's health department also shows daily COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are increasing over the past week.

New York City is also facing the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa and has now been detected in most U.S. states. The severity of the Omicron variant, compared to others, is still being studied by health officials across the globe.

During a press conference on Wednesday, de Blasio said "Again, with what we're seeing so far in Omicron [is an] intense surge, but less impact, and we also believe it'll be for a

"So that does not suggest doing things the way we did last year, it suggests a different game plan," de Blasio continued. "We also have a hell of a lot more people vaccinated than we did when we went through the challenges last year, and that's the foundation of all things."

Newsweek reached out to the mayor's office for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

New Year's Eve
The New Year's Eve ball drop celebration in New York City's Times Square will be "scaled back" this year amid a rise in COVID-19 cases. Above, confetti flies in the air in a mostly empty Times Square for New Years Eve in New York City on January 1, 2021. Corey Sipkin/Getty