As COVID spikes in New York again, the crowd size will be limited.
If you’ve been planning to attend the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, you may want to rethink it. New York City is cutting back on its famous celebration amid a recent surge in COVID-19 infections. The 2021 Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop will have a crowd limit of 15,000 people.
The new guidelines come shortly after 38,835 positive tests were reported throughout the state in one day on Thursday, Dec. 23, per NBC. More than 22,000 of those cases came from New York City alone. According to ABC, New York has set a new state record for daily positive cases about six times in the past week. (It is impossible to make a true comparison to spring 2020, when testing was far less available.)
In response to these harrowing numbers, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Dec. 23 that city officials will limit the crowd size to allow for social distancing. “New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year. There’s a lot to celebrate, and the additional safety measures we’re announcing today will keep the fully vaccinated crowd at Times Square safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter, echoing the official press release.
The event’s safety measures require all attendees to provide proof of full vaccination (for anyone 5 or older), present a valid ID, and wear face masks. To be considered fully vaccinated, attendees will have to have finished their vaccination doses at least 14 days before Dec. 31. Per the guidance, minors who aren’t eligible for vaccination can attend the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop if accompanied by a vaccinated adult, while people who can’t get a vaccination due to medical reasons must bring proof of a negative COVID Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test taken within 72 hours.
The crowd will be limited to approximately 15,000 people, a severe drop from the average 58,000 onlookers. Additionally, people won’t be let into the Times Square event until 3 p.m. ET on New Year’s Eve, a major change from past ball drops, which allowed people in much earlier in the day.
As of Dec. 24, only 71% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, per The New York Times. In the past 14 days, there has been a 149% increase in reported COVID cases, a 20% increase in hospitalizations, and a 32% increase in deaths. While the restrictions will undoubtedly prevent many people from attending the New Year’s Eve ball drop, you can still watch it via a commercial-free webcast to celebrate the countdown to 2022. The stream will begin at 6 p.m. ET with the Ball Raising ceremony and continue with live musical performances, celebrity interviews, and hourly countdowns as the clock nears midnight ET.