NEW YORK – New York City is poised to embrace the new year – and weather another good fight against a pandemic in 12 months – as it revives its annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, after while skipping a public event last year.
It did so as an uneasy nation tries to muster optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are now behind it – even as public health officials warned Friday about unrestrained celebrations amid rising COVID-19 infections from the omicron variant.
The year parades across the globe, time zone after time zone, and thousands of New Year revelers stand shoulder to shoulder in a mild chill awaiting the festivities.
In Times Square, crowds stretched for blocks to soak up the celebration in miniature, with many coming from far and wide to participate. The bougainvillea lit up by electronic billboards carried by the breeze on a mild winter night in New York City.
Mary Gonzalez stood a few feet behind the crowd, wanting to keep her distance from anyone unknowingly carrying the virus.
“I’m happy that 2021 is over because it causes so many problems for everyone,” said Gonzalez, who is visiting from Mexico City and wants to absorb American traditions. “We hope that 2022 is much better than this year.”
The annual ball-drop occurs when the clock strikes midnight and ushers in the new year, an occasion often commemorated with Champagne, loud applause, joyful hugs and hope for good times. better in the front.
Times Square is often seen as the crossroads of the world, and city officials are determined to hold a New Year’s Eve event to show off the city’s resilience even amid the coronavirus outbreak. again.
However, the city said it would limit the number of people entering Times Square to witness a 6-ton ball, encrusted with nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals, fall above a crowd of some 15,000 live spectators. next – much less Tens of thousands of revelers often flock to the world-famous square to bask in the lights, buzz and booze of the nation’s New Year’s Eve event.
But 2022 begins just as the year before began – with the pandemic blanketing an already uncertain future.
Questions surround whether the city will have to cancel this year’s festival, as the city has announced a record number of COVID-19 cases in the days leading up to it, even as some cities like Atlanta has decided to cancel their own celebration.
Last year’s ball drop festival was closed because of the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases in the United States have spiked to a record high, averaging more than 265,000 a day. New York City reported a record number of new, confirmed cases – nearly 44,000 – on Wednesday and a similar number on Thursday, according to New York state figures.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will relinquish custody of the nation’s most populous city at midnight, said the Times Square festivities will “show the world that New York City is at war.” fighting our way through this.”
Officials said those attending the spectacle would have to wear masks and present proof of vaccinations. Organizers initially hoped that more than 50,000 revelers would be able to participate, but plans have been scaled back significantly because of the widespread contagion.
Rap artist and actor LL Cool J was said to be among the performers on stage in Times Square on Friday night, but announced that he would be pulling out of the event because he had positive test result for COVID.
New York City’s incoming mayor, Eric Adams, is expected to be sworn in in Times Square shortly after the ball drops. He expressed hope on Thursday that 2022 will be “a fresh start to our resilience.”
It was a sentiment shared by ordinary people.
“I look back and I see it as a stressful year, but it wasn’t a bad year,” said Lynn Cafarchio, who defied the crowds to attend the festival with her husband Pete.
As a tour guide in New York City, she was unemployed because of the economic downturn and the tourism industry plummeting.
“We’re standing here very happy that 2021 is coming to an end soon,” she said, “but really positive next year.”
Even when the crowd is considerably smaller, people still gather block after block to witness the ball drop.
Nursing student Ashley Ochoa and her boyfriend, Jose Avelar, traveled from California’s central valley to Times Square.
“COVID has held back a lot of things for me,” Ochoa said, “but I mean, I’m here today, so that’s what I’m grateful for.”