The city will scale back its plans to welcome tens of thousands of revelers into Times Square to ring in 2022 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
About 15,000 people will be allowed into Times Square’s viewing areas on Dec. 31 — about a quarter of the typical capacity of 58,000. Visitors will not be allowed to enter until 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve — much later than in past years, according to the mayor’s office.
The announcement is an attempt to settle weeks of speculation about whether the show could go on as planned given the surge in virus cases. De Blasio has held firm about moving forward with the festivities, noting that the event will be outdoors and require proof of vaccination, which both reduce the likelihood of virus transmission.
Besides those two policies, visitors will also need to wear masks, the mayor’s office said Thursday, saying the new measures were made in consultation with health and medical experts.
“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,” de Blasio said in a statement.
The move was cheered by the Times Square Alliance, which had publicly urged de Blasio not to cancel the event for a second consecutive year. Last year, the raging coronavirus forced the ball-drop to happen with almost nobody present to watch it.
“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,” said Tom Harris, the Alliance’s president.
Leaders have said that the return of the ball-drop could contribute to the revitalization of Times Square, which is seen as a bellwether for the rest of the city’s recovery along with Midtown as a whole.
In a news conference last month, Harris said that pedestrian traffic in the area has risen by more than 50 percent in recent months — including 270,000 people on a recent Saturday.
More information about the requirements for the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration can be found at TSQ.org/FAQ.