NEW YORK (AP) — New York City will ring in 2022 in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city and around the nation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
“We want to show that we’re moving forward, and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this,” de Blasio, whose last day in office is Friday, said on NBC’s “Today” show.
After banning revelers from Times Square a year ago due to the pandemic, city officials previously announced plans for a scaled-back New Year’s bash with smaller crowds and vaccinations required.
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While cities such as Atlanta have canceled New Year’s Eve celebrations, de Blasio said New York City’s high COVID-19 vaccination rate makes it feasible to welcome masked, socially distanced crowds to watch the ball drop in Times Square. “We’ve got to send a message to the world. New York City is open,” he said.
Thanks to the highly contagious omicron variant that was first identified as a variant of concern last month, new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have soared to their highest levels on record at over 265,000 per day on average. New York City reported a record number of new, confirmed cases — more than 39,590 — on Tuesday, according to New York state figures.
De Blasio said the answer is to “double down on vaccinations” and noted that 91% of New York City adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
The city’s next mayor, Eric Adams, will take the oath of office in Times Square early Saturday. Adams, a Democrat like de Blasio, planned a news conference later Thursday to outline his pandemic plan.