TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan — New Year’s Eve revelers will still be welcomed back to Times Square later this month despite the threat of the new omicron COVID variant, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.
The mayor announced plans to bring a fully vaccinated crowd back to the iconic crossroads of the world roughly two weeks ago, but that was before the World Health Organization identified the new variant of concern that has quickly spread around the globe.
While the omicron variant has been detected in the United States, its presence has not been confirmed in New York, as of Wednesday afternoon, according to de Blasio.
While omicron’s emergence has triggered global alarm and forced countries to tighten their borders, scientists say it’s not yet clear whether the variant is more contagious or dangerous than other strains, including the devastating delta.
When asked whether the omicron variant would impact New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, de Blasio said since the event is only for those who are fully vaccinated, he feels comfortable moving forward with it — for now.
He said his office is working with the Times Square Alliance and the NYPD on developing a plan for checking vaccination status as part of entry into the heavily barricaded area on New Year’s Eve.
Those who are unable to get vaccinated due to a medical disability must be masked and provide a negative COVID test within 72 hours. Children under the age of 5 must be with a fully vaccinated adult.
New Year’s Eve festivities at Times Square last year were closed to the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery store employees and transit workers were among those invited to enjoy the celebration in socially distanced pens while everyone else watched from home.
This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.