New York officials will decide later this week if the city will proceed with its annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who warned that the Big Apple will be slammed hard by omicron in the next few weeks.
The impact of the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus will be significant, de Blasio said at a news conference on Sunday in Manhattan with Mayor-elect Eric Adams, but should dissipate after a few weeks as it has in South Africa and other locations. De Blasio said the surge will be a "fast and temporary phenomenon."
"Even though we expect a lot of cases, we do not expect to see the painful reality we saw in 2020 — or even last winter," the mayor said.
De Blasio and Adams urged New Yorkers to get vaccinated, get booster shots, get tested and wear masks in public indoor spaces to protect themselves and their families during the holidays.
"We have been through this before," Adams said, "and we beat COVID back, and now we must do it again. I know many of you are tired. We are going to return to normalcy. You want the city you love back and so do I. But the only way we get our city back is to find our resolve once again and face this crisis head-on."
De Blasio said the city and the Times Square Alliance, which hosts the New Year’s Eve celebration that draws up to a million people each year, will decide by Saturday — Christmas Day — if they need to cancel the event.
"We are certainly looking at the new challenge we are facing," de Blasio said. "But again, this is an all-vaccination event and it is outdoors. Those are two very important, favorable factors. We are also considering if there is other ways we could approach it."
Broadway shows and Radio City Music Hall’s "Christmas Spectacular" were canceled over the weekend due to omicron concerns. The last 2021 episode of "Saturday Night Live" was broadcast without a studio audience, as well as much of the cast and crew.
New Yorkers seeking COVID-19 testing have had to wait on long lines and have even longer waits for test results. De Blasio said the city, which shut down some COVID testing sites in November, will open additional facilities this week. The city will also make more at-home testing kits available through nonprofit organizations.
The mayor asked President Joe Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to produce more vaccines, at-home tests, monoclonal antibody treatments and other supplies for New York City. He also urged the federal government to fast-track approval of Pfizer’s antiviral pill.
"This whole country needs to go on war footing to fight back," de Blasio said.