One Million Revelers Still Poised to Pack Times Square on New Year’s — Despite Omicron’s Spread

On the same day that New York state announced its highest single-day case total of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mayor’s office and the organizers behind the annual Times Square New Year’s Eve extravaganza confirmed that the Times Square ball drop will go ahead as planned on Dec. 31. 

The event, which draws one million in-person spectators in a typical year, was canceled in 2020, and Times Square was closed to the public. In lieu of its usual come-one-come-all approach, the Times Square Alliance, which hosts the festivities, invited a few hundred first responders and essential workers to ring in the New Year in person instead.

This year was supposed to mark the event’s triumphant return to midtown Manhattan, and — despite the fact that Gov. Kathy Hochul announced 21,027 new cases on Friday, breaking the previous record of 19,942, set in January 2021 — as far as organizers are concerned, it still will. 

“Times Square New Year’s Eve is moving forward with its plans for an outdoor celebration with fully vaccinated revelers,” a representative for the Times Square Alliance told Rolling Stone in an email on Friday. “We continue to work in close coordination with city officials and will make adjustments if necessary.” 

Representatives for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who, per tradition, will be one of the guests of honor at the Times Square party, echoed the Times Square Alliance’s sentiment, directing Rolling Stone to comments the outgoing mayor made on CNN Thursday night. 

“We made the decision a few weeks back when things were much better. But we said vaccinated people only, and outdoors,” de Blasio said. The mayor went on to insist that event personnel will “literally” check each individual attendee’s vaccination status. 

“A million people?” CNN’s Michael Smerconish asked, incredulously.

“Sure,” de Blasio said. He added: “Now, we’re going to reassess constantly with the new information. We’re going to follow the data and the science. Right now, it’s on. You know, we’ll make a decision as we go, get closer, as to what should finally happen.”

Singer KT Tunstall is headlining this year’s show, which will be hosted by actor Jonathan Bennett and Jeremy Hassell, who told Rolling Stone that, as far as he can tell, things are going ahead as planned. 

“Jonathan and I were shooting promos all week in Times Square, going over the line-up with Times Square Alliance and city officials, and from what I know as, as talent, is that they’re moving forward with the outdoor celebration, with fully vaccinated revelers, in Times Square,” Hassell said. 

Hassell, who was part of the on-air team that hosted last year’s scaled-back festivities live in Times Square, said he has “nothing but confidence in city officials to come up with the right modifications that should be needed if anything has to change.”

“Right now,” Hassell added, “It’s looking like all systems go.”

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