NYC New Year's Eve Celebration Will Return to Times Square for Vaccinated People

Carolyn Crist

November 17, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

New York City is planning to celebrate New Year's Eve at "full strength" in Times Square once again after limited festivities last year due to the pandemic.

But those hoping watch the ball drop in person will be required to show proof of full vaccination, according to The New York Times.

"We want to welcome all those hundreds of thousands of folks, but everyone needs to be vaccinated," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference on Tuesday.

The New Year's Eve celebration will also be broadcast on TV and online, which will include a "virtual multimedia experience," according to the Times Square Alliance.

"Join the crowd, join the joy, join a historic moment as New York City provides further evidence to the world that we are 100% back," de Blasio said.

But the vaccination requirement could prove challenging to handle, the newspaper reported. City health department officials and police officers — including some who argued against the mayor's vaccine mandate for city employees — will have to control the crowd and confirm attendees' vaccination status.

"We defer to the Police Department on operational issues like this, unless it impacts the guy and gal on the street," John Nuthall, a spokesman for the Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents the city police officers, told the newspaper.

Anyone who is unable to get vaccinated due to a disability will have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of the event, the Times reported. Children under the age of 5 years, who aren't yet eligible to get a shot, will need to be accompanied by a vaccinated adult.

Although vaccines aren't required for many other outdoor activities in New York, people need to be vaccinated for the ball drop because the event draws people from around the world to stand in a large crowd for long periods of time, de Blasio told reporters.

"When you're outdoors with a few hundred thousand people packed close together for hours on end, it's a different reality," he said. "You're talking about a lot of people really close for long periods of time. It makes sense to protect everyone."

Some public health experts have cautioned that the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases makes it difficult to predict whether the major event will be safe by the end of the year, the newspaper reported. Tourists will visit nearby restaurants and shops, and they could potentially take the virus back to their hometowns.

Other major cities around the world have called off their New Year's Eve plans, according to the Times. London has canceled the city's fireworks display, while Amsterdam canceled its celebrations this week in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, Munich canceled its famed Christmas market.

For now, the Times Square celebration with required vaccination seems "very reasonable," Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the newspaper.

"Vaccines make outdoor events, which are already pretty low risk, exceedingly low risk," he said.

People will have to determine their tolerance for risk and make decisions. After Tuesday's announcement, people already began making plans to either attend the celebration or avoid the crowds in Times Square.

"We have to get back to doing things that are really meaningful," Jha said. "New Year's Eve in Times Square is kind of an iconic American celebration, and I think we're at the point in the pandemic where we can do it safely."

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