Metro

NYC Times Square New Year’s Eve decision to come before Christmas: de Blasio

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Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday he will make a decision before Christmas on whether to cancel or change precautions for the return of the city’s in-person New Year’s Eve celebration — as he warned of an additional “very, very big surge” in COVID-19 cases amid a recent increase in them.

“We expect Omicron to be a fast and temporary phenomenon. We expect these next weeks to see a very, very big surge in the number of cases, more than we’ve seen previously, and then we expect after a period of time, that it will dissipate,” he said during a virtual press briefing. “We’re expecting a fast uptick, and then going the other way, the cases starting to go down.”

De Blasio, who leaves office at the end of the year, repeatedly characterized the surge in cases as a “temporary reality,” predicting “we think the outcome will be very much better this time” compared to spring 2020 regarding healthcare system would be able to handle the wave due to less severe infections because of vaccines.

Asked if given the increase in cases if he will make adjustments to the annual Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration — which the mayor announced in November will be back at “full strength” for vaccinated revelers — de Blasio responded that the protocol for the iconic ball drop will be revealed by the end of the week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the official ruling on whether or not there will an event will be announced before Christmas.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the official ruling on whether or not there will an event will be announced before Christmas.
NYC Mayor’s Office

“We’re going to make a decision before Christmas. We’re certainly looking at the new challenges we’re facing, but this is an all-vaccinated event and it is outdoors, and those are two very, very important, favorable factors,” he said Sunday afternoon.

“We’re also considering there’s other ways we can approach it even with current rules that could help to make it even stronger, so there’s a discussion going on. We will have a final decision on what we can do ahead of Christmas, for sure.”

As of Friday, the COVID-19 positivity rate in New York City, measured on a seven-day average, was 7.13, up from less than 3 percent at the beginning of December, according to city data. One-hundred-sixty-two patients are in hospitals in the five boroughs and the hospitalization rate is 1.69 per 100,000 New Yorkers — up from 1.30 per 100,000 people on Monday.

About 13 percent of coronavirus cases were of the Omicron variant, the city’s health commissioner said Thursday.

Statewide, positive test results from Friday showed 21,908 COVID-19 infections, up from the previous day’s record 21,027, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced — the second time in two days the state has logged a new top figure for positive daily COVID cases.

Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, urged “vulnerable” New Yorkers like those over 65, too young to get vaccinated or immunocompromised, to avoid crowded indoor settings — and for others to keep them in mind while making decisions.

“We all must think about what we can do to protect our family, friends and neighbors who are most vulnerable to serious illness. Remember that even if you are healthy, you can still pass the virus along to someone for whom it could have serious consequences” he said.

A test run was held for the New Year's Eve crystal ball, that will rise during a countdown to ring in the New Year.
A test run was held for the New Year’s Eve crystal ball, which will rise during a countdown to ring in the New Year.
Robert Miller

“My practical advice is to plan your holidays around your most vulnerable family member, whether it’s someone with a weakened immune system or a child too young to be vaccinated.”

Mayor-elect Eric Adams — who takes office in the new year and joined de Blasio’s press conference — stressed that he and the current mayor are on the same page regarding COVID-19 measures, even as he’s declined to declare his support for Hizzoner’s private-sector vaccine mandate, set to take effect Dec. 27.

“We will ensure that everything in our power, as the heads of the current administration and next administration, to give New Yorkers the resources they need to stay healthy and protected. And let us be clear about something else: There is no daylight between the mayor and I on that commitment,” said Adams, currently the Brooklyn borough president. 

“There will also be continuity between his administration and mine, when the new year begins, so that there is no confusion or gap in our COVID response when I take office Jan. 1,” he vowed. “The mayor and I are together on this, just like all of us New Yorkers are in this together.”

Meanwhile, long lines for COVID-19 tests formed yet again in the five boroughs.

On Sunday morning, 167 waited in line at a Times Square testing site, and 131 queued up for tests at a tent at Broadway and 44th Street.

“Freezing! Insane! This is the only way to get a test on a Sunday because Bill de Blasio shut down 20 sites!” Tom, a 47-year-old producer who lives in Chelsea, told The Post at the Times Square location. “I’ve got mild symptoms, and I’m going to be around friends and family and I want to be responsible.”

Mayor Bill De Blasio said in November that there will be an in-person event at Times Square.
Mayor Bill De Blasio said in November that there will be an in-person event at Times Square.
YouTube / NYC Mayor’s Office

“I was exposed last week, so, this was the only place I could find that was open on Sunday,”  Danielle, a 30-year-old Manhattan resident who works in software sales — told The Post at 20 Times Square. “This was a terrible decision! There has to be a better way. I should have put more effort into finding a better location. It takes 3 days to get a PCR test back now, so better safe than sorry.

“I’m hopefully taking a flight to DC to spend Christmas with family.”

Diane Birtles, an England resident who had been visiting the Big Apple for four days, told The Post she had been waiting to get swabbed for two hours on 44th and 7th.

“I’m flying back to Manchester today, so I need it today. I can’t fly without it. This is the nearest one to our hotel,” Birtles, 53, said.

She said she was told by a test site worker it would take one hour for her rapid test to yield a result.

“I hope so, or else I’m not flying today,” Birtles said.  

Asked about long lines and slow test results in recent days, de Blasio touted adding more coronavirus testing sites and at-home testing kits, part of a six-point plan announced Thursday.

“What we’re doing to relieve some of this pressure is opening up more test sites, new test sites, adding longer hours to existing test sites, we’ve added to our mobile fleet, so people can do testing at those buses,” he said. “We’re going to just keep adding. … It’s just more, more, more, is part of how you reduce the need for people to go to some of the existing sites, and spread out the demand.”

Dr. Ted Long, the head of the city’s coronavirus testing and tracing team, during the press conference promised the city would open eight new brick-and-mortar testing sites by Tuesday, bringing the total of such locations to more than 30, and add 17 mobile units by the end of the week. Moving forward, the city is planning many more” testing sites, Long said.

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