Revelers await their return to Times Square in New York to inaugurate 2022

NEW YORK (AP) – New York City is ready to embrace the New Year – and gives one another good riddance …

NEW YORK (AP) – New York City set to embrace the New Year – and shed another pandemic year – as it prepared to relaunch its annual New Years celebration at The Times Square.

It did so as an uneasy nation tries to show optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are now behind it – even as public health officials have warned Friday against unbridled celebrations amid the surge in omicron variant COVID infections.

The city said it would limit the number of people it would let into Times Square to witness a 6-ton bullet, encrusted with nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals, descend above a crowd of about 15,000 in-person spectators – far fewer than the tens of thousands of revelers who typically descend on the world-famous plaza to bask in the lights, the hype and the shower of confetti at the flagship New Year’s Eve event.

“We are very happy to welcome visitors back to Times Square this New Years Eve,” said Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance. “Our goal is to have a safe and responsible event for the world to see.”

The annual ball takes place on Fridays, as the clock strikes midnight and ushers in the New Year, an occasion typically commemorated with champagne, tinkling pints, cheerful hugs, and hopes for better times to come.

But 2022 starts off exactly as the year before began – with the pandemic darkening an already uncertain future.

Doubts have hanged over whether the city should cancel this year’s party, as the city released a record number of COVID cases in the days leading up to it, even as some cities like Atlanta decided to cancel their own celebrations.

Last year’s bullet drop was closed to the public due to the outbreak.

COVID-19 cases in the United States have reached their highest levels on record with more than 265,000 per day on average. New York City on Tuesday reported a record number of new confirmed cases – more than 39,590 – according to New York state figures.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will step down from surveillance of the country’s most populous city at the stroke of midnight, said the festivities in Times Square “would show the world that New York is pushing its way through this.”

Officials said those attending the show should wear masks and show proof of vaccination. Organizers had initially hoped more than 50,000 revelers could join us, but plans have been drastically curtailed due to widespread infections.

Rap artist and actor LL Cool J was said to be among the performers taking the stage in Times Square on Friday night, but announced he would be withdrawing from the event because he tested positive for COVID.

New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams, is due to be sworn in in Times Square shortly after the ball drops. He expressed hope on Thursday that 2022 would be “a new start in our resilience.”

It was a sentiment shared by ordinary people.

Students and sisters Mary and Vanessa Anyakwo were also cautiously optimistic, as they visited Times Square on an outing from their home in the suburb of Elmsford, New York.

“I feel a lot more optimistic than I was last year because I think we have a lot more facilities” to deal with the pandemic, said Mary, 20.

Vanessa, 22, pointed at the crowd. “Around this time last year,” she said, “I didn’t think it would be like this. “

Paolo Brügger, a banker from Zurich, Switzerland, reflected on a world fed up with having to endure wave after wave of viruses a year after the dawn of 2021 with hopes locked in vaccine vials.

His optimism was tempered by the new global reality that the pandemic would persist into the New Year.

“A lot of people are now asking, ‘Is it going to be like this every year – when we go into the cold season, we have a new variant, and we’re back to square one?’” Said Brügger, 55 years old.

Still, he was “extremely optimistic” about 2022, partly because of vaccines and newer therapies against COVID-19 and partly, he said with a chuckle, “because it can’t get worse. than the last two years ”.

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