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De Blasio scales back NYE ball drop crowd from 58,000 to 15,000 despite record NY COVID cases


New York state COVID cases have rocketed to an all-time high of 38,835 – but NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says the Times Square ball drop will still go ahead, albeit with dramatically-reduced crowd numbers.

The cases update was shared by NY State Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday. They smash the previous record of 28,924 infections set just one day previously. Cases are now around double of what they were a year ago, although hospitalizations are far lower.  

Hochul struck an upbeat tone on Twitter after sharing the update, saying: ‘Today, New York State is reporting 38,835 COVID cases. We’re also seeing a record for testing — 324,786 in one day. 

‘Thank you for taking precautions ahead of the Christmas holiday by getting tested. Millions of additional tests are on the way. Get tested. Keep each other safe.’

On Thursday de Blasio confirmed that the world-famous New Year’s Eve ball drop will be happening but that the planned crowd of 58,000 spectators will be reduced down to just 15,000. 

De Blasio added that spectators will not be allowed entry before 3 pm on New Year’s Eve and they must provide proof of vaccination and wear face masks, despite the event being held outdoors.

The ball drop will be the final big event of his second term in office, with Eric Adams taking over from January 1. 

NY Governor Kathy Hochul shared this update Thursday, as her state smashed its 24 hour-old record for one-day COVID diagnoses

She also shared how vaccination totals are continuing to rise as the Omicron variant sweeps the US

She also shared how vaccination totals are continuing to rise as the Omicron variant sweeps the US

De Blasio confirmed that the New Year's Eve ball drop will be happening but the normal crowd of 58,000 spectators will be reduced down to just 15,000

De Blasio confirmed that the New Year’s Eve ball drop will be happening but the normal crowd of 58,000 spectators will be reduced down to just 15,000

At last year's ball drop, the city and the Times Square Alliance held a fully masked celebration without the huge crowds revelers are used to seeing each year

At last year’s ball drop, the city and the Times Square Alliance held a fully masked celebration without the huge crowds revelers are used to seeing each year

De Blasio said  that spectators for the New Year's Eve ball drop will not be allowed entry before 3 pm on new year's eve and they must provide proof of vaccination and wear face masks

De Blasio said  that spectators for the New Year’s Eve ball drop will not be allowed entry before 3 pm on new year’s eve and they must provide proof of vaccination and wear face masks

At last year’s ball drop, the city and the Times Square Alliance held a fully masked celebration without the huge crowds revelers are used to seeing each year. 

The announcement comes as NYC Covid case rates have tripled in the last week, going from 295 daily new cases for every 100,000 New Yorkers on December 12 to 956 new cases per 100,000 on December 19. 

NYC’s test positivity rate has also shot up in the past week, to an all-time high of 15 percent on December 19. 

Such a high positivity rate indicates that more than one in ten New Yorkers tested in the city are receiving positive results.   

The surge has been driven by the Omicron variant, which is the cause of more than 90 percent of new Covid cases in the New York and New Jersey region.

New Yorkers have been pictured waiting in hours-long lines for testing, though distributions of free at-home rapid tests and incoming federal testing support are providing some relief. 

While the case rates continue to rise, hospitalizations have remained low in NYC – but hospital leaders are concerned about staff shortages as workers test positive. 

Despite the high positivity rate, the Omicron surge has not strained NYC hospitals, as only 2.1 COVID patients per 100,000 are currently hospitalized across New York City.

‘We’re doing very, very well, very manageable. There’s no crisis,’ Michael Dowling, the CEO of Northwell Health, told CNN’s John Berman on Tuesday.

He noted that there are now 460 patients in its 23 hospitals, which is less than 10 percent of its overall capacity. But at the same time last year, during COVID’s second wave, the hospital system saw nearly 1,000 cases. And during the first wave, it had 3,500 patients suffering severe side effects from the virus.

Broadway has been one of the biggest victims to the surge, as multiple theaters were forced to cancel their most popular shows due to positive Covid cases among actors and stagehands.

Plays like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hamilton, and MJ The Musical all cancelling upcoming shows due to the outbreak.

Dear Evan Hansen, Aladdin, Ain’t Too Proud, and Skeleton Crew also shuttered performances until after Christmas due to positive Covid cases among actors and stagehands.

Regardless, Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said that curtains are not down on Broadway.

‘We have absolutely no plans to shut down,’ she told The Hollywood Reporter. ‘We are paying serious attention to the protocols. The other 20 to 30 shows continue to perform because we’re following the protocols that we set up, and it shows they’re working.’

The cancellations of a third of performances led to a 26 percent drop in profits in a week, the New York Times reported. 

On Tuesday he Broadway League, said that its theaters brought in only $22.5 million last week, down from the $30.5 million in tickets sold the previous week.

Plays like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hamilton, and MJ The Musical all cancelling upcoming shows due to the outbreak

Plays like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hamilton, and MJ The Musical all cancelling upcoming shows due to the outbreak

New Yorkers have been pictured waiting in hours-long lines for testing, though distributions of free at-home rapid tests and incoming federal testing support are providing some relief

New Yorkers have been pictured waiting in hours-long lines for testing, though distributions of free at-home rapid tests and incoming federal testing support are providing some relief

People self administer Covid-19 test in Queens as Covid case rates in the city have tripled in the last week, going from 295 daily new cases for every 100,000 New Yorkers on December 12 to 956 new cases per 100,000 on December 19

People self administer Covid-19 test in Queens as Covid case rates in the city have tripled in the last week, going from 295 daily new cases for every 100,000 New Yorkers on December 12 to 956 new cases per 100,000 on December 19

A man self administers a Binax Covid-19 test at a mobile site in Queens as NYC's test positivity rate hit an all-time high of 15 percent on December 19

A man self administers a Binax Covid-19 test at a mobile site in Queens as NYC’s test positivity rate hit an all-time high of 15 percent on December 19

Pre-pandemic Broadway grossed $40.1 million in the week before Christmas in 2019.   

Nation-wide COVID cases have soared by 38 per cent in the last 24 hours to 238,278 new infections as the Omicron variant continues to spread, with some states seeing cases rocket by up to 670 per cent.

Thursday’s update in infection numbers from Johns Hopkins University saw diagnoses climb from 172,072 for the previous day. Deaths were also up slightly, from 2,093 yesterday to 2,204 today.

Hospitalizations sit just under 63,000, including almost 16,000 COVID patients receiving intensive care treatment, according to analysis by the New York Times. That is an 11 per cent increase on a fortnight previously, but still well below the winter 2020 peak of almost 130,000 in hospital, 30,000 of whom were in ICU. 

Experts have warned that the virus could infect 140 million people between January and March – 60 percent of all Americans.

Multiple studies published this week have suggested Omicron is far less dangerous than Delta, with a UK Health Security Agency report from Thursday saying the mutant strain is 70 per cent less likely to cause hospitalization than Delta, and 45 per cent less likely to require an emergency room visit.

Meanwhile, multiple US states have seen 14 day infection rates soar. In Florida, cases are up 509 per cent, in Washington DC, they’re up 541 per cent, and in Hawaii they’ve rocketed by 670 per cent.

Hawaii saw 74 new confirmed Omicron cases on Wednesday, with Florida and DC each reporting 24 cases of the mutant strain. The US has a total of 2,625 confirmed Omicron cases, according to data scraped from individual states’ figures.

New York continues to have the highest number of new Omicron cases with 442 reported on Thursday, followed by Texas with 394 cases and California, with 358 new cases.

But the true Omicron total is exponentially higher, as only a small number of positive PCR tests are sequenced to identify which strain of COVID has caused a person’s infection. The CDC estimates that Omicron now comprises at least 73 per cent of all infections in the United States, and up to 92 per cent in five states including New York and New Jersey.



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