The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa just before the 2021 holiday season kicked off, days before the United States celebrated Thanksgiving. The following week, travel bans from a handful of countries in South Africa did little to prevent the variant from entering the United States.
As Christmas day drew closer, the state of Texas was the site of the first American death due to an Omicron infection. The individual was in his mid-50s and was said to have other health issues.
Omicron is now present in all fifty states in America.
As New Year’s approaches, cities across the country are considering scaling back or canceling their New Year’s Eve celebrations.
However, there are multiple cities that are carrying on with their plans for welcoming 2022 on Friday evening.
New York has always held an iconic celebration in Times Square; a huge crystal ball with LED lights sits atop a specially-made flagpole that drops during the countdown to the new year. Hundreds of thousands gather in Times Square to witness the ball drop. 2019 was the last year that the celebration was held as usual. Last year, the ball drop took place, but no crowds were allowed in Time Square.
This year, per orders given by out-going New York mayor Bill De Blasio, those in the crowd at Times Square will have to be fully vaccinated and wear a mask. Partygoers will also need to practice social distancing – a requirement a tad difficult to visualize as Times Square is usually packed during the ball drop.
De Blasio touted the resiliency of the citizens of New York prior to the New Year’s Eve celebration. According to De Blasio, “New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously . . . we are leading the way on vaccinations . . . and every day we work toward building a recovery for all of us.”
The mayor went on to say that he believes the precautions he has set forth will allow revelers to enjoy a New York City tradition while keeping citizens as well as visitors to the Big Apple safe.
However, cities around the world have decided to cancel their normal New Year’s celebrations altogether. Athens typically hosts a show at the Acropolis, but the fireworks show there is canceled. Athens had already canceled all normal Christmas and New Year’s Eve events. Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt in Germany have all canceled celebrations, plus they have also scrubbed any large gatherings during the holiday. According to German authorities, this is being done out of the fear that a fifth wave of Coronavirus infections may surge through the country.
Across Europe, London, Edenborough, Paris, and Rome have all canceled New Year’s Eve celebrations. The city of New Delhi, India has also put off their New Year’s Eve celebrations until next year.
Interestingly, President Biden has now canceled the travel ban from South African countries that he had implemented just after Thanksgiving, even though cases are increasing in the United States.