NEW YORK — The Big Apple’s most iconic New Year’s Eve celebration is back — with one important caveat.
The Times Square ball drop will return at “full strength” this year, with the city allowing hundreds of thousands of revelers to attend as long as they can show proof that they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
The quintessential New Year’s Eve bash was drastically downsized last year due to the pandemic, but de Blasio said the city is ready to gear up for a “big, strong” event this Dec. 31, thanks to the vaccine.
“Hundreds of thousands of people will be there to celebrate. We can finally get back together again. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be a joy for this city,” de Blasio said during a recent daily morning briefing.
As in prepandemic years, there will be security checkpoints that revelers must pass through before entering the area on New Year’s Eve, according to Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance.
Unlike in past years, however, attendees age 5 and older will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Harris.
“Let’s do it the right way. Let’s do it the safe way,” de Blasio said. “We want to welcome all those hundreds of thousands of folks, but everyone needs to be vaccinated. All you need to do is have that proof of vaccination and a valid photo ID and you are in.”
The city does not otherwise require proof of vaccination for outdoor settings, like dining al fresco, but de Blasio said the Times Square festivities pose a unique challenge.
“When you’re outdoors with a few hundred thousand people, packed closely together for hours on end, it’s a different reality,” de Blasio said. “You’re talking about a lot of people really close for long periods of time. It makes sense to protect everyone. So full vaccination is required in this case.”
Aside from the pandemic, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said police will beef up security around the Times Square area for the celebrations.
“I think we’re in good shape,” Shea said on NY1, adding that there are no current threats against the ball drop event. “It’s going to be a combination of a lot of cops and detectives out there and counter-terrorism overlays.”
(New York Daily News writer Thomas Tracy contributed to this report.)