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Decision on Times Square New Year’s Eve event due this week

December 19, 2021 GMT
People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site in Times Square on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in New York.  New York City had been mostly spared the worst of the big surge in COVID-19 cases that has taken place across the northeastern and midwestern U.S. since Thanksgiving, but the situation has been changing rapidly in recent days.(AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site in Times Square on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in New York. New York City had been mostly spared the worst of the big surge in COVID-19 cases that has taken place across the northeastern and midwestern U.S. since Thanksgiving, but the situation has been changing rapidly in recent days.(AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site in Times Square on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, in New York. New York City had been mostly spared the worst of the big surge in COVID-19 cases that has taken place across the northeastern and midwestern U.S. since Thanksgiving, but the situation has been changing rapidly in recent days.(AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

NEW YORK (AP) — The fate of the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square will be decided this week.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday a decision will be made by Christmas on whether to hold the event as in previous years before the pandemic, now that the omicron variant is spreading rapidly through the city and officials are scrambling to increase testing capacity amid heightened demand.

Last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square was a socially distanced affair, attended by small groups of essential workers. This November, de Blasio announced the event would come back “full strength” with a requirement that attendees show proof of vaccination and those unable to be vaccinated because of a disability show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

De Blasio called omicron a “fast, temporary phenomenon” that is expected to surge in the next few weeks then likely dissipate. He noted that most city residents are vaccinated, making the recent outbreak more manageable than when COVID-19 first appeared in early spring 2020.

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According to city statistics, about 90% of adults and about 80% of all residents have received at least one vaccine dose.

“It’s important not to fight yesterday’s war,” de Blasio said. “It’s important to not think we are back in the spring of 2020 or even the winter of 2020. This is a highly vaccinated city where people have much more protection than ever before.”

For the third straight day, New York state had a record number of new COVID-19 cases — nearly 22,500. About 12,400 of those new cases were in New York City. The state has been averaging about 16,300 new cases per day in the seven-day period that ended Saturday. That’s 60% higher than the previous week.

The mayor and health officials announced Thursday the city would give out 1 million free N95 masks and 500,000 free at-home tests, to be distributed through community organizations. On Sunday they said eight new fixed-site testing sites and 17 new mobile units would be opened by this week, bringing the city’s totals to 36 fixed sites and 93 mobile units, with more anticipated.