As the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in New York City spiked dramatically,  questions lingered about whether the Times Square traditional Ball Drop would move forward with plans to allow crowds vaccinated revelers to gather for the festivities to countdown to 2022.

Now the city confirms the event will move forward as planned — but with additional safety measures like masks and reducing the number of people in attendance. 

"New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year. There’s a lot to celebrate and the additional safety measures we’re announcing today will keep the fully vaccinated crowd at Times Square safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet announcing the changes. 

Along with requiring proof of vaccination and masks, the size of the crowd allowed at the event will be reduced from 58,000 people to 15,000.  Revelers will not be allowed into the area until 3 p.m. 

Canceled Broadway shows, closed restaurants: NYC grapples with spike in COVID-19 cases

Organizers announced in November that crowds would return to the party but spectators who entered the festivities will be required to show proof of vaccination and identification.

Watched by an estimated billion people around the world, a 12-foot ball comprised of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles drops to count down the last seconds of the year, drawing hundreds of thousands of party-goers to Times Square. Last year the ball drop went ahead without spectators, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. 

In November, Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance, said organizers are thrilled "to welcome a full house of revelers back to Times Square to celebrate the New Year.”  

“Now more than ever we need to come together to revive our favorite traditions with our loved ones – reflecting on a tough year behind us while looking forward to a new year with hope," Harris said.

Times Square
Times Square in New York on a rainy night. © rschalkm/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Ball Drop ceremony has happened every year since 1907, only pausing in 1942 and 1943 as New York had a "dim out" of lights related to the war. According to the Times Square Alliance, even then, crowds gathered in the New Year, though they did so with a minute's silence followed by the sound of chimes that were broadcast from trucks positioned at the base of Times Tower. 

Read More: What you should know before traveling to New York

How do I get into Times Square for the ball drop?

You'll need to show proof of vaccination (proof of vaccination must include an FDA or World Health Organization approved COVID-19 vaccine)  and a photo ID to enter the area where the festivities will happen. You will also need to wear a mask.  There are no tickets for the event. Revelers are admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Crowds will not be allowed to gather in Times Square until 3 p.m. EST with the festivities beginning around 6 p.m. EST. 

What is considered “fully vaccinated”?

On December 31, 2021, you have to be 14 days past the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or 14 days after the single dose of an approved single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, there is no booster requirement. 

Do children need to be vaccinated?

Children who are aged five or over must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination. If you have a child who is under five years and therefore not eligible to be vaccinated yet, the child must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult. 

Can I show proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead?

No. You must be fully vaccinated. The event does provide an exception for those who can prove they are medically unable to get vaccinated due to a disability.

Those individuals will need to:

  • Provide proof of a negative COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours before the event; and 
  • Wear a mask for the entire duration of the event. 

Are there nearby places where I could watch the festivities?

If you're looking for a climate-controlled environment (and perhaps easier access to restrooms), there are many nearby hotels and restaurants with views of the festivities. 

According to organizers, the Renaissance New York, Marriott Marquis, and The Knickerbocker hotels, all have views of the ball drop. Meanwhile, the Olive Garden, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and  R Lounge (located at the Renaissance) are your options for restaurants with a view of the ball drop. 

 The official Times Square website also keeps a list of nearby businesses that are hosting New Year's Eve parties

Who will be performing in Times Square for New Year's Eve?

Only a few details have been released about who will be performing in 2021/22. Singer-songwriter KT Tunstall will headline the New Year's Eve performance. Known for her songs "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See", Tunstall will sing  John Lennon’s “Imagine” just before midnight.

The 2019/20 Ball Drop saw performances from acts including Machine Gun Kelly, Gloria Gaynor and Cindy Lauper.  

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This article was first published Nov 18, 2021 and updated Dec 24, 2021.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 04: An American flag is hung as people celebrate the Fourth of July at Coney Island on July 4, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. This year’s celebrations including, the annual Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, and the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display, are happening at full capacity following smaller or mostly virtual celebrations in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
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