Covid Wave Dampens New Year Celebrations Worldwide

Dec. 31, 2021, 11:14 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 11:14 p.m. ET

Nate Schweber

Interviewed on the main stage in Times Square, Mayor-elect Eric Adams promised that New York City would soon lead the nation by example. “It’s just great when New York shows the entire country how we come back,” he said.

When he left the stage, he went straight for the edge of the crowd-control fence and pushed his way into photos with out-of-towners.

“I’m so happy, yes!” screamed Geraldine Flores, 45, who owns a pool cleaning company in Las Vegas and said she never expected to meet a mayor of New York. She reached for Mr. Adams as if he were a rock star.

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Credit…Nate Schweber for The New York Times

Dec. 31, 2021, 10:31 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 10:31 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Dec. 31, 2021, 10:03 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 10:03 p.m. ET

Edgar Sandoval

Despite a surge in Omicron cases in the San Antonio area over the holiday week, revelers have returned to the historic La Villita riverfront distrct to ring in the new year. Crowds seemed in festive spirits even as Covid-related hospitalizations rose some 75 percent in the last week alone.

People enjoyed gorditas, beers and carnival-like treats and others danced to live music anticipating the much celebrated firework display that was canceled last year.

Dec. 31, 2021, 9:45 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 9:45 p.m. ET

Earlier this week, as reports of new cases soared to record levels, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois warned New Year’s revelers that “Omicron and Delta are coming to your party.”

It seemed that many in Chicago listened.

Though the city forged ahead with plans for a massive waterfront fireworks display, and though bars and hotels advertised New Year’s specials, the city’s downtown was decidedly subdued on Friday evening.

As fog settled over the skyline hours before midnight, traffic moved freely down State Street, Harry Caray’s Tavern had empty tables and traffic management workers stood on sidewalks because there were so few pedestrians to direct.

On Navy Pier, always a center of the city’s festivities, there was no line to go through security, no early clamor for benches to view the fireworks.

Though a far cry from 2019, the city was still decidedly more festive than in 2020. Restaurants had customers. Rickshaws picked up riders. Families asked police officers where the fireworks would be launched.

But with hospitals filling, case counts soaring and many residents deciding to stay home, no one was confusing it for a pre-pandemic holiday.

Dec. 31, 2021, 9:29 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 9:29 p.m. ET

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Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

The biggest safety threat looming over the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square in 2021 is the coronavirus, but the perimeter of the event is guarded against a threat that became apparent 20 years ago on Sept. 11: terrorism.

All cross streets from 56th Street to 37th Street have been fenced off, with concrete blocks the size of love seats on the sidewalks and dump trucks parked diagonally across the pavement. Sixth Avenue is lined with wooden blockades stenciled with, “Police Line Do Not Cross.”

New York Police Department officers have been joined by F.B.I. agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, State Police officers, and the department’s Strategic Response officers dressed in helmets and toting long guns.

For private businesses for whom official law enforcement was insufficient, there was private security on display.

A private security S.U.V. was parked outside a Bryant Park bank branch, and a security guard stood watch outside the Fox News headquarters, where a Christmas tree was set on fire earlier this month.

Sharon Sanchez, who owns a security company in Miami, her hometown, said the public safety apparatus on display was a welcome sight on her first visit to New York City.

“I think it’s great, it keeps us all safe,” said Ms. Sanchez, 58, who wore one of the purple and yellow top hats that had been handed out to revelers.

But Grace Ponce, 25, a nanny from Houston, the show of force did nothing to alleviate her primary concern.

“We worry about the virus,” she said. “We know we’re taking a risk.”

Dec. 31, 2021, 8:37 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 8:37 p.m. ET

Eduardo Medina

Backdropped by the glow of Times Square, several New Year’s Eve television specials are live, the corners of their screens covered by a countdown clock. “And happy New Year, everyone! We are live from Times Square,” said a cheerful Anderson Cooper alongside Andy Cohen, who joked that he was still waiting for the “roaring twenties” to commence. They are hosting “CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live,” one of many specials to air tonight. On ABC, there is “Dick Clark’s Primetime New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2022.”

And at 10:30 p.m. on NBC, “Miley’s New Year’s Eve Party Hosted by Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson” will broadcast live from Miami. Other networks’ programming plans, however, have been curtailed by the Omicron variant.

Fox scrapped its live New Year’s Eve show, “Toast and Roast,” hosted by actors Ken Jeong and Joel McHale, because of the recent surge in cases. LL Cool J, who was set to perform on ABC’s special, pulled out after testing positive for the coronavirus this week.

Dec. 31, 2021, 8:12 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 8:12 p.m. ET

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Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

In Times Square, the rules limiting attendance at the New Year’s Eve festivities to 15,000 — a fraction of the normal herd — seemed to be accomplishing their purpose Thursday evening. Each block had several barricaded areas containing dozens of people apiece, but most of the streets were passable only by police officers and members of the media.

Inside a spectator pen, Sebastián de la Torre and Michelle Robayo lay on the pavement, their heads resting on the squishy purple-and-yellow top hats with the logo of a gym chain that everyone was offered as they entered.

They were tired, they explained. The couple, visiting New York from Ecuador, had lined up before noon, and the moment the gates were opened, sprinted to a prime viewing spot.

“We just left running,” said Mr. de la Torre, 34, an architect in Quito. “They think like we are cows here.”

The journey was not without sacrifice. Ms. Robayo’s pink backpack was confiscated at the entrance. “This backpack has been all around the world — Spain, Italy, France, Dubai — and they made her throw it out,” Mr. de la Torre said. He brought up a video on his phone showing Ms. Robayo, 30, giving the backpack a sad goodbye hug.

But they salvaged the contents, including two little dolls with faces like smiling zombies, called años viejos, or “old years.” At midnight, Ecuadoreans and others in Latin America ritually burn them. “You close the year on all the bad things,” Mr. de la Torre said. “Covid — I got Covid, she did too.”

Not that they would dare actually set fire to something in Times Square. “Maybe they’ll think we’re doing something bad,” Mr. de la Torre said, “so we’ll burn it back home.”

An hour later, though, an announcer blasting over the loudspeakers seemed to have channeled them.

“2021 may have been a dumpster fire, but we’re making sure that New Year’s Eve 2022 is gonna be lit!” the announcer yelled. A gigantic screen showed a garbage can aflame as the announcer interviewed people about what they hoped to leave behind — chiefly the coronavirus.

Behind the barricades north of 47th Street, where people were jammed shoulder to shoulder, Zoé Fauchi said she was scared even though she was excited.

“We’re wearing our masks at all times, even while eating,” said Ms. Fauchi, 22, a law student from Normandy, France, waving a Kind bar. “I try to wear it while I’m chewing.”

“I think as long as we keep our masks on we will be OK,” she added, though it sounded half like a question.

Her friend Emma Marianni, 21 and also a law student, explained that she could not afford to get sick.

“We’re supposed to take the plane home tomorrow and we have to get tested,” she said. “If I have Covid I won’t be able to go back to France.”

Not that she would mind being stuck in New York.

“I actually would like to stay here,” she said, “but I have exams next week.”

Dec. 31, 2021, 7:59 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 7:59 p.m. ET

Constant Meheut

Bars in Paris were shutting down at 2 a.m., a direct consequence of what President Emmanuel Macron called the “endless day” of the coronavirus pandemic.

With more than 2,000 cases per 100,000 people, Paris has become the epicenter of France’s spreading Omicron outbreak, prompting authorities to call off its fireworks display on the iconic Champs Élysées avenue and reimpose restrictions, including an outdoor mask mandate.

Unlike last year, when a nighttime curfew enshrouded and dimmed the City of Light, Parisians could at least go out this time. But scores of parties and festivities were canceled — plunging many of Paris’s streets into unusual quiet as 2022 arrived.

Dec. 31, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ET

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Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

People who contracted the Omicron variant of the coronavirus were about half as likely to need hospital care as those infected with the Delta variant, and one-third as likely to need emergency care, according to a report issued on Friday by British health officials.

The analysis of public data also found that vaccination offers strong protection against hospitalization and severe illness following Omicron infection, helping prevent the worst outcomes even as infection rates in Britain soar to record levels.

The findings represent some of the largest sets of real-world data to be released since the highly contagious variant was first discovered in late November, and add to a growing body of evidence that Omicron may not present as great a danger of hospitalization and severe illness to the public as earlier variants.

“The latest set of analysis is in keeping with the encouraging signs we have already seen,” said Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at the health security agency.

The risk of being admitted to a hospital for Omicron cases was 65 percent lower for those who had received two doses of a vaccine, compared with those who had not received any vaccination.

The rate of hospitalization was even lower among those who had received three doses of vaccine, according to the report, which was issued by the U.K. Health Security Agency. People who had received booster doses were 81 percent less likely to be admitted to the hospital, compared with unvaccinated people, according to the agency.

The agency analyzed 528,176 Omicron cases and 573,012 Delta cases between Nov. 22 and Dec. 26 to assess the risk of hospitalization in England. The researchers included all cases diagnosed in the community and then assessed the risk of general admission to the hospital or admission through emergency care.

In a second study, the agency examined just symptomatic cases, linked with hospitalization data, and found that three doses of a vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization for people with the Omicron variant by 88 percent, compared with unvaccinated people with that variant.

Dec. 31, 2021, 7:13 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 7:13 p.m. ET

Aina Jabeen Khan

in London

As the clock struck midnight on a newly refurbished Big Ben, London ushered in 2022 with a firework display that illuminated the skyline over central London.

The thronging crowds that traditionally gather to watch the celebrations were notably absent as the Omicron variant has driven record levels of coronavirus cases and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, urged people to stay home.

“London’s New Year’s Eve spectacular will not be visible from the ground or from key sites in the capital, including the London Eye,” Mr. Khan tweeted late on Friday.

REMINDER: London’s New Year’s Eve spectacular will not be visible from the ground or from key sites in the capital, including the London Eye. Please do not travel into Central London to view the display. Tune into @BBCOne later tonight to get the best view.

— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) December 31, 2021

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:36 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:36 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:31 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:31 p.m. ET

Andy Newman

Periodically, cheers erupt from one of the spectator pens at the north end of Times Square. A closer look revealed the source: a woman from the event’s official webcast frantically waving a clipboard and conducting the crowd like an orchestra.

At 6 p.m. sharp, an announcer’s voice blared over the speakers, “Fanfare for the Common Man” played at top volume and the official New Year’s Eve ball was illuminated from the top of 1 Times Square, emerging from a wreath of smoke. The festivities have begun.

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:11 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:11 p.m. ET

Billy Witz

in Arlington, Texas

As Alabama leads Cincinnati 17-6 in the third quarter of their College Football Playoff semifinal, very little about the environment hints at a pandemic. At AT&T Stadium near Dallas, mask-wearing fans are a small fraction of the capacity crowd and a sign outside the press box read: “Masks are encouraged.” Outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., a crowd of fans visibly packed a promenade as ESPN filmed live television segments ahead of a second semifinal between Alabama and Georgia.

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:09 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:09 p.m. ET

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Credit…Dan Bilefsky for the New York Times

While the world grappled with a bad case of stay-at-home claustrophobia in 2021, I was lucky — or foolish — to travel to four continents.

I braved a total of 20 P.C.R. tests in Montreal, London, Lisbon, Toronto, Rio and Seoul, some during which it felt like my cerebellum was being stabbed with a long swab stuck up my nostril.

A few other uncherished memories stand out.

Among the 20 days I spent in quarantine this past year, one I would like to forget was my night at a quarantine hotel at Toronto’s airport in June. I was escorted to my room by a uniformed security guard as an older man in the elevator sneezed, a mask dangling alarmingly beneath his nose. I twisted and turned anxiously all night, but a subsequent Covid test came back negative.

Then there was the nail-biting moment midway through a Lisbon vacation in June when British authorities suddenly removed Portugal from the country’s quarantine-free travel list. That meant I would need to quarantine for 10 days in London, if I didn’t get back before the dreaded status change, and then miss my return flight home, a few days later, to Montreal. I made it — with only a few hours to spare.

While I traveled mostly for work and to satisfy my wanderlust, my trips underscored the stresses of traveling at a time when often confusing health orders can change with the speed of a deadly variant.

The past year was a turbulent year for global travel, and, with Omicron surging from the United States to France, the immediate outlook for 2022 seems ominous. Many travelers are putting off trips until later in the year. Commercial airlines canceled 4,500 flights around the globe over Christmas weekend.

Such was the dire state of travel in 2021 in many places that Bali, long a dream destination, received only a few dozen international visitors. In Britain, the number of visitors by air plunged by 97 percent in the first half of the year, according to the British tourism authority.

Stuck at home during travel-imposed quarantines, I became a plant nerd; bought things I didn’t necessarily need, like a stainless steel dental plaque remover set; and gave myself catastrophic home haircuts that made me want to cower inside an extra few weeks.

I’ve been fascinated by how different countries and cultures have adapted during a pandemic.

When I arrived in London in May, just as a lockdown had lifted, there was a palpable party spirit, with people thronging inside pubs and frolicking in the streets.

In South Korea, praised for its early handling of the pandemic, my fellow bikers along the Han River in Seoul studiously wore their masks outside. Come nighttime, however, some office workers compensated for 10 p.m. bar closures with marathon sessions of drinking soju, the popular Korean spirit often distilled from rice, before closing time.

While on vacation in body-obsessed Rio, residents and fruit juice sellers crowded the sandy beaches of Ipanema in November, perhaps momentarily putting out of their minds the more than 20 million people reported to have tested positive for the coronavirus in Brazil. But at gyms, people bench-pressed while wearing masks.

As for me, I am now back in Montreal, where gyms, bars, movie theaters and spas are closed.

On New Year’s Eve, I have big plans to travel — from my bed to my living room.

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:02 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 6:02 p.m. ET

Constant Meheut

Faced with an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, Paris marked the arrival of 2022 after calling off most of its New Year Eve’s festivities.

Landmarks like Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysées avenue were illuminated in the blue of the European Union flag, marking the start of the six-month E.U. presidency that France is taking on from Jan. 1st.

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:54 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:54 p.m. ET

Andy Newman

Inside the security pens in Times Square, the celebrants were packed in some spots, sparse in others and strangely placid throughout. During breaks in the blasting recorded music, they were nearly silent. Most wore purple-and-yellow top hats bearing the logo of Planet Fitness that they had been handed at the entrances, lending the event the look of a Mr. Peanut convention.

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:38 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:38 p.m. ET

Aina Jabeen Khan

in London

As Britain continues to report a record number of coronavirus cases, Twitter on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an end-of-year address that the country’s situation on New Year’s Eve was “incomparably better than last year.”

2022 is almost upon us. Whatever the challenges that lie ahead in the coming weeks and months, our position today is incomparably better than last year.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to get your jabs and do something that will make 2022 a happy New Year for us all. pic.twitter.com/G5Y97OfI9U

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 31, 2021

On Friday, 189,846 positive coronavirus cases were reported, the highest on record, and 203 people died. More than 100,000 new cases have been reported each day since Dec. 20, as the highly infectious Omicron variant continues to spread.

London, the epicenter of Omicron, will continue to welcome the New Year at midnight with an annual firework display and performances. Despite no restrictions on gatherings, Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor, urged Londoners to watch the celebrations from the safety of their homes on television.

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:34 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:34 p.m. ET

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Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Even as some students were packing to head to campus, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Miami and Duke have joined the growing list of universities changing their spring semester schedules as Omicron infections spread.

In an announcement Friday, Michigan State joined nearly 50 other schools that had already announced either delayed starts or remote classes. The public university in East Lansing, Mich., where classes were scheduled to begin Jan. 10, will go remote for at least three weeks. Samuel L. Stanley, Michigan State’s president, noted what he called an “intense surge” in the virus in a message to the campus on Friday.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville announced a delayed start to its spring semester. Classes will start Jan. 17 rather than Jan. 10. Nearby Tennessee State University also announced on Friday that it would not reopen on schedule, delaying classes until Jan. 24.

Duke University, in Durham, N.C., extended the time its classes would be virtual, until Jan. 18, and urged students to delay their arrivals to campus even though residence halls were scheduled to open on Jan. 2. In a tweet, the university said that the rate of pandemic-related hospitalizations in North Carolina had doubled. And the University of Miami said its classes, scheduled to begin Jan. 18, would be remote for the first two weeks.

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:26 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:26 p.m. ET

Constant Meheut

In a televised address delivered in front of the gardens of the gilded Élysée Palace in Paris, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, wished that 2022 would be “the year when we see the end of this endless day,” referring to the coronavirus pandemic still tearing across the country because of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

France on New Year’s Eve broke a new record of Covid-19 infections, with more than 230,000 new cases reported in 24 hours. “The coming weeks will be difficult, we all know it,” Mr. Macron said. The president went on to use the address to project himself into next April’s presidential election, laying out the main themes that will likely undergird his campaign and leaving little doubt about his bid for re-election. “I will continue to serve you,” he said.

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:16 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:16 p.m. ET

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Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

The subdued atmosphere caused by the pandemic on what is usually a giddy holiday was evident at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan on an unseasonably warm last day of 2021, as New Yorkers said goodbye to one difficult year and steeled themselves for another.

Many of those in the modest crowd perusing stands stocked with plants, vegetables, baked goods and other items did not appear overly concerned about the virus: At least half were not wearing masks, but were holding them in their hands or tucking them under their chins instead.

Still, their comments told a more nuanced story.

Bruce Perry, 72, of Coney Island, browsed the market’s offerings while heading to Paragon Sports on the square’s north side. The Omicron variant’s prevalence had dampened his New Year’s Eve mood.

“I’m a little depressed,” he said. “I’m tired of wearing this mask every day.”

He added that he had just started to feel comfortable being outside without it.

“But I know we got to wear it with everything going on,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to live with it.”

Mr. Perry, who is vaccinated and has gotten a booster shot, said he had been careful to avoid large crowds and had recently canceled a trip to Atlanta to visit his two daughters and three grandchildren.

“I’ll just have to wait,” he said. “I don’t want to get sick, and I don’t want them to get sick.”

“Hopefully 2022 will be better,” he added. “It doesn’t look like it’s getting any better.”

George Martin was also on the square’s north side, playing Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” and “Maria” from West Side Story on his trumpet as a few passers-by dropped dollar bills in his small gray duffle bag while wishing him a Happy New Year.

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Credit…Chelsia Rose Marcius

A 71-year-old retiree who lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and busks in the parks several days a week, Mr. Martin said he was sure 2022 would bring its share of problems, but that was no reason to stop living.

“There’s a lot of confusion right now about Omicron, but what are you going to do?” he said. “Lock yourself in your room? Life is too short.”

Soph Ehrlich, 27, a social worker, said they were weary of the pandemic and frustrated by how it had affected the poor families they work with.

Still, Mx. Ehrlich, who grew up on East 15th Street and now lives in Oakland, Calif., said the sense of community that had developed over the past 12 months was encouraging.

“I’m tired, but I don’t feel hopeless.” Mx. Erlich said. “I have trust in people to take care of one another.”

In Brooklyn, the mood was also muted outside Woodhull Hospital Center, a city-run facility straddling the Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods where the line to get a P.C.R. test ran along a fenced-in driveway.

Sulphina Bennett was among those who were waiting. Ms. Bennett, 39, said she had gotten sick with Covid-19 in January and had gotten vaccinated after that. So when a rapid test came back positive after she spent Christmas with her parents, she decided to get another opinion.

“I’m doing this just to make sure,” Ms. Bennett, wearing an overcoat and floral-print mask, said from her place near the front of the line. She said she had been waiting for 90 minutes.

Ms. Bennett said she felt like she had a mild cold. But she was not taking her symptoms lightly. A colleague died of Covid earlier in the pandemic, she said. Another had it now.

“It’s like all of us are getting it one by one,” she said.

The wait for tests was about 30 minutes at a city-run health clinic in a parking lot next to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Fort Greene. Those who were waiting included Stacey Campbell, Adam Szlachetka and their 2-year-old daughter, Noa, who started prekindergarten in September.

“This is the first time she’s had to specifically test for school,” Ms. Campbell, 39, said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be regular but we did get an email saying, ‘Every child, get a test before coming back on the 4th.’”

She said that tests for herself and Mr. Szlachetka, 42, were precautionary.

“We’ve been lucky,” Ms. Campbell said. Both are vaccinated and neither has gotten the virus. But word that Ms. Campbell’s mother had been exposed to someone who was infected threw a scare into the family’s Christmas, setting off a frantic round of testing and online reading.

“We were waiting til the last minute to see if my mom could come for Christmas,” Ms. Campbell said. “We all made it. Her and her husband had to eat in the hallway.”

“Other than that,” she added with laugh, “we were all together.”

As for New Year’s plans, Ms. Campbell said, “We’re going to make a champagne cocktail and get tested and feel good about that. And hope for a better 2022.”

By 4 p.m., those intent on welcoming the new year at or near this year’s scaled-back version of the traditional Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration had begun to gather.

Several hundred people stood on the south side of police barricades at 38th Street and Seventh Avenue, waiting to enter the section where the festivities would be held or lingering to get a distant look as the night unfolded.

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:02 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:02 p.m. ET

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Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

More than a year after Covid waylaid their grand plans, the owners of Gage & Tollner, a century-old Brooklyn chophouse that closed in 2004, reopened the doors on Fulton Street in April 2021 after a restoration of the historic site.

As this difficult year came to a close, their eatery — which had been the site of an Arby’s and a TGI Fridays in the years since the previous owners closed Gage & Tollner — was recognized on several lists of New York’s best new restaurants.

“We’re pretty completely proud,” said Sohui Kim, the chef partner who revitalized the spot with her husband, Ben Schneider, and St. John Frizell. “Obviously, we had to go through hoops and hurdles and really deal with all that the world dealt with in terms of Covid.”

And as with the world, the year did not end without more hurdles to leap. The arrival of Omicron turned a planned brief Christmas break into a 10-day closure, until Gage reopened on Wednesday in time for New Year’s Eve.

The city’s rules on mask-wearing, which had been relaxed when the pandemic eased, have been imposed yet again, and the staff is required to wear them at all times. About 30 percent of those who signed up for five-course prix fixe pampering tonight canceled. But Ms. Kim said that they hope to have more than 100 guests to toast in the New Year.

Ms. Kim is back at work after herself enduring a bout of Covid over Christmas. Despite the pandemic, she and Mr. Schneider have kept afloat another business they own, Insa, a Korean barbecue and karaoke restaurant in Gowanus.

But in 2022 they will have to figure out what to do with the spot where they closed the Good Fork in Red Hook at the start of the pandemic. In the meantime, they have used it as a pop-up space for aspiring young chefs such as Leland Yu. Their partner, Mr. Frizell, recently announced he would close Fort Defiance, another Red Hook spot which he had transformed during the pandemic from a restaurant into a gourmet grocery store, with hopes of reopening in the spring.

“My hope for 2022 is that we could somehow see this Covid experience in the rearview mirror, and if that happens in 2022, that would be beyond awesome,” Ms. Kim said. “But we’re still in it, trying to pivot and figure out what to do.”

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:01 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 5:01 p.m. ET

Alexandra Petri

The Gateway Arch Park Foundation in St. Louis canceled the remainder of Winterfest, an annual tradition, just hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations were supposed to start, citing concerns over Covid-19.

“We felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation,” the organization said in a statement. Winterfest runs from Nov. 20 to Jan. 2 in downtown St. Louis and features ice skating, markets and other holiday-themed activities.

Dec. 31, 2021, 4:32 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 4:32 p.m. ET

By Azeen Ghorayshi

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Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

With the news that South Africa has now passed the peak of its coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant, scientists are projecting that the United States’ sharp increase in cases will crest as soon as the middle of January.

Over the past month the Omicron variant has spread around the world with astonishing speed, even among people who are vaccinated or who had recovered from previous infections. On Thursday the United States surpassed 580,000 cases, beating the record set only a day before.

That is believed to be a vast undercount, because of testing shortages, the popularity of at-home tests and reporting delays over the holidays. What’s more, a significant number of people may have asymptomatic infections and never know it.

New estimates from researchers at Columbia University suggest that the United States could peak by Jan. 9 at around 2.5 million cases per week, though that number may go as high as 5.4 million. In New York City, the first U.S. metropolis to see a major surge, the researchers estimated that cases would peak by the first week of the new year.

“It’s shocking. It’s disturbing,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist who led the Columbia modeling work. “We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of Covid-19 cases.”

The variant is significantly milder than Delta and other versions of the virus, and is far less likely to lead to hospitalizations, according to data from South Africa and preliminary data from Britain released on Friday.

Still, the enormous numbers of people getting simultaneously infected could greatly strain hospitals, experts said, especially in places with lower vaccination rates or in places where hospitals are already overburdened. Just how much of a burden the variant will be, however, depends on how quickly it will burn out in particular communities, especially in large cities.

Those complex transmission dynamics have been maddeningly difficult to predict with precision.

Another model, released by a research group from the University of Washington last week, estimated that the United States would reach a peak in cases by the end of January. But even those researchers are now rethinking their projections based on Omicron’s rapid spread.

“We are realizing right now monitoring the data that the peak is going to come much faster,” said Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington. “My guess is it will happen before mid-January.”

The numbers are increasing so quickly that some epidemiologists say modeling isn’t even necessary to see where things are headed, said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“The context for all of this is that hospitals are struggling,” Dr. Hanage said. “We don’t have that much spare capacity. And of course, Omicron makes that worse.”

There are some reasons to think that the variant’s behavior in the United States might be different than in other countries. In South Africa, for example, the population is much younger, and a large proportion had been infected by earlier waves of the virus. In Britain, the vaccination rate for older people is much higher than in the United States.

While South Africa saw a rapid increase in cases followed by a sharp decline, it’s unclear whether cases will crest in the United States in a similar fashion. Because of the number of unknowns, including the emergence of new variants and government restrictions aimed at curbing transmission, Shaman’s group limits its projections to four to six weeks in the future.

Two things can cause new infections to decline, according to Natalie Dean, an epidemiologist at Emory University. The biggest contributor is that the virus can burn through people in certain communities, especially dense cities; when it stops finding people to infect, new cases decline. People may also change their behaviors, whether through societal restrictions or on their own, giving the virus fewer opportunities to find them.

“Our communities are complicated — it doesn’t mean that everyone in the community has gotten infected,” Dr. Dean said. “It’s kind of the people who are most connected.”

The United States could also see more localized outbreaks, with cases beginning to decline in current hot spots, like New York City and Washington D.C., just as they’re beginning to take off elsewhere. That could lead to more of a rounded peak instead of a sharp turnaround, Dr. Shaman said.

Dec. 31, 2021, 4:17 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 4:17 p.m. ET

Abdi Latif Dahir

in Nairobi

Packed bars, crowded night clubs and fireworks in the city center: that’s how Kenya’s capital Nairobi welcomed the new year. Throngs of people gathered next to the city hall, hugging, kissing and wishing for what one bystander called “an easier year.” Congregants clapped and prayed at a nearby church too.

The celebrations came even as coronavirus cases spiked, with the East African nation recording its highest positivity rate ever of over 34 percent two days ago. Just over 4 million of the country’s 50 million are fully vaccinated even as a fourth wave of the pandemic sweeps through the country. But for millions of Kenyans, Jan. 1 comes with a reprieve: beginning Saturday, the country will begin offering booster shots to those who already received two doses six months ago.

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:55 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:55 p.m. ET

Chelsia Rose Marcius

The Harry Potter store in New York’s Flatiron District offered a fantastical escape from the looming threat of the Omicron variant, with nearly 100 people waiting in line to enter the Wizarding World on Friday afternoon.

“The magic takes all the worry away, and the Butterbeer will cure everything,” said Mandy Moore, 31, of Detroit, referring to the non-alcoholic beverage featured in J.K. Rowling’s books that’s also served at the store.

“I love the unity that Harry Potter brings,” added Ms. Moore, a longtime fan of the series who named her three cats Luna, Neville and Ginny after a few of her favorite characters. “There’s no better place to be.”

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Credit…Chelsia Rose Marcius

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:47 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:47 p.m. ET

Video

transcript

transcript

Booster Mandate Issued for New York’s Public University Students

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York announced that nearly 600,000 public university students will soon be required to get vaccination booster shots as coronavirus cases in the state continue to rise.

As I said, we are expecting a plan — a surge after the holidays. It’s here. And tonight, New Year’s Eve, for everyone saying, ‘I cannot wait to say goodbye to 2021’ — they will be gathering. We know this. So what are we going to do and why are we even doing a 2.0? Because the virus is changing so quickly. And we’re issuing new guidance for SUNY and CUNY schools for the spring semester. We are asking all schools to ensure that students before they return are boosted. And this will be part of the reopening. They have to be boosted when they’re eligible. Again, we understand that students who were just vaccinated within the last six months are not eligible for the booster. This takes effect on Jan. 15. It’s a continuation of policy we had for that, but also now we’re adding faculty, adding faculty to the list of individuals who will need to be vaccinated. We now know that the masks are important, they’re an important line of defense. We have had a requirement that businesses throughout the state have to have a mask requirement or a vaccine requirement. It was going to expire on Jan. 15. I want to give everybody the heads-up that this will continue just two more weeks beyond what we had originally planned. Again, being very willing to reassess, hoping that the picture is much more positive in February. But again, we just don’t have that information right now, but this is another part of our 2.0 plan.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York announced that nearly 600,000 public university students will soon be required to get vaccination booster shots as coronavirus cases in the state continue to rise.CreditCredit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

Nearly 600,000 public university students in New York will soon be required to get vaccination booster shots as part of the state’s stepped-up effort to combat a record-breaking coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Friday.

In addition, State University of New York and City University of New York faculty members will now be subject to a vaccination requirement, and a statewide mask mandate that is already in effect will be extended until at least the end of January, Ms. Hochul said at a morning news briefing.

The governor unveiled the measures, part of a broader plan labeled “Winter Surge 2.0,” as the fast-spreading Omicron variant continued to push the number of virus cases in the state to new heights with each passing day.

On Thursday, the state reported 74,000 new cases of the virus; about 44,000 were in New York City. On Friday, Ms. Hochul announced 76,000 new cases, with the New York City region having the most per capita. The positivity rate for tests was 16 percent statewide, she said.

“We are breaking records every day, and we will continue to do so until we hit that downward trend,” the governor said.

Hospitalizations linked to the virus have also risen sharply, to almost 8,000 across the state. About half were in New York City. Twenty-one hospitals in the state have suspended elective surgeries as a result of the rise in virus patients.

Ms. Hochul called the increase in hospitalizations “very concerning” while speaking at the briefing. “They are putting a lot of stress on an already overtaxed health care system,” she said.

To help address the problem, the governor said the state would be releasing more ventilation machines from its stockpile and dispatching additional members of the National Guard to hospitals that are especially overtaxed.

The booster requirement for SUNY and CUNY students, which takes effect Jan. 15, reflects Ms. Hochul’s desire to keep the state’s public education system operating with in-person classes at all levels despite the Omicron-driven outbreak. Dozens of colleges and universities in the United States have already taken such a step.

New York’s public university students will also be required to show a negative Covid-19 test result when they return to campus, and masks will be mandatory indoors, Ms. Hochul said.

As part of her drive to keep schools open and avoid what she has called last year’s “failed experiment” in remote learning, the governor said that more than five million rapid test kits would be provided to school districts serving students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The goal in distributing the kits is to allow for “test-to-stay” policies under which a student takes two rapid tests if a classmate tests positive. If the tests come back negative, the student can remain in school, she said.

As for the mask mandate, New York State has had one in place since Dec. 13 for all indoor public places, including offices, building lobbies and stores. Businesses can opt out if they require full vaccination for everyone 12 and older. Children 5 to 11 must have at least one vaccine dose.

Ms. Hochul originally said the mask mandate would end on Jan. 15, but on Friday she extended it through the end of January because of the soaring virus case numbers.

New York’s fight to contain the virus is also drawing reinforcements from the federal government, which is deploying disaster response units to the state, sending 50 ambulance teams to New York City and dispatching emergency medical teams to SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse and the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, officials said.

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:20 p.m. ET

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Credit…Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

College basketball games have been canceled. Universities have announced plans for remote classes next month. But the semifinal games for the College Football Playoff are poised to happen on Friday.

Top-ranked Alabama is scheduled to play No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday. About four hours later, No. 2 Michigan planned to meet No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. The winners will advance to the national championship game, which is supposed to be held on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

Just like last season, though, there are few sure things in college football these days. The title game could be postponed to as late as Jan. 14 if a team has an outbreak over the next week or so, and individual players could miss Friday’s games or the championship showdown.

“We had a little bout the last couple weeks that we lost guys, and we’ve gotten most of those guys back,” Kirby Smart, Georgia’s coach, said this week, adding that the “the biggest thing is being at full strength when you have to be. ”

Teams made aggressive efforts over the summer to encourage players to receive vaccinations, and many players have also accepted booster shots in recent weeks. But while university and playoff officials have taken some additional precautions recently, like encouraging masking and turning news conferences into virtual events, testing appears to have been scarce.

Reflecting the industry’s health guidelines, Slade Bolden, an Alabama receiver, said this week that he could not remember the last time he had been tested for the virus.

Beyond the playoff, three other bowl games were scheduled for Friday, and the pandemic disrupted all of them. The Arizona Bowl was canceled. And the Sun Bowl and the Gator Bowl have different matchups than the ones they originally set.

Central Michigan replaced Miami in the Sun Bowl, while Rutgers is taking the place of Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl.

“It’s just déjà vu all over again of what we had last year,” Greg McGarity, the Gator Bowl’s chief executive, said in an interview on Tuesday. “The weird thing was, when the bowls were announced on Dec. 5, Covid wasn’t even a factor.”

“Everybody thought that we were over the hump as far as that goes,” he continued, “and then Omicron hit and here we are again.”

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:12 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:12 p.m. ET

Image

Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

The American biotechnology company Novavax said on Friday that it would ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine in January.

If approved, the vaccine would be the fourth to become available in the United States, which already has ample supplies. Novavax said that it had sent the F.D.A. the final data needed to complete its application for emergency use authorization.

Novavax, based in Maryland, won $1.6 billion in support from the United States government in 2020 to develop a vaccine made of proteins from the coronavirus, but it has lagged behind vaccine developers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and has struggled with its clinical trials and manufacturing.

Still, the company’s vaccine, known as Nuvaxovid, has recently received a cascade of positive news. Earlier in December, the company’s researchers published a report in The New England Journal of Medicine, presenting evidence that Nuvaxovid was 90 percent effective against symptomatic infections and 100 percent effective in averting moderate to severe disease.

The World Health Organization granted Nuvaxovid an emergency-use listing, and the European Commission authorized it as well. Nuvaxovid has side effects that are usually mild or moderate and that clear up within a couple days. Protein-based vaccines have been used for decades and generally have a strong safety record.

It is not yet clear, though, how well Nuvaxovid will work against the more contagious Omicron variant. In studies of other vaccines, researchers have found that Omicron is consistently better at evading vaccines. Novavax is developing an Omicron-specific version of its product and will soon test it, the company said.

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:10 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:10 p.m. ET

By Elena Bergeron

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Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Two days before the Minnesota Vikings face one of the best teams in the N.F.L., quarterback Kirk Cousins tested positive for the coronavirus and was placed on the team’s Covid-19 reserve list, a move that will sideline him for at least five days.

Cousins and the Vikings (7-8) are one game back in the N.F.C. playoff race, a gap the team had hoped to close Sunday night in prime time against the Green Bay Packers. Instead, Cousins’s absence will deal a serious blow to his team’s chances, a familiar scenario in a season in which rampant positive tests among N.F.L. players and coaches has made chaos of teams’ preparations.

After more than 90 N.F.L. players tested positive on Monday, the N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association agreed on Tuesday to amended this season’s Covid-19 protocols to mirror new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinated and unvaccinated players can return from quarantine in five days, not 10, if they are asymptomatic. The league has a 94 percent vaccination rate among players.

The change has given other teams attempting to make the playoffs hope that star players will be able to return before important games on Sunday and Monday, the penultimate week of the regular season. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, for example, was among 39 players who tested positive on Tuesday. He will be evaluated Sunday before his team’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders, who are two games back in the A.F.C. playoff race.

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:03 p.m. ET

Dec. 31, 2021, 3:03 p.m. ET

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Credit…Buda Mendes/Getty Images

RIO DE JANEIRO — This seaside city’s summer season of revelry kicks off in December with Christmas gatherings and an epic, thronged New Year’s Eve bash on Copacabana beach. The annual fireworks extravaganza, which traditionally draws up to two million people, sets the mood for Carnival season in February.

But this year, Rio officials are aiming to scale back the annual Copacabana bash by making it less accessible and by setting off fireworks at 10 locations scattered throughout the city.

“We want to celebrate the turn of the year in a calm, safe and organized manner,” said the city’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, using terms that are the antithesis of Rio’s loud, booze-fueled, end-of-year festivities.

Hoping to keep crowds relatively small, the city is blocking off vehicle access to Copacabana at 7 p.m. and will halt public transportation an hour later. Spreading out fireworks displays is part of a plan to encourage people to gather at spots closer to home.

While Covid-19 cases in Brazil have been on a sustained decline for months, some Rio de Janeiro residents expressed reservations about getting too wild while the Omicron variant is spoiling the holiday spirit in much of the world.

“I’m still undecided,” said Bruna Pinto Martins, a beverage delivery store manager who is unsure about how and where to ring in the New Year. “I lost family members to Covid. I don’t feel motivated. I think everyone feels the same way.”

Anderson Valente, 28, a bartender, said people should be allowed to enjoy fireworks displays and gatherings as long as festivities do not get too crowded.

“The population is vaccinated,” he said, noting the state’s high vaccination rate, which is just over 73 percent.

The Omicron variant has not yet led to a documented uptick in new deaths or hospitalizations in Brazil, where the virus has killed more than 618,000 people. Fears of a new outbreak led officials in at least 20 Brazilian state capitals to cancel or scale down their usual fireworks displays and festivities. Some have gone as far as issuing decrees limiting the size of private gatherings.

While some Rio residents may be on the fence about how and whether to party on the final night of a dreadful year, tourists from nations roiled by the Omicron variant are flocking to Brazilian cities. The Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau said 50 hotels it consulted reported that they would be totally booked for New Year’s Eve. International flights are arriving full. And after a two-year hiatus, cruises have begun to dock in Rio’s port again.