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NEW YORK (AP) — Crowds will once again fill New York’s Times Square this New Year’s Eve, with proof of COVID-19 vaccination required for revelers who want to watch the ball drop in person, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

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“Yes, we are proud to announce that Times Square, wonderful celebration in Times Square, the ball drop, everything, coming back full strength the way we love it,” de Blasio said at a virtual news briefing. “Hundreds of thousands of people there to celebrate. We can finally get back together again. It’s going to be amazing.”

Tom Harris, the president of the Times Square Alliance, said all spectators aged 5 and over will be asked to show proof of full vaccination. People who can’t be vaccinated because of a disability will have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, he said.

The New Year’s Eve celebration, perhaps the city’s most iconic public gathering, was a socially distant affair during the height of the pandemic last year.

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There were no packed crowds of giddy revelers, jammed together cheek-by-jowl. Instead there were mostly empty streets as officials told people to stay home and watch the ball drop on television. Entertainers including Jennifer Lopez performed behind police barricades to small groups made up of essential workers.

With the advent of vaccines, the city’s public celebrations have been on the upswing in 2021. The Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks once again welcomed crowds to gather and watch as fireworks lit up the sky, and some parades have returned to city streets.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will also be returning to pre-COVID form, with giant balloons guided by volunteer handlers making their way through the event’s Manhattan parade route, instead of the one-block stretch they were kept to last year.

 

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