From coast to coast, New Year’s Eve celebrations in the U.S. looked very different Thursday evening from past years — as the pandemic that defined 2020 extended its reach into 2021.
The thousands of people that usually flock to major cities, like New York City, Las Vegas and Miami, for various events and local traditions largely stayed home.
In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to find an alternative option for celebrating the holiday — with an aim to avoid large crowds and indoor gatherings. The health agency recommended people take their celebrations virtual and to keep any parties small and outdoors.
Many cities made it easy for residents to stay home by implementing lockdown measures. The restrictions left the normally bustling Times Square in New York City and the Las Vegas Strip nearly empty.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators usually flock to Times Square to stand shoulder to shoulder for hours in the cold to watch the ball drop. But this year just a few invited frontline health workers gathered in socially distanced pods. The city closed Times Square to the public and police patrolled the area to prevent any revelers from entering.
And in New Orleans where the city hosts the televised Central Time Zone for ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the city closed the event to the public and no spectators were allowed. The city also canceled its annual firework display along the riverfront.
“Just as with other holidays this year, we’ve had to significantly adjust what New Year’s celebrations will look like in New Orleans,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a statement. “That means no large parties, no riverfront fireworks, and no spectators at the fleur-de-lis drop. Please stay at home and ring in the New Year safely with the members of your immediate household.”
Casinos and restaurants in Las Vegas were opened with limited capacity, but a previously planned street party was pulled back this week. City leaders decided to limit the NYE on Fremont Street Experience to just certain hotel guests after consulting with health officials. The event was previously expected to attract around 14,000 guests.
“The restricted access decision was made out of an abundance of caution to protect the health and safety of our guests, employees and community,” the Freemont Street Experience webpage read.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the city’s existing midnight curfew would be extended to 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, giving revelers the opportunity to visit bars and restaurants a bit later.
But the city’s beloved tradition of lowering The Big Orange above the InterContinental Miami hotel as the clock ticks down to midnight was canceled for the first time in 35 years, according to The Miami Herald.
Event coordinator Corky Dozier told the paper: “No fireworks, nothing, not this year, which would have been our 35th anniversary. The orange even went up even after 9/11, but we just can’t take the chance.”