ew York‘s Times Square was eerily quiet as crowds were banned from New Year celebration amid rising Covid-19 cases and deaths across America.
The “anticlimatic” ring into 2021 came after 3,740 US coronavirus deaths were reported, the biggest single-day tally during the pandemic, bringing the country’s total fatalities from the disease to more than 345,800.
Police in the city closed the ‘Crossroads of the World’ to vehicles and onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of the crystal ball that still descended down a flagpole to mark the stroke of midnight – instead they were told to watch the ball drop on television.
Despite the calls from officials to stay at home, modest groups of people some wearing glittery hats still gathered just outside the police perimeter.
Celebrity performers including Jennifer Lopez took to stages set up in the mostly empty square to sing to a small group of masked essential workers as tribute for their hard work on the frontline.
There were kisses and toasts as midnight approached but police quickly broke up the crowds gathered along Broadway after the ball fell.
One reveler, Daniel Camacho, 36, of Manhattan, described the experience as “anticlimactic” given the small crowd.
Speaking to AP, he said he was “just glad” 2020 was over.
Even a group of National Guardsmen engaged in fighting the coronavirus since March were denied entry.
“It just would have been great to ring in 2021 the New York way,” said Billy Merola, a Marine from Long Island.
The turning of the calendar, he said, “provides hope.”
Others who passed through the area in the hours before midnight said the celebration was a melancholy one.
“It makes me a little bit sad,” said Cole Zieser, who recently moved to New York City and was looking forward to “what everyone dreams about in New York.”
Merchants in the area were also lamenting the lack of crowds.
Despite the restrictions, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed that New Year’s Eve “would be a joyous night, if ever there was one. Goodbye, 2020. Here comes something better: 2021.”