Confetti is seen on Times Square after the New Year celebration, in New York, the United States, Jan. 1, 2021. The Times Square New Year celebration went virtual, with no public audience physically attending the event, to help avoid the spread of COVID-19. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
by Xinhua writer Liu Yanan
NEW YORK, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- New Yorkers stuck to the century-old tradition of celebrating New Year in Times Square on Thursday with live performance but no massive live audience.
Most revelers who would have flocked to Times Square, referred to as the Crossroads of the World, joined people from other places to virtually celebrate the advent of New Year 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Viewers are enabled to enjoy a commercial-free webcast coverage of the celebrations via mobile streaming or on social media, websites and third-party partner platforms.
Jamestown LP, the owner of One Times Square building, has developed an application for the virtual New Year's Eve, which allowed people to watch the live event and choose between different camera feeds in the area.
Moreover, people could explore Times Square virtually and have access to games, music and art prior to New Year's Eve by tapping virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.
Users were also allowed to submit their New Year wishes to the organizers virtually this year in addition to a physical Wishing Wall in Times Square. The wishes are printed on pieces of confetti which were released at midnight at Times Square on New Year Eve with a total weight of around 2,000 pounds.
Earlier, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York basically went virtual with the parade itself scaled down.
Lighting ceremonies of Christmas trees with the Rockefeller Center, West Harlem Piers Park, Washington Square Park and other places were held online this year.
The performance also paid tribute to heroes who fight the coronavirus on the frontlines.
Singer-songwriter Andra Day sang her hit songs Rise Up and Forever Mine while two-time Grammy winner Gloria Gaynor performed her hit songs I Will Survive, Never Can Say Goodbye and Joy Comes In The Morning.
"I cannot wait to perform in Times Square on New Year's Eve! And I hope that you can join me in honoring all the frontline workers around the world by tuning in!" Gaynor tweeted on Tuesday.
The performance had onsite representatives from families of first responders, and frontline and essential workers, who shared their personal stories.
"These New York stories of sacrifice and public service are representative of family stories in every community in every state across our country and around the world," said Times Square District Management Association on its website.
PANDEMIC WISHED AWAY
With the pandemic causing so much pain and suffering, there was an eagerness to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome the new year.
"I hope next year there is no coronavirus. I want the coronavirus to end. I wish everyone a safe 2021," said Sami Alajmi from Saudi Arabia.
"In 2020, the pandemic was so terrible. More and more people lost their friends, their jobs and their lives," said Fiman Mu, a New York resident.
Mu says he wishes for a speedy economic recovery in 2021.
"I want my customers, my community and my team to be healthy. COVID-19 is a real threat to everybody's health," said Zhao Yong, co-founder and chief executive officer with fast-casual Chinese restaurant chain Junzi Kitchen, which has an outlet around Times Square.
Speaking about his New Year wishes, Zhao said "I hope we can collectively re-control the disease so we can come back to normal life ... we hope for more support from the community, from the government to be passed over this difficult time. We're hopeful that in the future the market will recover at some point, that's what we saw in China."
INFECTIONS RISE AGAIN
Though New York City had set a great example of pandemic control in the middle of 2020, the once epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is at the height of a second wave of infections following the first one around April.
The seven-day average of new infection cases is at around 4,000, which is close to the 5,000 at the height of the first wave, according to the latest data released on the website of the Department of Health with New York City.
However, daily hospitalizations and deaths are far less than in April, easing public concern to some extent.
New York City has recorded over 430,000 COVID-19 infections in total, while its death toll increased to 25,000 as of Thursday evening, according to the local government.
Meanwhile, New York City had over 88,000 people vaccinated in the last two weeks but has set the goal of vaccinating 1 million people in January.
Total COVID-19 cases in the United States and New York State are approaching 20 million and 1 million, respectively, amid a dark winter in national public health.
"My wish for the New Year is for everything to flow, and for COVID-19 to be gone hopefully by the end, for small business to reopen," said Britain Brady, who returned home to Los Angeles from New York and was in lockdown there in early 2020. "(I want) everyone to get up on their feet." Enditem
(Xinhua correspondents in New York Zhang Mocheng and Xie E also contributed to the story.)
Inflatable dummies are seen during the New Year celebration on Times Square in New York, the United States, Jan. 1, 2021. The Times Square New Year celebration went virtual, with no public audience physically attending the event, to help avoid the spread of COVID-19. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)