How will Northeast Ohio ring in the new year as COVID numbers spike?

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 10:58 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Growing concerns over the fast-spreading Omicron variant and a spike in COVID-19 infections have some rethinking their New Year’s Eve plans.

A few events have been canceled, like the Cleveland Pops Orchestra’s annual concert at Severance, including the party and ball drop that follows.

But others are choosing to move forward with New Year’s Eve dinners and parties after COVID had everyone sitting out on the biggest party night of the year in December of 2020.

We’re just hours away from the excitement of counting down to a New Year, but with hospitals bursting at the seams with patients and increased COVID numbers, some people and businesses have decided to scale back their celebrations.

One young woman who only wanted to be identified as Sara tells 19 News, “I’m going to go home and have some friends over. I’m staying in. I have concerns about exposure. It seems like people are getting sick and they’re vaccinated already.”

Others like Ciara Blair plan to usher in 2022 with a fancy dress, an expensive dinner and a toast with friends, “We’re going to Morton’s Steakhouse.”

Dozens of restaurants, bars and banquet centers are anxious to ring in the New Year, but with a much smaller guest list in some cases, which means a less profitable bottom line.

Charles Shimola, the Owner of Wagner’s at Westlake tells 19 News that eight people have called to cancel reservations because they have COVID, or fear they have the virus, so he refunded their money.

For guests that make it to the celebration, Shimola says everyone has to play by the rules, only seating 300 people as opposed to 1500. He says his guests must wear a mask, including all staff members, everyone must be fully vaccinated, the tables will be socially distanced by groups and employees will sanitize the dining room every half-hour.

Other restaurants like several in the Flats are also asking for proof of vaccination, or you must show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the event.

Blair who was out for a walk in downtown Cleveland tells 19 News, “I’m not going to stop going out.”

Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin just hopes everyone will toast to a New Year with fewer COVID infections, and remember to be responsible so that one night of partying doesn’t cost you your health.

“We don’t want to shut down our economy. Our economy is just now picking up. The rest of the industry is just now picking back up. Our sports venues, big ticket items coming into the city, we are fortunate enough to avoid a super-spreader and we know what works,” Griffin said.

The Ohio Department of Health says the best way to celebrate is safely, by wearing your mask, washing your hands, taking your temperature before going to an event and testing as often as possible.

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