Q: I had been looking forward to throwing a New Year’s Eve party after not being able to have one last year. I sent out invitations, but then Omicron began to surge in New York City. Now I don’t know what to do. Is it safe to throw a party? What do I tell my guests?
A: The highly transmissible Omicron variant has taken hold in New York City, whereas of Dec. 22, there was an average of 11,797 reported coronavirus cases a day, the highest at any point in the pandemic, and a 408 percent increase from two weeks earlier.
This means that anyone with big plans for New Year’s Eve is facing hard choices. Before you move forward with your party, you need to consider your tolerance for risk, the vaccination status of your guests and their overall health.
“You have to ask yourself: What is your tolerance for someone at the party getting infected?” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “If your tolerance is zero, then you cannot have a party.”
71 percent of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, less than 19 percent had received a booster shot by mid-December. Require guests to take a P.C.R. test 24 to 48 hours before the event and a rapid antigen test the day of the event.
“Greet people at the door with the rapid test,” said Dr. Ingrid Katz, the associate faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s the new party favor.”
Ideally, parties should happen outdoors with heat lamps and, where allowed, fire pits. Keep your numbers small (this is the year for an intimate gathering, not a blowout). If the festivities do move indoors, keep the windows open and the masks on. “Indoor events, even with all the best intentions, can lead to superspreader events,” Dr. Katz said.
Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert. Explain the new terms clearly and honestly, and enforce them. Remind guests that even with the restrictions, they could still contract the virus. So, they should avoid visiting high risk friends and family in the days after the party.
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