Seldom have the words of the classic 1947 song, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” had more meaning than on this last day of 2021, when the world remains in pandemic mode and the simple act of gathering with friends and loved ones can be dangerous.

With many people vaccinated — including a third booster shot — the idea of New Year’s Eve parties seemed possible just a few weeks ago.

With the rapidly spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 now exploding, many who wanted to gather indoors are canceling, and others are insisting on rapid tests before the party. That’s still risky because it’s unlikely that people at a big shindig will be wearing masks indoors for long. On New Year’s Eve, people generally are drinking and eating all night. They won’t be covering their mouths and noses.

That means, should usual patterns hold up, a surge in cases. A slight silver lining so far is that omicron is highly contagious but perhaps not as deadly as the delta variant — with fewer people hospitalized or dying.

Still, a person who tests positive for COVID-19 has to stay isolated for a number of days, staying home from work or school. The effects are being seen around the globe.

PBS Newshour reported last week that in London, staff absences for COVID-19 tripled, while some 10 percent of city firefighters called in sick. Twice the number of New York City police officers took off last week compared to a usual day. All essential services — health care, emergency response, grocery stores and others — are getting by with fewer people. And it’s likely only going to get worse until omicron plays itself out.

In Santa Fe, the outdoor countdown to the New Year will continue as planned. Outdoor gatherings are less likely to transmit the disease, but a big crowd still means people could become ill as a result of attending.

If you’re going to the Plaza, wear a high-quality mask (bonus — it will keep the wearer warm, especially with a scarf wrapped round it). Stand apart, too, and don’t crowd up against others.

Bundle up because temperatures are going to be frigid — a high of 38 degrees and a low of 17 degrees are expected Friday. With bonfires and heaters, people can at least try and stay warm. Watch for weather updates because snow is a possibility.

On the Plaza, free music and fireworks will keep people entertained, starting at 8 p.m. Just before midnight, Kiwanis Club members will be raising the Zia symbol to mark the coming of 2022 — it’s a new day, and the rising sun symbolizes hope and possibilities.

A 20-minute fireworks show launched from La Fonda on the Plaza will ring in the new year; this is the third such event Kiwanis volunteers do for Santa Fe, the others being the Fourth of July and the Burning of Zozobra. That’s community spirit, the kind we need to navigate through these challenging times.

And so it goes on these final days of 2021. Individuals continue to balance traditional activities — holiday gatherings and celebrations of a new year — with smart public health strategies. COVID-19 is not going anywhere, so balancing is going to be a way of life.

So, what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

Here’s the answer for everyone: We will be bidding goodbye to what has been a difficult, challenging year.

That will be true for people snug in their beds early, or sitting by the fire with a good book or shouting down the old year with strangers.

Happy New Year to all. This world sure could use one about now.

(12) comments

Charlotte Rowe

Anyone who thinks we would have been better off without Biden is an amnesia-afflicted lunatic. Because the alternative would have been so much worse. That having been said, we are all tired of COVID but staying ahead of a virus when a significant percentage of the population selfishly refuses to get vaccinated and therefore willfully helps the virus to mutate and spread, it's going to be a much longer slog than it could have been. Not to mention the need to vaccinate the entire world, not just the US. This morning's KANW host said it well: We're at the end of 2021, which began about five years ago.

Mike Johnson

Yes, and a year ago we had hope and optimism that with the vaccines, treatments, and Biden, this would be solved and things would be better, and of course all the data shows it is all worse. So now no hope or optimism left, only darkness, fear, and dread await us in 2022, the things we thought would make a difference did not.

Philip Taccetta

True. We thought that people would get vaccinated. Rather than blaming Biden I think the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of the orange guy that convinced his minions that it wasn’t a big deal and offered up ridiculous cures that anyone that made it through the sixth grade would know was just more of his lies. If Biden or anyone else been in charge and addressed the pandemic like an adult there would be many more people could have avoided illness and death.

Charlotte Rowe

Oh an anyone dim enough to think the vaccines didn't make a difference, even if only a small majority have taken them, really needs his head examined. The death rate, the hospitalization rate, would have been exponentially worse without the vaccines. Infection isn't the same as incapacitation.

Mike Johnson

If you look at the CDC data, the death rate per 100,000 people today is at 2.53, whereas the death rate per 100,000 on this date in early November 2020 was 1.98, so the death rate is worse today than a year ago, before the vaccines. Also, new hospitalizations is about the same before the vaccines and today.

https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailydeaths_7daydeathsper100k

Lupe Molina

Reading comprehension is tough.

Emily Koyama

Yeah, you seem to be having a tough time with that, Lupe.

Lupe Molina

No, the problem isn't Biden, it's that entitled and misled people were too selfish to get a safe shot to safe themselves and those around them. Here's to hoping for a nationwide vaccine mandate in 2022!

Mike Johnson

You mean it is all still Trump's fault after a year of Biden running the government? I guess the buck doesn't stop at the President anymore, sorry Harry........

Philip Taccetta

Absolutely! I would suggest that the same people that still believe that he won the election are the same anti vaxxers that believe he is right about Covid - just inhale some bleach…

LeRoy Sanchez

Our country would have been a nightmare if tRump would have been re-elected! Never want to hear his name mentioned anymore.

LeRoy Sanchez

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