Updated Tuesday, Dec. 28 at 5:12 p.m.
As the highly contagious omicron variant surges in Massachusetts, nearly all indoor events for the annual First Night celebration on Dec. 31 will be relocated outdoors, the event planner working with the city of Boston announced Tuesday.
“We basically were leaning that way for a while as we were watching this,” T.K. Skenderian of Conventures, Inc. told GBH News.
Several New Year’s Eve events originally scheduled for the Newsfeed Cafe, which is located at the central Boston Public Library in Copley Square and houses a GBH satellite studio, will now be held outside the library. Events that were slated for the interior of the Copley Place Mall will also be moved outside.
The announcement comes as major cities worldwide cancel or scale back their plans to limit the spread of COVID-19, making it the second year of New Year’s Eve celebrations altered due pandemic concerns. New York City is reducing audience capacity at its annual outdoor celebration in Times Square, for instance, requiring that all attendees wear masks and that ages five and over provide proof they’re fully vaccinated.
Also Tuesday, Old South Church said it was canceling its interactive “Meet The King Of Instruments” concert scheduled for Friday afternoon and replacing two evening “Pipes and Pops” concerts with one online-only event scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“We just can’t place our staff and volunteers in a position of having to interface with a large group of people,” Nancy Taylor, Old South's senior minister and CEO, said in an email.
As of Tuesday evening, Boston’s First Night schedule still includes indoor events at First Church Boston and Trinity Church.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu said: “Public health is at the center of every decision the City has made in regards to the pandemic, and First Night is no exception. ... The City is closely tracking COVID-19 metrics and working with Conventures, the company that produces First Night, to ensure that all events are being planned with public health at the forefront.”
Recent data from the city shows a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 9.5%, with 69% of Boston's population fully vaccinated and 94% of adult non-surge ICU beds occupied.
A year ago, under then-Mayor Marty Walsh, First Night was recast as a virtual, televised event.
Update: This article was updated to include additional information from Old South Church.