Despite COVID concerns, large crowds expected for Austin NYE celebrations


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Revelers in downtown Austin are waiting to ring in 2022, despite public health concerns.

“Just getting out, celebrating the new year,” said Kenneth Cox, who is visiting with his new wife from Utah. “Bringing in the new year right, have a good time.”

With Austin now in Stage 4, due to the rapidly spreading omicron variant, public health officials are warning against celebrating in large crowds.

“This time of year when we want to celebrate the ringing in of a new year…and hopes and dreams that we have,” said Austin Public Health Medical Director Dr. Desmar Walkes, “it’s really important that we do so in intimate gatherings with people that we live with.”

Under the current guidelines, anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated is urged not to travel or shop – unless essential – and use curbside dining options.

Despite that, preparations began early Friday for what is expected to be a busy night.

“We got $4 beers if you want to come in,” yelled Landon Carter, who works the door at Moose Bar on Austin’s famed Sixth Street. “Come in, celebrate the new year.”

Carter says he is “expecting a lot of people” to come out and party. In the afternoon, he helped blow up balloons and decorate. For him, COVID-19 is the last thing on his mind.

“Not at all. It’s not concerning to me at all,” said Carter. “Because I took my vaccine shot. I feel like others did as well. If they want to have a good time, it’s their choice.”

He doesn’t think the new variant will be a deterrent.

“I think they’ll be happy to come out tonight, celebrate new year, new things,” he said. “You know what I’m saying? Happy to come into a new year.”

Nearby, Bob Woody is getting ready to collect cover at the Blind Pig. which is one of 28 bars he owns in the area. He says the cover will be used for crowd control and to help his staff.

“If you think you’re getting in without paying, it ain’t gonna happen,” he said.

Woody is president of the East Sixth Street Community Association. He says big events this year like Austin City Limits, Formula One, along with home football games, helped generate “ridiculous, tremendous success.” Even though he experienced some staffing shortages this year, and things are down from 2018, he expects business to keep getting better heading into 2022.

“I think business tonight will be amazing,” he predicted.

This is his 25th year celebrating downtown. He expects this night to be as big as any.

“It’ll be big. It’ll be huge,” said Woody. “A hundred-plus-thousand people down here tonight.”

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