Surging coronavirus cases brought on by the delta and omicron variants have put a damper on New Year's celebrations across the globe, forcing many to be cancelled or scaled back.
Overall, health officials assert that cancelling celebrations is the safest way to protect one's self and others from the newest variants. But with the pandemic causing disruptions for another year and people eager to celebrate, leaders in Illinois realize not everyone may take that route.
Speaking at a coronavirus briefing Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered a blunt message in hope of persuading residents to say home: "Omicron and delta are coming to your party," the governor said, as he urged people to take care and think twice about taking part in large gatherings.
Like others cities across the country, Chicago is planning a COVID-safe celebration to ring in 2022 - a midnight fireworks display along the lakefront and Chicago River.
People will have the option of partaking in person - by masking up and social distancing - or watching from the comfort of their own homes, according to a news release from city officials.
When it comes to overall gatherings, Dr. Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, acknowledged "people are going to do what they want to do." But she explained those who do decide to take part in celebrations can employ strategies to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
"...If you're going to be in a gathering, there are a lot of people that you keep your mask on the entire time, and you put on a high-quality mask," she advised. "Then, when you have to take it off to eat or drink, keep some distance from other people so that you're not swapping air with people right in your face..."
Some people may think that once they arrive at a party, the masks can go away, the doctor said, but stated "that's absolutely the wrong strategy."
"Next year, you know, for 2023, you can have your... maskless face," she said. "For this year, let's do New Year's small, with our masks."