'Keep it under control': UNMC doctor pleads for small New Year's gatherings to stop COVID spike

Posted at 5:59 AM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 06:59:07-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha saw a significant spike in cases following the Christmas holiday weekend, and now with New Year's just a few days away, medical experts worry those numbers will only climb higher.

Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of UNMC's division of infectious diseases, says people should avoid large gatherings.

"Getting together with hundreds of people in the ballroom, to watch the ball fall on Times Square is probably not a good proposition," Rupp said.

Rupp says he knows it’s important for people to welcome the new year in with those they love, but he wants them to celebrate safely.

"I’m fully supportive of small numbers of people who are fully vaccinated and boosted coming together to celebrate the holidays to ring in the New Year," Rupp said.

He adds people should keep in mind that situations with alcohol could make people less cautious of following precautions.

He also suggests with someone at a celebration being at high risk of COVID-19, that those coming together get tested ahead of time.

Local institutes like the Durham Museum are having to make changes to their New Year’s Eve traditions.

“These events are really memorable for people," said Jessica Brummer, director of marketing and public relations for the museum. "They’re a part of a lot of people’s holiday traditions, so to be able to do at least some part of it this year has felt really good.”

The Noon Year's Eve event, normally open to 2,500 people, will be limited to 500 people this year. All guests will also be required to wear masks.

“We feel pretty good about how we have it planned out and what it’s going to be," Brummer said. "But we’re also still offering that free curbside party bag pickup.”

Those wanting to celebrate at home can pick up a party bag from the museum Friday afternoon.

Dr. Rupp worries large crowds will further the spread of COVID-19, especially now that the omicron variant is here, a variant twice as contagious as the original strand.

“We will see omicron spreading," Rupp said. "I just plead with people, to try to keep it tamped down as much as we can and keep it under control.”

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