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San Francisco's New Year’s Eve fireworks show canceled due to concerns over public health and safety

Priority for continuity of key public safety operations prompts proactive measures as surging COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant impact staffing levels

Mayor London N. Breed and City public safety leaders today announced plans to cancel this year’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases. The decision was made after closely monitoring local health indicators and impacted public safety staffing levels. Enacting proactive measures that will best protect San Franciscans and essential front-line workers as the Omicron variant is increasingly prevalent remains the City's top priority.

Currently, 84% of eligible San Franciscans are fully vaccinated and 55% have received a booster dose, but the community spread of the Omicron variant still poses a significant risk. And, with recent increases in holiday travel and gatherings, the City is taking all necessary and precautionary steps to manage the highest transmissible COVID-19 variant we have seen to date.

“While we are all understandably eager to ring in a new year with San Francisco’s customary New Year’s Eve fireworks show, we must remain vigilant in doing all we can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant,” said Mayor Breed. “Thanks to our employee vaccine mandate, our public safety workers are well-protected against COVID, but they still must take all precautions to help limit the spread. By canceling the New Year’s Eve fireworks show we are reducing everyone’s exposure to COVID-19, while ensuring continuity of citywide public safety operations.”

Limiting large public events like the City’s New Year’s fireworks show will provide an additional layer of protection to San Francisco first responders. City public safety agencies are experiencing reduced staffing levels due to public health isolation and quarantine requirements brought on by COVID-19. “The newest variant is here and spreading fast. It is impacting everyone in the community, including our public safety staff,” added Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director, Department of Emergency Management. “The health and safety of our first responders, front-line workers, and community is our top priority. Canceling this New Year’s Eve fireworks show not only reduces the risk of Omicron exposure, but also minimizes impacts on critical safety systems like 9-1-1, allowing dispatchers to remain available to those in most critical need.”

The annual fireworks show at the Embarcadero requires increased deployments for critical public safety staff like police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, and 9-1-1 dispatchers.

“San Francisco is taking yet another smart, prudent and necessary step to protect one another from the spread of COVID-19 — this time, from a highly contagious Omicron variant — by canceling New Year’s Eve fireworks,” said Chief of Police Bill Scott. “Minimizing needless exposures among our officers and professional staff is key to maintaining the police staffing levels San Franciscans expect of us, and it’s important that we all do our part as San Franciscans to help reduce community transmission citywide.”

The momentous spread of Omicron throughout San Francisco, the Bay Area region, and the country exposes the serious risk this variant poses not only to New Year’s Eve celebrations, but as part of everyday, routine schedules. “Due to the sudden, widespread surge in COVID cases, the SFFD supports the difficult decision to cancel the traditional fireworks display on New Year's Eve. We urge you to join us in celebrating safely at home with your close family members and friends with all COVID safety measures in place,” said Chief Jeannine Nicholson, San Francisco Fire Department. “The cancellation of the traditional fireworks display will allow us to focus our resources on emergency services and day-to-day operations without the addition of large crowds and the potential incidents that arise from such crowds.”

Even though the City has made remarkable progress in the fight against COVID-19, residents, visitors, and businesses are encouraged to remain vigilant throughout the holiday season. "The arrival of Omicron calls us to take swift action to mitigate preventable further spread in the community to help protect the most vulnerable and maintain hospital capacity. We thank San Franciscans for their understanding as we work to keep our city safer, continue to conduct essential activities, and keep our schools and businesses open,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “Boosters for all eligible, along with masking and testing, are vital to prevent a sharp rise in hospitalizations during this surge.”

Despite the canceled fireworks, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) will still activate the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for New Year’s Eve to support citywide coordination, situational awareness, and resource management. The public is reminded to call 3-1-1 to report any noise complaints, such as illegal fireworks, and call 9-1-1 only for life safety emergencies. The public also is encouraged to register for AlertSF at www.alertsf.org or by texting their zip code to 888-777. This is the fastest way to be informed of any type of emergency impacting your area.