What are the rules to prevent Covid at Pittsburgh’s First Night?

Masks? Proof of vaccination? It depends on which activities you want to attend.


With First Night festivities coming up fast, folks from near and far will gather in Downtown’s Cultural District for a wide range of events welcoming in the new year. It’s free this year for the first time, and guests can look forward to a night of music, dance, visual art, comedy, magic and more, including the rising of the Future of Pittsburgh ball — that’s right; in Pittsburgh, the ball goes up, not down.

But as concerns about the new omicron COVID-19 variant continue to grow, there are measures you can take to minimize risk and keep yourself and others as safe as possible.

The Cultural District announced in August that its venues would require patrons to be vaccinated or show a negative COVID test before they could attend indoor events, effective Sept. 17 through at least March 31, 2022. 

Similar policies will be in place for First Night. For ticketed events or those taking place at indoor galleries, mitigation measures like proof of vaccination, masking up and free tickets will be required. (Tickets can limit the number of people able to attend certain events.)

Children under the age of 12 aren’t required to be vaccinated but must wear a mask and be accompanied by an adult who meets the venue’s health and safety requirements, according to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

All of First Night’s festivities will fall under the purview of the Cultural Trust’s health and safety measures.

Most of First Night’s events are outside, where masking and vaccination are encouraged, but not required. 

Nevertheless, officials continue to stress the importance of taking safety measures like getting vaccinated — including the booster dose if you’re eligible.

At a press conference last Wednesday, Allegheny County Health Department Director Debra Bogen reiterated that vaccination is the single best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as well as the world’s ticket to an eventual return to normalcy. The majority of severe illnesses and deaths, especially among younger populations, occurred in the unvaccinated, she noted. 

Masking, too, can help prevent virus transmission, especially in large crowds like those expected on the streets of Downtown later this week. 

“I’ve heard from those who insist we must need a mask mandate, and from others who argue for the exact opposite. This is the story of our divided country right now,” Bogen said Wednesday. “This is about individual and collective responsibility, and the simple fact is that masks reduce transmission of the virus, and you don’t need a mask mandate to do the right thing.”

Last year, First Night went virtual, with “Pittsburgh Today Live” hosts David Highfield and Heather Abraham hosting a broadcast-only event to welcome in 2021. This was before vaccines were readily available to the public, and now that they are, officials have reiterated time and time again that they’re essential in preventing future lockdowns as we venture into 2022. 

Despite omicron, the Cultural Trust has a full lineup of events planned for New Year’s Eve. Among them is a public art installation called “Intrude” from Parer Studios in Australia. It will take over the Cultural District’s Eighth Street block with 50-foot-tall inflatable rabbits — 10 feet taller than the yellow duck that captured Pittsburgh’s heart back in 2013. The display will be inflated daily until Jan. 28, 2022. 

For a full list of events, activities and happenings, visit First Night’s website.

Categories: Things To Do