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6 to Know: New Year's Celebrations in South Florida Adjust to Omicron

It’s Friday, December 31st – and NBC 6 has the top stories for the day

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

It’s Friday, December 31st – and NBC 6 has the top stories for the day.

No. 1 - In time for the end of the year, Miami-Dade County will hand out free take-home rapid COVID test kits at eight libraries in the county Friday.

The kits will be distributed beginning at 7:30 a.m. while supplies last with a limit of two kits per household. The distribution of kits comes after 152,000 kits were handed out last weekend and earlier this week while three additional testing sites were opened. Zoo Miami's testing site was expanded to open 24 hours a day. For a complete list of locations, click on this link.

No. 2 - Florida reported more than 58,000 COVID-19 infections in a single day, once again shattering its daily case record Thursday, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 58,013 cases recorded Thursday push Florida’s total to 4,090,000 since the pandemic began. However, the actual cumulative total for Thursday amounts to 77,848 cases — that number includes the CDC's backlog of cases and deaths from past days that were added to daily totals after the fact. For instance, the state's previously recorded daily record was only the day before, on Wednesday, with nearly 47,000 cases reported for Tuesday. The CDC later updated that total to 52,995. Additionally, Monday's numbers were updated to 33,567 from 29,059.

No. 3 - Miami-Dade County Public Schools is updating its COVID-19 protocols in response to the rise of infections driven by the omicron variant.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Thursday in a news conference that all adults — including staff members, transportation drivers, visitors and more — who enter Miami-Dade Schools facilities will be required to wear masks. While the district can't require them to do so, students will be strongly encouraged to wear masks. The district will also follow the CDC's updated recommendations of shorter isolation times for those who are infected by the coronavirus. Additionally, all spectators at school sporting events will be required to wear facial coverings. The updated protocols will be in effect when Miami-Dade students return to campus on Monday, Jan. 3. 

No. 4 - There are no plans for the neon Big Orange to rise up the side of the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami this year, and a festival with food trucks and performers in a northeast Florida beach town has been canceled. But Key West's maroon-heeled shoe will descend from a Duval Street bar.

Welcome to New Year's Eve 2021, where some Florida celebrations are proceeding as planned, while others have been adjusted to fit the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment. In Miami, city officials said the annual countdown had been canceled and instead “a digitized laser Big Orange will be created with the traditional countdown clock." Steve Carpenter, the man behind the “Big Orange," told local media that he and his staff had tested positive for the coronavirus after Christmas. Last year's Big Orange countdown also was canceled because of coronavirus. Other celebrations are planned in Miami, including a concert in Bayfront Park.

No. 5 - Many people are flocking to South Florida for the New Year’s holiday and the big events happening this weekend, especially the Orange Bowl semifinal.

Georgia and Michigan will go head-to-head at Hard Rock Stadium Friday. A spot in the national championship game is at stake, but the Wolverines and Bulldogs have taken different paths. Georgia has been ranked in the top five all season, and was the unanimous No, 1 team in the country for about two months. In a breakthrough season for coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan became the first team to start a season unranked and reach the playoff. NBC 6 Sports will be live at the stadium for complete pregame coverage starting on NBC 6 News at 4 p.m.

No. 6 - 2021 was a year punctuated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Surfside tragedy and mass shootings that left the communities reeling. But while South Florida made national headlines for some unfortunate and tragic events, there were some moments this year that shed a positive light on the Sunshine State.

Firefighters were able to rescue a young boy from the rubble at the collapsed Champlain Towers site. A Florida waitress saved a young child from potential abuse. An exotic bird found with a face mask around its beak was rescued. We uncovered stories about heroic acts that restored our faith in humanity (like this story about a Florida deputy taking it upon himself to rescue animals), as well as some quintessential "Florida" stories that brought a chuckle or two. Click here for some of the top stories from 2021.

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