New Year’s Day polar plunge in Asbury Park is moving elsewhere

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New Year’s Day polar plunge in Asbury Park is moving elsewhere. One of New Jersey’s popular Jan. 1 polar plunges has found a new home on the Jersey Shore.

The Sons of Ireland Polar Bear Plunge will be taking place in Long Branch instead of Asbury Park, the annual event’s home for the past decade, organizers announced Wednesday.

Sean Clifford, a board member, told NJ Advance Media that the Sons of Ireland had not been given permission to use the Asbury Park Convention Hall, as in prior years. It was not held last January due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His organization announced Wednesday that plungers will instead gather at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch, about 6 miles away.

The plunge, as in prior years, will happen at 1 p.m., accompanied by an indoor party and music festival lasting for much of the day.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a permanent shift, but if everyone likes it as much, if not more, it’ll be tough going back,” Clifford said when asked about the prospects of returning to Asbury Park in 2023.

The Asbury Park Press reported in September that concerts and other large events at the Convention Hall and Paramount Theater had been either canceled or moved after the city issued a notice of default to the board’s retail developer over safety concerns, among other issues.

Officials at the Convention Hall could not be reached Wednesday.

Donna M. Vieiro, city manager for Asbury Park, said an application for holding the polar plunge was never submitted.

Clifford, though, said organizers had numerous conversations with municipal officials, including the fire marshal.

“They were not able to tell us we could do it,” he said.

New Year’s Day polar plunges also will be happening in Atlantic City and Brigantine.

Registration for the polar plunge in Long Branch is $25 per person. This year’s designated charity is the Lifeguard Ecumenical Foundation.

“We appreciate your continued support in keeping this incredible tradition alive and we can’t wait to see you all on New Year’s Day in Long Branch,” the Sons of Ireland stated on Facebook.

WASHINGTON — A person in California became the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the COVID-19 omicron variant, the White House announced Wednesday as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus.

The Biden administration moved late last month to restrict travel from Southern Africa where the variant was first identified and had been widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other nations.

“This is the first case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant detected in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the White House. He said the person was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29.

Fauci said the person was vaccinated but had not received a booster shot and was experiencing “mild symptoms.”

“We knew that it was just a matter of time,” Fauci told reporters at the White House.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking steps to tighten U.S. testing rules for travelers from overseas, including requiring a test for all travelers within a day of boarding a flight to the U.S. regardless of vaccination status. It was also considering mandating post-arrival testing.

Officials said those measures would only “buy time” for the country to learn more about the new variant and to take appropriate precautions, but that given its transmissibility its arrival in the U.S. was inevitable.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious than previous strains, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said more would be known about the omicron strain in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test lab samples of the virus.

The announcement of the first U.S. case comes before President Joe Biden plans to outline his strategy on Thursday to combat the virus over the winter. Biden has tried to quell alarm over the omicron variant, saying it was a cause for concern but “not a cause for panic.”

Biden and public health officials have grown more urgent in their pleas for more Americans to get vaccinated — and for those who have been vaccinated to get booster shots to maximize their protection against the virus.

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