(Bloomberg) -- Art Basel Miami Beach kicks off this week, bringing a massive fair and tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to southern Florida just as scientists are weighing the public-health implications of the new omicron Covid-19 variant.

The event typically draws more than 80,000 visitors to Miami Beach. But that crowd is hardly an aberration in the U.S., where football stadiums were packed over the weekend and millions of families just gathered for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah celebrations.

The new variant arrives as much of the U.S. has already returned to a semblance of normalcy, and it appears unlikely that many people will easily revert to event cancellations and lockdowns. Traffic at retail and recreation establishments is only slightly below pre-pandemic norms, and transit station activity isn’t far behind. 

“It’s important that this happens, and I believe that Art Basel is hosting this responsibly and in a way that creates the safest environment possible,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat, said in an interview Monday.


The pandemic has divided Americans along political lines, with Democrats much more likely to say they took the Covid-19 vaccines and adjusted their lifestyles to the pandemic. But in Florida, there was rare bipartisan agreement that Art Basel should move ahead, including from the Democrats in charge of the city and county governments.

Even without omicron, the U.S. had been posting close to 1,000 Covid-19 deaths a day -- not counting the most recent days, when the Thanksgiving holiday distorted the way the numbers are reported. States in the Northeast and Midwest have seen resurgences as cold weather started to drive people indoors. But Florida -- which saw a brutal wave in July and August -- now has the lowest per-capita rate of new cases in the nation.

For its part, Art Basel is requiring proof of a negative Covid-19 test or proof of full vaccination to access its halls, and masks are required. No additional measures will be implemented in light of omicron. 

There will be timed entry to the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the work of some 4,000 artists is showcased by the world’s leading galleries. There are also many satellite fairs across the city, such as PULSE, Aqua, SCOPE, and the showcases of Design Miami.

Sunday was the busiest air travel day since the start of the pandemic, with 2.4 million people passing through airport checkpoints, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration. Half as many people traveled on the same day of 2020.

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