Health care workers were invited to the New Year's Eve countdown event in central New York on Thursday, while local residents and tourists were barred from the venue.
The annual countdown in Times Square has been held for more than 110 years, drawing large crowds.
This year, however, organizers banned attendance by members of the public for the first time, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, front-line health care workers were invited to the event, which was live-streamed on the Internet.
The countdown started at one minute to midnight, with the seconds flashed on a big screen.
At the start of 2021, confetti bearing people's wishes for the new year fluttered into the night sky.
A 27-year-old woman said she wrote her wish that the virus will stop spreading and everyone will be able to stay healthy during the year.
Deaths from the coronavirus in the United States have exceeded 340,000.
The fight against the pandemic will be the biggest immediate challenge for President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in on January 20.