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New York lift most Covid restrictions with 70% of adults vaccinated with one shot

People without mask walk at Times Square on May 19, 2021 in New York City.

John Smith | Corbis News | Getty Images

New York will lift most of its Covid-19 restrictions now that 70% of all adults in the state have been vaccinated with at least one dose, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Cuomo said all state-mandated restrictions on commercial businesses, social settings, sports and recreation events, construction, manufacturing and retail that were put in place beginning in March 2020 were being rolled back, “effective immediately.”

“We can get back to living. Businesses can open, because the state mandates are gone social gathering restrictions, the capacity restrictions the health screenings, the cleaning and disinfecting protocols” are all gone, he said. “Remember June 15. Remember today because it is the day New York rose again.”

Residents and visitors will still need to wear masks in some settings, like hospitals, public transportation and schools per guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said, but all other state-mandated Covid restrictions will be lifted across New York. The state will allow schools and camps to decide whether to require masks for children during outdoor activities.

While New York, which was an early epicenter of the global outbreak last March and April, has recorded more than 2 million cases and almost 53,000 Covid deaths, it now boasts one of the lowest positivity rates in the United States.

On Sunday, the seven-day positivity rate across the state was 0.41%, down from a high of 7.9% on Jan. 4. Every region of the state has a positivity rate below 1%.

Cuomo emphasized that 70% is a great milestone and a marker that the state is doing well but it is not the finish line. “We want to celebrate, but we want to remember what we are celebrating,” Cuomo said Monday. “We’re coming around the last turn.”

More than 11.1 million of the state’s residents have been vaccinated with at least one shot and about 9.8 million are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

The state has administered more shots per capita than any other big state in the country, according to data compiled by the CDC.

New York suffered widespread closures of its bars and restaurants due to pandemic lockdowns. Many restaurants and bars in New York City didn’t survive. The restaurant industry employs nearly 1 million people in the state, accounting for 9% of total employment in the state.

Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate in New York state was 3.9%. That number shot up to 16.2% during the worst of the pandemic in April 2020. About one year later, the unemployment rate is at 8.2% as of April.

Cuomo said the state will lift capacity restrictions, social distancing, hygiene protocols, health screenings, some contact tracing and more.

President Joe Biden has laid out a goal of vaccinating 70% of adults in the U.S. with at least one shot by the Fourth of July.

The Empire State Building and all other state assets will light up with blue and gold to celebrate the milestone vaccination rate.