Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that once 70 percent of adult New Yorkers receive the first dose of a vaccine, the remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted including: capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact tracing.
The COVID-specific restrictions, some of which have been in place for more than a year, will become optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, and other commercial settings.
Large venues like schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care facilities will not see an easing of restrictions; they must still follow state guidelines until more New Yorkers are vaccinated. Also, unvaccinated individuals will still be responsible for maintaining proper social distancing of six feet and wearing a mask as per federal CDC guidance.
New York state currently has one of the lowest positivity rates in the nation, with 10 straight days of record-low positivity. Meanwhile, vaccination rates are on the rise, with more than 19.5 million New Yorkers receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; 10.9 million people have at least one dose and 9.4 million people who are fully vaccinated.
As of early this week, 68.6 percent of adults in New York state have received at least one dose of the vaccine and only 1.4 percent is needed for New York to reach 70 percent.
“With numbers trending at record lows, it is clear that the vaccine is effective and that it is an invaluable tool against the virus,” Cuomo said.
To reach the goal of 70 percent vaccination, Gov. Cuomo is calling for an increase of vaccinations in low-rate areas. He wants local governments to focus on providing the vaccine to the bottom 10 percent of ZIP codes, which fall below a 36.3 percent vaccination rate.
In addition, Gov. Cuomo has proposed benefits for people who have been vaccinated. For instance, sports centers are opening up more seats for those who are vaccinated, and New York State and the Empire State Building are partnering to offer events for Excelsior Pass holders (an app that shows a person has been vaccinated) by having $10 off Observatory tickets and exclusive access hours.
Cuomo said Monday he also wants to vaccinate more 12- to 17-year-olds. “We’re closing vaccination sites. Redeploy them to the school… Parental permission slip and then vaccinate the child,” the governor said.
Although the risk of transmission by children is low, Gov. Cuomo wants to get them vaccinated since they are all in one place. Schools are allowed to choose a no-mask option for children when they are outside of the school building, during recess.