Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York state is ending all Covid-19 restrictions across commercial and social settings.
Once a hotspot for the virus, New York has reached its 70 per cent vaccination rate for adults across the state, Cuomo said during a press conference on Tuesday at One World Trade Center. New York has administered more than 20.2m vaccine doses to date, “more per capita than any other big state” in the US, he said.
For its part, New York City has reached a 68.4 per cent vaccination rate.
“We can now return to life as we know it,” Cuomo said. While the 70 per cent vaccination milestone is one to celebrate, “we’re going to keep pushing to do more,” he said.
The lifting of pandemic-era rules means that health screening protocols are optional for businesses and people can now gather in groups without social distancing, effective immediately. Music venues, sports venues, movie cinemas and other public spaces can operate at full capacity as a result.
Still, federal guidelines will continue to be enforced in schools, public transportation and healthcare facilities.
At the height of the pandemic, New York had the highest Covid-19 positivity rate in the country at 48.2 per cent.
“We were ambushed by Covid. We had people dying from Covid before we knew Covid was here,” Cuomo said during the press conference. “It was frightening. It was like living in a science fiction movie.”
As part of the reopening milestone, the top of the Empire State Building will be lit in blue and gold and fireworks will be displayed across New York to honour essential workers.
“It’s our way of saying thank you, all across the state, to the essential workers, to celebrate our reopening . . . and to remind all New Yorkers to join the success,” Cuomo said.
He added: “I’ll tell you how you honour the essential workers. You get vaccinated, so you don’t need the essential workers again.”
The lift comes on the same day California ended most of its Covid-19 restrictions.