The more than 15-month COVID-19 state of emergency in New York State expired Thursday a week after the state eclipsed the 70 percent vaccination threshold.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who made the announcement Wednesday, said that while the emergency will end and won’t be renewed, getting more people vaccinated remains the focus.
“The emergency is over,” Cuomo declared. “It’s a new chapter. It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges for the new chapter but the emergency is over. It’s not that COVID is gone. We still have to vaccinate people, especially young people. That is still a priority.”
Earlier this month, Cuomo said the state of emergency would be lifted once 70 percent of adults 18 years old and up had received their first dose. Through Tuesday, that percentage had increased to 71.2 percent.
Centers for Disease Control guidelines will still be in effect, which requires masks be worn in certain situations, such as riding public transportation and visiting health care facilities, homeless shelters and prisons. Local governments can enforce the mask wearing in those settings, the governor said.
Cuomo said that lessons learned from the pandemic will include making the state’s health care system more resilient. Yesterday, he signed the Safe Staffing bills, a plan that will help health care facilities plan for future challenges.
The legislation requires facilities to establish committees comprised of administrators, nurses and staff members who provide care that will develop safe staffing plans. All facilities must submit a plan to the state by Jan. 1 that will detail how many people are needed to provide direct care to treat patients while keeping staff safe, Cuomo said.
All plans will be publicly posted and the state Department of Health will make sure that they are implemented and followed, he said.
During his press conference, Cuomo lauded health care staffers among 19 categories of workers who became known as essential workers, including those who kept public transportation running through the pandemic, supermarket employees, first responders, teachers and sanitation and telecommunications workers.
“We had essential workers that did the superhuman,” Cuomo said.
To honor their sacrifice, a new memorial is currently being constructed that will be unveiled in Battery Park City in lower Manhattan on Labor Day. The monument, which will be called the Circle of Heroes, will be encircled by 19 maple trees representing the 19 categories of essential workers, who all had a role in making sure that society functioned while exposing themselves to a deadly virus.
The middle of the circle will have an eternal flame that honors those lost giving their lives to serve others, Cuomo said.
“The eternal flame says your spirit is still alive in us and in our soul and we will never forget and we are eternally grateful for what you did,” he said.
For information on eligibility and vaccination sites, the public may call 1-833-697-4829 or visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov