New York State is on the verge of removing virtually all COVID-19 restrictions as the percentage of fully vaccinated adults approaches 70 percent.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that once the percentage of all adults reaches that threshold there will only be certain institutional restrictions that will remain in place. Through Sunday, 68.6 percent of the 18-and-older population had been inoculated by being at least two weeks removed from their last shot.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is to remove the remaining COVID restrictions, right, get to a point where COVID is not inhibiting our society, not inhibiting our growth,” Cuomo said.
“When we hit 70 percent, then I feel comfortable saying to the people of this state, we can relax virtually all restrictions,” he added.
While neither Cuomo nor state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker would be pinned down on when the lifting of the restrictions might occur, it is a near certainty that it will happen this month.
Through Sunday, 9,429,290 state residents 18 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the state tracker. With more than 10.9 million people having received at least one dose, that means nearly 1.5 million more will be getting a second dose within the next two weeks. Tack on an extra two weeks following a second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to be considered fully vaccinated, and the state is no more than four weeks away, and most likely less, to add another 1.4 percent of the population to the fully vaccinated rolls.
Cuomo said after the restrictions are lifted masks will only be required as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Large venues, public transportation, homeless shelters, prisons, all health facilities and being inside a school will still require people to mask up, he said.
“But we hit 70 percent, we’ll be back to life as normal, or as normal as you can be,” Cuomo said.
The state’s attention, however, will be to zero in on zip codes throughout the state that have significantly lagging vaccination rates. The bottom 10 percent of the state’s 1,755 zip codes are below a 36.3 percent vaccination rate, Cuomo said.
As a result, some resources at the state vaccination sites will be redeployed into areas that have a rate that is roughly half or less of the entire state’s current rate. There are five New York zip codes that are at less than 30 percent vaccination rate, including Monsey, Rockland County, which has the lowest in the state at 17.6 percent of those 18 years old and up. There are no communities in Westchester or Putnam that were among the lowest two dozen zip codes.
Cuomo said in the remaining two weeks of the school year, secondary schools should encourage as many of their 12- to 17-year-old students to get vaccinated and try to arrange for their building to be a vaccination site. He called it a “golden opportunity” before the students head off to summer vacation, camp, travel or work.
“Get those 12- to 17-year-old vaccinated now; it will make reopening the schools much safer and much easier and I think every school should be doing that now,” Cuomo said.
For the first time since last Aug. 19, each of the state’s 10 regions recorded a positivity rate of less than 1 percent on the seven-day rolling average on Sunday. Mid Hudson, which includes Westchester and Putnam, and Long Island came in at 0.46 percent each while New York City had the lowest in the state at 0.43. The highest New York region was Finger Lakes, which recorded a 0.98 percent positivity rate.
“New York’s progress is extraordinary and exceptional,” Cuomo said. “It has one of the lowest levels of positivity of any state in the United States, so that is saying something.”
Locally, the numbers are similarly strong. Westchester recorded 19 positives on Sunday from 3,335 tests, a little less than 0.6 percent. The seven-day rolling average stands at about 0.3 percent.
County Executive George Latimer said Monday that Westchester had dropped to 328 active cases, the lowest level since shortly after the start of the pandemic in March 2020. COVID-19 hospitalizations have fallen to 30 and there were two deaths in the county from the virus over the last week.
All indicators are strong but Latimer warned the county isn’t in the clear yet.
“We’re hoping to go through the week without any fatalities and that will also be a sign of the reduction in the depth of the infection,” he said.
Putnam County had four positives results from 314 tests, a 1.3 percent rate, on Sunday. On the seven-day average, Putnam stood at 0.9 percent.
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