New York State will adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recent guidelines where fully vaccinated individuals will be able to shed their masks in most situations starting Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the change on Monday as the infection rate, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to drop. As of Sunday, the statewide infection rate was 1.26 percent, and 1.11 percent on a seven-day rolling average. Hospitalizations feel to 1,581 statewide, the lowest since Nov. 9.
The numbers were even more encouraging closer to home. The seven-county Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and Putnam, clocked in with a 1.2 percent positivity rate on Sunday and stood at exactly 1 percent on the seven-day average. New York City and Long Island were at 0.91 and 0.98 percent, respectively, on the seven-day average through Sunday.
It also came a day after a group of county executives from downstate and the Hudson Valley urged the governor to follow and open up society as much as possible.
“New Yorkers have made great progress, all the arrows are now pointed in the right direction, so let’s get back to life,” Cuomo said.
Starting Wednesday, the mask mandate that was enacted in April 2020 will be lifted for all fully vaccinated people except for public transportation, nursing homes and health care facilities, schools, homeless shelters and prisons. The CDC guidance stated that vaccinated people may take off their masks outdoors.
Cuomo stressed that individual businesses and organizations are free to follow the new guidance or continue with more stringent rules depending on their situation.
The lifting of the mask requirement this week coincides with the continued easing of other restrictions of venues and businesses throughout the tristate area, which includes New Jersey and Connecticut, that had been announced shortly after the start of the month. As of Monday, the outdoor food and beverage curfew was lifted with the indoor curfew expiring at the end of the month.
Also, on Wednesday, capacity limits for restaurants, museums, retail and offices will sunset.
Already enacted were outdoor capacity limits of 500 people, indoor limits of 250 people and residential gatherings can have up to 50 people. The New York City subway system has been operating around-the-clock for several weeks.
The return to normalcy is also ongoing with some entertainment and sports venue.
Cuomo said the New York City Marathon, which was canceled last year, will return on Sunday, Nov. 7 for its 50th running with up to 33,000 runners, or 60 percent of capacity. He said that restriction can change as the event draws closer.
The Tribeca Film Festival will also return next month with functions in all five boroughs, including the opening night screening of “In the Heights” on the new Pier 76 public space on the Hudson River in Manhattan on June 9.
Radio City Music Hall will reopen on June 19, by hosting the closing night of the festival with a red-carpet event. That evening, the 5,500-seat auditorium will open to 100 percent capacity but only for fully vaccinated people, Cuomo said.
Cuomo said that society will continue to open throughout the spring and summer and the best way to take advantage of what the state has to offer will be to get vaccinated.
“Yes, there are health reasons, but we’re opening up with more opportunities to vaccinated people,” he said. “So it’s another reason to get vaccinated.”
Ticket-buying opportunities will also favor the fully vaccinated for Knicks, Nets and Islanders home playoff games that will be beginning at the teams’ arenas later this week. At least 50 percent of the seating will be available for the vaccinated, but there are no restrictions in those areas. There will be sections for unvaccinated people, but for those sitting in those areas they must still maintain six feet of social distancing and wear masks, which reduces the chances of getting tickets, Cuomo said.
“The whole point of the CDC’s change, the whole point of our change is to say to people there are benefits to getting vaccinated,” Cuomo said.
This summer, county fairs across the state may open with the local health departments overseeing the operations unless a venue asks to have more than 5,000 people in attendance. In that event, the operator must receive state Department of Health clearance.
The MTA will continue its campaign to vaccinate commuters at key transportation hubs on the Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road and New York City subways through Saturday. Vaccinations will be available at Grand Central Station and at 125th Street in Harlem from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Last week 5,701 vaccines were administered at the MTA sites.
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