NY Expects to Hit Restriction-Erasing Milestone Early; Positivity Rate Hits New Low

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York has the lowest seven-day average positivity rate in the nation, with a rate of just 0.48% after 65 consecutive days of decline

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What to Know

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will lift virtually all remaining COVID rules for businesses and social settings once 70% of New York adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose; he says the number is now 69.1%
  • His college scholarship incentive program targeting 12-to-17-year-olds just finished its second week; 10 full rides are being raffled off weekly through July 7 for a total of 50 scholarships
  • NYC, meanwhile, is deploying mobile vaccine vans to libraries in below-average vaccination rate neighborhoods in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island; that program started Wednesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he now expects New York to hit his 70% partial adult vaccination benchmark to lift remaining restrictions early -- potentially in a matter of days -- as he announced the state's rolling positivity rate had fallen below 0.50% for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Wednesday's rolling positivity rate of 0.48% is the lowest in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins University, and marks a 65-day stretch of decline. Statewide hospitalizations have fallen to 777, the lowest total since Oct. 7.

Daily deaths are consistently in the low double digits as New York charges forward on a recovery course that is accelerating faster than expected.

"With COVID-19 numbers trending downward for so many consecutive days, we are well on our way to fully reopening to a reimagined New York state," Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. "Warm weather activities across the state are in full swing, happening in front of audiences that have received their COVID-19 vaccination. If you haven't already, I encourage you to get your vaccine as soon as possible so that you may enjoy all that our beautiful state has to offer with your loved ones."

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


Cuomo initially said in announcing his new 70% vaccine milestone plan Monday that he expected the state to hit that benchmark in eight days, which would be six days from now, but on Wednesday as he opened the Tribeca Festival, he said he expects to hit it early. It's not exactly clear how early that could happen, but right now, CDC data puts New York at a 69.1% partial vaccination rate for adults.

State data puts that number a bit lower -- at 66.6%. The reason for the discrepancy isn't exactly clear, but it appears Cuomo is using the federal data in this case. When New York hits that crucial 70% milestone, industry-specific guidelines -- including capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening and contact information for tracing -- will be optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms, amusement centers and personal care businesses, among others.

Many of New York's COVID restrictions will be lifted once the state hits 70 percent vaccination rate, Gov. Cuomo said, adding that he expects the state could hit that mark in just over a week's time. NBC New York's Phil Lipof reports.

Large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional and healthcare facilities and nursing homes will be exempt from the looming restriction lift and must continue to follow state COVID guidance.

State guidance on the mask front is explicitly tied to CDC recommendations for various settings, Cuomo has said. The CDC isn't expected to updated its school mask recommendations for a number of weeks, which is why Cuomo pulled the reins on a potential plan to eliminate mask mandates in schools for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, that would've taken effect Monday.

About 59% of all adult New Yorkers are fully vaccinated to date, state data show, but dose rates among older adults have hit a wall at all levels of government as of late. Both Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have rolled out a slate of incentives to encourage those less inclined to get dosed and continue to target outreach to lower rate age groups and neighborhoods to get numbers up.

On Wednesday, de Blasio started to deploy mobile vaccine hubs to select public libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, where officials say vaccine rates are 30% lower than the statewide numbers. The mayor says outreach efforts like vaccination block parties and in-school vaccinations are working.

Like Cuomo, he has targeted kids age 12 to 17 with vaccination outreach in recent weeks, banking that this particular age group and their parents may be more likely to be convinced to get dosed than their older cohorts who have been eligible longer.

Nearly 160,000 New York City residents in that youngest eligible age bracket have gotten at least one dose, up from less than 120,000 a week ago, and the mayor expects that number to keep growing.

The researchers running the trial are hoping more parents will sign up their children, between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old, to get the shot in order to determine proper dosages and possible reactions to the vaccine. NBC New York's Greg Cergol reports.

At the state level, almost 49,000 New Yorkers age 12 to 17 got vaccinated in the week after Cuomo announced the state's full college scholarship incentive program late last month. That number likely has risen more since. The governor held his second weekly scholarship raffle on Wednesday. The winners were announced Thursday.

Ten full tuition, room and board scholarships to any SUNY or CUNY university — valued by the governor at around $100,000 — are being awarded each week through July 7 for a total of 50 free rides. Here's how to sign up to be notified when each drawing begins.

Unlike most other state incentives, the scholarship initiative allows kids vaccinated before the program started to put their names in the hat as well. As Cuomo pitches it, the initiative is as much an incentive for parents to get their kids vaccinated as it is for their future college students to want to get dosed themselves.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

To date, 9.3% of New Yorkers age 12 to 15 (the state doesn't break out data 12 to 17 since 16- and 17-year-olds were eligible earlier) are fully immunized. It's a seemingly small share but one that is up from 7.7% in the last day and has grown significantly in just the last two weeks, which supports officials' contention that age group is essentially an untapped market on the vaccine front -- and a malleable one.

More than a quarter (26.5%) of those youngest kids have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

In announcing the intended school mask change at the end of last week, Cuomo's administration said the idea was to align school mask guidance with summer camp protocol, given camps serve same-age children and some are on school grounds.

Current DC guidance for K-12 schools calls for "consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers and staff." On the youth camp front, the CDC only "strongly encourages mask use indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated" while giving total freedom outdoors to all.

New York is relaxing its mask guidelines for children attending summer camps this year, making them "encouraged" rather than required for unvaccinated kids, though they will still be required on transportation. NBC New York's Pei-Sze Cheng has the details..

New York revised its mask guidance for day camp and overnight camp programs last month to reflect that updated CDC guidance. Kids will only be required to wear masks during transportation, whether they are vaccinated or not.

Over in New Jersey, where kids age 12 to 17 account for just 4% of the nearly 9 million vaccine doses administered in the state so far, Gov. Phil Murphy says kids won't need to wear face masks outdoors at Garden State camps this summer.

They are, however, encouraged to wear them in crowded situations. Indoors, unvaccinated campers will also just be strongly encouraged to wear masks, while any unvaccinated staffers will be required to do so with limited exception.

Additional summer camp guidance for New Jersey had been expected to come Wednesday but Murphy said that would be delayed a bit. Earlier in his COVID briefing, Murphy reported a new daily case total below 200, reflecting numbers not seen since last July. The trend in hospitalizations has been similar.

Nationally, 53.3% of American adults are fully vaccinated, though that number drops three full percentage points when the population is expanded to all age 12 and up.

Like Cuomo's benchmark in New York, President Joe Biden has set a goal of partially vaccinating at least 70% of American adults by July 4.

So far, 14 states have reached that milestone and about a dozen more are on pace to do so by Biden's deadline, but it's unlikely all U.S. states and jurisdictions will achieve that goal within the next month.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said this week he still hopes the goal will be met “and if we don’t, we’re going to continue to keep pushing."

Copyright NBC New York
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