What to Know
- Ahead of the holiday weekend, NJ lifts its indoor mask rule for fully vaccinated people as well as its social distancing mandate at businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, gyms and casinos
- It comes as vaccination rates rise and infection rates fall; NJ has seen its core viral rates continue to ebb while all 10 NY regions have seven-day positivity rates below 2% for the first time since Oct. 28
- To encourage those who have yet to be vaccinated, both NJ and NY have announced a bevy of incentives and they have plans to roll out a Memorial day weekend vaccination drive at popular summer spots.
Nine days after both New York and Connecticut lifted indoor mask rules for fully vaccinated individuals as the tri-state lifted most remaining COVID capacity limits, New Jersey joins its neighbors Friday in adopting updated CDC guidance.
At the same time, all 10 New York regions have seven-day positivity rates below 2% for the first time since Oct. 28, while the five boroughs recorded just one new COVID death, their lowest daily toll in months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
The message from all three governors and Mayor Bill de Blasio remains the same: Get vaccinated.
New Jersey's move to adopt the latest CDC guidance comes as millions are expected to travel over the Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of them -- potentially -- to the Jersey Shore. Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new vaccination drive at beaches along that popular summer stretch for the long weekend on Friday.
Murphy defended a torrent of criticism over the mask lift delay, especially from Republicans who hope to oust him from office in November and from business owners who said patrons could just go to New York if they wanted to be maskless.
The prime reason for it? Murphy didn't want to have to tell fully vaccinated people to put their masks on again. He hasn't had to reverse a progressive step since the reopening started and if a bit more time on the clock saved another life or encouraged a few more vaccinations, Murphy has said it would have been worth it.
He doubled down on those comments Friday to CNBC, saying, "We're the densest state in the densest region in America. And, importantly, we have the virus on the run. So, every single day you can buy, you get better. And in this case every, single day you can buy, you get more people vaccinated. In those two weeks that we've been able to hold off on have been really meaningful. And we feel comfortable that we can safely and responsibly lift the mask mandate."
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
Viral rates in the Garden State have continued to ebb over the last week and a half as the number of New Jerseyans fully vaccinated inches up, while all 10 regions in New York have seven-day positivity rates below 2% for the first time since Oct. 28.
Nearly 4.2 million New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated as of Friday, which is 47% of the state's population. Murphy is 89% to his previously stated goal of fully vaccinating 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June 30 and is on track to hit it early.
Also on Friday, the state is lifting the requirement for maintaining 6 feet of distance at all indoor and outdoor businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, gyms and casinos. Dance floors at bars and restaurants can also reopen and the requirement that individuals be seated while ordering and eating or drinking also ends Friday.
New Jersey businesses will now have to decide for themselves whether to require masks for customers and employees. Masks are still mandatory in public state offices, such as motor vehicle commission buildings, in all health care settings, on airplanes, buses and other forms of transportation and in transportation hubs like airports.
Masks will also still be required in schools, childcare centers and summer camps. Murphy said this week he foresees mask rules continuing in schools come fall. He says many of the youngest likely won't be vaccinated by then, though appeared intrigued at a recent COVID briefing by a suggestion high schools might be able to lift rules sooner.
Murphy previously lifted outdoor mask rules for both fully vaccinated and non-immunized people in his state, though he encourages outdoor masking for those who haven't gotten their shots yet. New York City officials encourage the same.
More than 53% of residents of the five boroughs who are 18 and older are now fully vaccinated, while 56.1% of statewide residents in that age group say the same.
In yet another bid to reach unvaccinated people wherever they are, New York City says it will bring mobile vaccination sites to its beaches and popular summer spots starting this holiday weekend.
Mobile sites will include Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Rockaways, Orchard Beach, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Central Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Prospect Park and Governors Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said.
The mayor also has offered home delivery of vaccinations for New Yorkers age 75 and older as well as people with disabilities who may have more difficulty getting to a site.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
"We are going to go the extra mile whatever it takes. And we're going to go wherever people are, so you've got to see our vaccine buses out all over New York City the next few days," de Blasio said Thursday. "And with so many amazing attractions coming back, beaches coming back – so you're going to see the vaccine buses at the beaches."
New York state is in the midst of a 53-day stretch of declining rolling positivity rates while the total number of hospitalizations is down to 1,169, the lowest number since Nov. 1, Cuomo said Friday. Single-day death tolls are consistently in the low double-digits. Cuomo reported 11 COVID fatalities Friday, a day after the toll of 10 marked the lowest daily count since Oct. 30.
Just one new daily COVID death was reported in New York City (Staten Island) on Friday.
"As we head into summer, it is incredible to reflect on where we were with COVID a year ago," Cuomo said. "Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, we are getting closer to a reimagined normal every day. This is our opportunity to build back safer and stronger than ever before with a new perspective. As we inch toward the end of the tunnel, I want to encourage the people of our state to utilize the greatest tool we have in defeating the virus - the vaccine. It's free, accessible, and effective."
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
The sentiment across the one-time epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and for its neighbors is far more exuberant than it was last Memorial Day weekend, when the U.S. held a tenuous grip on lower COVID rates ahead of one of the busiest travel times of the year.
This time around, there are vaccines -- and more than half of U.S. adults (50.6%) have taken advantage of their chance for full immunization since December.
But if you're unvaccinated and planning to travel or be in crowds this holiday weekend, the head of the CDC has a warning for you.
"We have seen after holiday weekends in the past that cases have risen, but we’ve never been in a position where we’ve had almost half the adults of America vaccinated and protected from this virus," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing this week before the nation topped the halfway milestone for adults.
"Our guidance is very clear: If you are vaccinated, you are protected. And if you are unvaccinated, in the context of Memorial Day weekend, we are really encouraging you to adhere to our guidance for people who are unvaccinated, and, of course, to get vaccinated," Walensky added.
While more than half of Americans age 18 and up are now vaccinated, that number drops a bit, to 47.4%, when the age bracket is expanded to those age 12 and older, according to the latest CDC data. Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population age 65 and older are fully vaccinated, but that number has plateaued in recent weeks.