Cuomo Eliminates COVID Rules as NY Hits Vaccine Goal, Celebrates With Fireworks

"Today is Day 472. Today is Tuesday." And effective immediately, state-mandated COVID restrictions are eliminated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as he announced New York had achieved his 70% vaccine milestone early

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What to Know

  • New York has hit Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 70% vaccination benchmark for eliminating state-mandated COVID restrictions on commercial and social settings; those changes take effect immediately, he said
  • Mask requirements remain in effect for pre-K-12 schools, public transit and healthcare settings in accordance with CDC guidelines; Cuomo has said the agency plans to update its recommendations in weeks
  • Fireworks displays launched statewide in New York to honor essential workers Tuesday night, Cuomo said, while NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio plans a ticker-tape parade to celebrate them on July 7

"Today is Day 472. Today is Tuesday." And effective immediately, state-mandated COVID restrictions are eliminated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as he announced New York had achieved his 70% adult partial vaccination milestone early.

It means an opportunity to "return to life as we know it," the Democrat said -- and he set up a series of statewide fireworks displays Tuesday to celebrate (see the 10 designated locations further down in this story).

Standing within One World Trade Center, a 1,776-foot-tall testament to New York's ability to recover from unthinkable loss, Cuomo declared the one-time epicenter had not only turned the page on the worst public health crisis in a century but emerged mightier from it. And he credited New Yorkers for continuing the fight.

What changes going forward? No more social distancing or gathering limits for more than a dozen commercial and social settings (see them below). No more capacity restrictions. No more health screening. No more contact tracing protocols.

cuomo ends rules
These are the changes that take effect Tuesday.

Individual establishments can impose stricter standards if they so choose but the state executive orders that have mandated them for well more than a year are done.

Unvaccinated people are still responsible for continuing to wear masks, per the CDC. Existing COVID-19 protocol remains in place for pre-K-12 schools, public transit, shelters, large-scale indoor events venues, correctional facilities and healthcare settings in accordance with CDC guidelines, Cuomo noted. Those standards could be tweaked before long, too, if the CDC adjusts its guidance.

"This is a momentous day -- and we deserve it, because it has been a long, long road," the governor said amid resounding applause from a room packed with his labor union allies. "It's a day to look backward and remember where we were, but also a day to look forward to where we're going."

"If you said to us on Day 1, at the beginning of COVID, that we would be capable of what we have done, no one would believe it," Cuomo added. "Where are we today? We have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America."

The day was marked with a 9:15 p.m. statewide fireworks celebration to honor the essential workers, without whom he says the state could not have made it through the nightmarish early days of the pandemic and the daily devastation that followed. Thirteen state landmarks will be lit blue and gold to "say thank you."

"Today is Day 472. Today is Tuesday." And effective immediately, state-mandated COVID restrictions are eliminated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as he announced New York had achieved his 70% adult partial vaccination milestone early.It means an opportunity to "return to life as we know it," the Democrat said -- and he plans a series of statewide fireworks displays for Tuesday night to celebrate.

Statewide Fireworks Displays to Honor NY Essential Workers Tuesday Night

There were 10 designated locations for the fireworks shows Tuesday night:

  • Albany, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12228
  • Binghamton, Binghamton University M Lot, 4400 Vestal Parkway E, Vestal, NY 13850
  • Jones Beach, Jones Beach State Park, 1 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, NY 11793
  • Lake Placid, Lake Placid Club, Lake Placid, NY 12946
  • New York City, New York Harbor
  • Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls State Park, Goat Island Road, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
  • Nyack, Memorial Park, 4 Depew Ave., Nyack, NY 10960
  • Rochester, Rochester Dome Arena, 2695 E. Henrietta Rd, Henrietta, NY 14467
  • Syracuse, NYS Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd, Syracuse NY 13209
  • Utica, Downtown Utica, 100 Whitesboro Street, Utica, NY 13502

No matter what, Cuomo says all New Yorkers would be able to enjoy them: "Literally, they're going to be displayed all across the state, so wherever you are, they'll be in your community and you can enjoy the celebration with the rest of the state."

New York City has announced plans to celebrate essential workers, too -- with the first ticker-tape parade since the pandemic hit. That long-promised upcoming march along Manhattan's Canyon of Heroes July 7 might mark the most symbolic point of resurgence yet for a city so devastated early and throughout the pandemic.

New York City is planning a ticker tape parade to honor doctors, nurses and other hometown heroes. NBC New York's Gilma Avalos reports.

Cuomo Urges Vigilance, More Vaccinations

Even as he acknowledged the progress the Empire State has made both on vaccinations and in beating back a novel virus that has likely claimed more than 50,000 New York lives in 15 months, Cuomo urged continued vigilance Tuesday.

"Seventy percent is not the end of the effort, but it is an important milestone and we're going to keep trying to do more," he said. "You want to honor essential workers? I'll tell you how to honor the essential workers. You get vaccinated so you don't need the essential workers."

New Yorkers have experienced a few 180-degree pendulum swings over the course of the pandemic. But unlike last summer and early fall, when core viral rates plunged from seemingly unfathomable highs only to surge back to alarming levels over the holidays, the state now has the ultimate weapon on its side: Vaccination.

More than 60% of all New Yorkers are fully immunized, though the pace has slowed to an exceedingly slow drip in recent weeks, especially among long-eligible adults.

Acknowledging that population may be harder to move, both Cuomo and de Blasio have focused their targeted outreach as of late to what they perceive as a more malleable group -- kids age 12 to 15.

They were the last to become eligible for vaccination and have seen significant growth in dose rates the last month, increases in part that are thought to be driven by a lucrative slate of incentives.

More than 29% of New Yorkers age 12 to 15 have had at least one dose, while almost 17% are fully vaccinated. On June 8, just eight days ago, that full vaccination number for kids in that age range was only 7.7%. It took a little more than a week to more than double that rate, while it took nearly the same amount of time for the percentage of partially vaccinated adults to increase by just 1.4%.

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

The next objective, Cuomo says, is to focus on areas in the state with the lowest vaccination rates. New York City is doing the same.

Even as fewer adults are getting newly vaccinated, New York's core viral metrics have plunged to record lows. The state's rolling positivity rate is 0.40%, among the lowest in the country, according to Johns Hopkins. It has set all-time pandemic lows for the last 18 days straight and is in the midst of a 71-day stretch of decline.

Hospitalizations are down to 650 statewide, the lowest total since Oct. 5. The current total marks an 86% drop in just three months and a 92% decline from January's peak.

Daily death tolls are regularly in the single digits or low double digits -- a testament, Cuomo says, to the power of vaccination to drive down severe COVID outcomes.

It's time, both he and de Blasio say, for New York to return to normal.

The national outlook has clearly turned a corner, too, even as more contagious and potentially more lethal COVID variants overtake other countries anew.

New daily case counts in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest point since testing became widely available, while daily death tolls are the lowest they've been since the World Health Organization declared COVID a pandemic.

Though coronavirus case counts have gone up in states that have reopened, the uptick is slight thanks to the vaccines, says Dr. John Torres. More people with antibodies against COVID-19 means fewer cases and chances to spread to others.

Still, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 600,000 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University — greater than the population of Baltimore or Milwaukee, and about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019.

Nationally, 54.6% of American adults are fully vaccinated, while 64.6% have had at least one dose, according to the CDC. President Joe Biden says the White House plans to host a July 4 "Independence From Virus" bash to celebrate.

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