New York reached the 70% threshold for COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lift many of the emergency orders he initiated more than a year ago.
“It means that we can now return to life as we know it,” the governor said at a ceremony held at One World Trade Center in New York City.
The milestone means 70% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Cuomo announced that the state reached the goal President Joe Biden set for the country with nearly three weeks to spare.
Among the restrictions lifted Tuesday included guidelines on social distancing, capacity limits, health screenings and contact tracing. Those are now optional for businesses like retail establishments, restaurants, salons, gyms and offices.
The state will require unvaccinated individuals to “continue to be responsible for wearing masks” based on guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, the state will maintain orders on large-scale indoor events as well as facilities that may include vulnerable populations. Those include elementary, middle and high schools as well as public transit, homeless shelters, jails and prisons and health care facilities, and the state will follow CDC guidance there as well.
Not all of the state’s regions have exceeded the threshold, but enough have to put the state over the bench mark. Long Island leads the state with a 75.3% one-dose administration rate, while Mohawk Valley’s 60.6% ranks lowest.
Cuomo took time to note what the state achieved in the 15 months since the health crisis began. He noted that the state went from having the highest death tolls to the nation to one of the lowest rates of spread.
He also used the occasion to thank workers from across various industries and public agencies for their work during the pandemic. Representatives from 18 job groups, ranging from food service to construction to first responder to health care provider were called up to receive a plaque.
The governor also said the state would hold fireworks ceremonies Tuesday night to celebrate the achievement. That decision though was panned by some Republicans, including state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, who questioned whether the celebration to that extent may be premature.
While Republicans celebrated the milestone, they continued to call for more from the embattled Democratic leader.
Specifically, Griffo and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt want an end to the state of emergency.
“Instead of taxpayer-funded firework shows celebrating his own lack of leadership, the Governor should mark this occasion by ending the state of emergency and reinstating the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government,” Ortt said in a statement. “Only then can we fully repeal unnecessary restrictions like masks mandates for school children.”
A message to the Cuomo administration was not returned Tuesday afternoon. However, leaders in other states, such as Kentucky, have held off on heeding calls to end their states of emergency, noting that doing so may hurt federal funding for such initiatives as vaccine distribution and administration.
This article was originally posted on Cuomo ends many of New York’s pandemic restrictions as state hits 70% vaccination rate