Cuomo: Restrictions will be lifted when state hits 70% vax rate

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Angelica Sofia Parker, 12, of Guilderland was vaccinated against COVID-19 in May as soon as her age group was allowed. However, the 12-to-17 age group lags behind all others. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday urged schools to vaccinate while they have a "captive audience."

ALBANY COUNTY — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that, once 70 percent of adult New Yorkers are vaccinated, most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted.
The metric will be based, statewide, on New Yorkers 18 and older having received a first dose of vaccine.

Currently, according to the state’s vaccine tracker, as of Monday evening, 54.7 percent of New Yorkers have received a first dose and 66.3 percent of those 18 and older have. At the same time, 47.3 percent of New Yorkers have completed a vaccine series while 58.5 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older have.

The rates are higher in Albany County with 73.5 percent of residents 18 and older having gotten at least one dose of vaccine and 62.8 percent of the county’s 307,117 residents receiving at least a first dose.

Also on Monday, Senate and Assembly Republicans called for an end to the state disaster emergency that Cuomo had declared on March 7, 2020. They introduced a resolution to revoke Cuomo’s “unilateral decision-making authority.”

At an event in New York City, Cuomo said, “As vaccinations go up, positivity goes down and that’s what we are seeing.”

Once the state hits the 70-percent mark, he said, “We can lift the capacity restriction, social distancing, the hygiene protocols, the health screenings, the potential tracing. Masks will only be required as recommended by the CDC,” he said of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Some institutional guidelines will still prevail, he said, naming large venues, schools, public transportation, hospitals, and nursing homes. “But we hit 70 percent, we will be back to life as normal, or as normalized as you can be post-COVID,” said Cuomo.

On Friday, New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, wrote a letter to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, pointing out the inconsistency between the CDC guidance for schools, requiring masks, and for youth camps, where people don’t need to wear masks outdoors or if they are fully vaccinated.

Zucker’s letter to Walensky ended with the words, “If there is any data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible. We plan to make this guidance effective on Monday June 7.”

However, on Sunday, the State Education Department issued a statement saying schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice.

At his New York City event on Monday, Cuomo said that the CDC writes guidance for all the states, some with much higher infection rates than New York and would not change mask guidance for several weeks.

However, New York State, “to align camp and school guidance,” Cuomo said, is allowing schools to forego masks when children are outside; they are still to wear masks inside school buildings. While there is no mandate for masks outside, Cuomo said, it is up to local school districts to decide.

Cuomo also urged schools to vaccinate 12- to 17-year-olds, which for the next several seeks are “a captive audience.”

Cuomo noted that the vaccination rate statewide has “slowed dramatically” and said that the lowest rate is in the 12-to-17 age group.

He also said, among the 1,700 ZIP codes in New York, the bottom 10 percent have a vaccination rate below 36 percent.

Since New Yorkers are no longer showing up in droves at mass vaccination sites, Cuomo urged county health departments to redeploy their staff and resources to target those areas. He went on to name places with the lowest percentages — none of them were in Albany County.

One of the county’s lowest vaccination rates is in Coeymans. On Monday, Cuomo announced 11 new pop-up sites in places with low rates including the Coeymans Hollow firehouse on Route 143. The site will be open on Thursday, June 10

He mentioned Connecticut’s strategy of a Ferris Bueller Day Off, letting students who got vaccinated take the resort of the day off.

He also recommended a strategy used by Empire State Realty Trust that lets workers with an Excelsior Pass — a state system to prove a person is vaccinated — have a much easier entrance to their office buildings.


Newest numbers

On Monday morning, Albany County Executive Daniel Mccoy announced, in a release, six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s tally to 24,362 to date.

Among the new cases, two reported having close contact with someone infected with the disease and four did not have clear sources of infection identified.

The five-day average for new daily positives decreased from 7 to 6.8. There are still 30 active cases in the county, down from 33 on Sunday.

The number of Albany County residents under quarantine decreased to 109 from 118. So far, 79,742 people have completed quarantine. Of those, 24,332 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of nine recoveries since Sunday.

There were no new hospitalizations overnight, and six county residents remain hospitalized from the virus. There are three patients currently in intensive-care units, unchanged from Sunday.

On June 6, McCoy announced the death of a woman in her fifties, bringing the county’s COVID-19 death toll to 383.

According to the state’s dashboard, the infection rate for both Albany County and New York State, as of Sunday as a seven-day rolling average, is 0.5 percent.

More Regional News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.