COVID restrictions lifted as NYS hits 70% vax rate

— Photo from Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office
Fireworks lit the Empire State Plaza in Albany on Tuesday night to mark the lifting of COVID restrictions as the vaccination rate in New York State hit 70 percent.

ALBANY COUNTY — Fireworks lit the sky at the Empire State Plaza Tuesday night and the State Education Building shone in blue and gold — New York State’s colors — as Governor Andrew Cuomo had announced in the afternoon that COVID-19 restrictions were lifted immediately.

New Yorkers had met the mark he had set earlier of 70 percent of New Yorkers age 18 or older having received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine series.

At a Friday event in which plaques were presented to a slew of essential workers — from doctors and firefighters to teachers and restaurant workers — Cuomo praised their sacrifice and contributions.

“You know who beat COVID? The people of New York beat COVID. The courage of New Yorkers beat COVID. The individual strength beat COVID,” said Cuomo.

While at the start of the pandemic, Cuomo recalled, he told most New Yorkers to stay home, the essential workers, he said, had to go out to their jobs to keep other people safe.

Giving one example, he went on, “Not you, nurse. You have to go into the hospital and dress in a moon suit because we don’t know how deadly this virus is and we don’t know how it transfers. You have to go and put your life at risk and your family’s life at risk because you have an obligation to show courage, to save others.”

Cuomo also said the journey is not over. “We still have to manage COVID,” he said. “As the health professionals will tell you, we’re still watching these variants of interest. We still have to be careful.”

Cuomo recounted New York’s history of having the “highest infection rate on the globe — and we were alone and it was frightening.” He went on, “Streets deserted, Times Square deserted. People leaving New York.”

Cuomo said, “We went, literally, from worst to first. Not only do we have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America, we have hit 70 percent vaccination.

“It is the national goal and we hit it ahead of schedule. What does 70 percent mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it. We have the highest vaccination rate in this state.”

Cuomo also said, “That's not to say that 70 percent is the end, we want to do better than 70 percent, but it is an important milestone and we're going to keep pushing to do more.”

Andrew Joyce, chairman of the Albany County Legislature, a Democrat like Cuomo, put out a statement congratulating county partners for working together to reach the milestone.

“From the moment this vaccine was available, our members and staff worked very hard to get it to where it was needed the most. It was through their efforts, and those of our County Executive, our Department of Health and our amazing Medical Reserve Corps that we are able to celebrate this milestone today,” said Joyce.

According to the state’s vaccine tracker, as of Tuesday evening, 74.5 percent of Albany County’s residents aged 18 and older had received at least one dose of vaccine.

Robert Ortt, the Senate Republican leader, in his statement, recognized both frontline workers and small businesses that provided paychecks in difficult times.

“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,” said Ortt. “Only then can we fully repeal unnecessary restrictions like mask mandates for school children.”



The state’s health guidance and New York Forward industry specific guidelines — including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing — are now optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other commercial settings.

Unvaccinated people continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consistent with the state's implementation of the recent CDC guidance, masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals.

Further, the state’s health guidelines continue to be in effect for large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health-care settings per CDC guidelines.

The state’s COVID restrictions remain in effect for large-scale indoor event venues — now defined as indoor venues that hold more than 5,000 attendees.

Consistent with the state’s implementation of the CDC guidelines, proof of vaccination can be used to eliminate social distancing and remove masks for fully vaccinated people.

People over the age of 4 who are not vaccinated or whose vaccination status is not known must continue to present proof of a recent negative diagnostic COVID-19 test result and wear masks within the venue. However, social distancing can be reduced or eliminated between tested attendees, allowing venues to reach 100 percent capacity in all sections.

With the removal of the state’s minimum standard for reopening, businesses are free to lift all or some restrictions, continue to adhere to the state’s archived guidance, or implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons

Businesses are also authorized to require masks and six feet of social distancing for employees and patrons within their establishments, regardless of vaccination status. Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The CDC federal mandates obviously continue for pre-K schools and public transit and health-care settings,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “But the state mandates have been lifted.”

Marie Wiles, superintendent for the Guilderland Central School District, underlined this in an email she sent to “GCSD Families” on Tuesday evening.

“We are aware that today, June 15, many state-mandated Covid restrictions were lifted,” she wrote. “However, the state’s health guidelines for several settings, including Pre-K to 12 schools remain unchanged at this time. 

“The Guilderland Central School District will continue Covid protocols and mask wearing in accordance with our approved school district Reopening Plan, including at all end of academic year celebrations, such as graduations and moving-up ceremonies.

“Please keep in mind that until we are given official guidance from the NYS Department of Health, the current Covid health and safety practices in our school buildings remain in place. District mask policies include requirements for mask use on school buses, in classrooms, and in school hallways. Face masks are no longer required to be worn when students are outside, including when participating in outdoor sports”


Newest numbers

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, in a release Tuesday morning, reported just three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s tally to 24,385.

While there were no new deaths to report, McCoy announced one previously unreported death — of a woman in her seventies — from December 2020 that was identified during data analysis. That brings the county’s COVID-19 death toll to 395.

The five-day average for new daily positives increased slightly from 3 to 3.2. There are now 21 active cases in the county, down from 24 yesterday.

According to the state’s dashboard, Albany County’s infection rate, as of Monday, as a seven-day rolling average, was 0.3 percent. Statewide, also  as of Monday, as a seven-day rolling average, the infection rate was 0.4 percent.

The number of Albany County residents under quarantine decreased to 47 from 50. So far, 79,914 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 24,364 of them had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of six recoveries since yesterday.

There were two new hospitalizations overnight, and five county residents are currently hospitalized from the virus — a net increase of two. There are still two patients currently in intensive-care units, unchanged from Monday.

“While the death being announced today didn’t happen overnight, we still have one more Albany County resident whose life was tragically cut short because of COVID-19. I’m sending my thoughts and prayers to the family,” McCoy said in the release. “And despite the fact that this death happened back in December, we know that people are losing their lives everyday across this country and New York State because of this virus. The best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated, and we still have plenty of options coming up for you to get your shot.”

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