‘Return to life as we know it’: Cuomo lifts most COVID-19 restrictions as state hits 70% first dose vaccinations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrives to make an announcement at One World Trade Center Tower in New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo will say so long to New Yorkers when he resigns from office at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 23, 2021.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted most COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday as the state surpassed 70% of adults who received at least one shot of the vaccine. 

“What New York has done is extraordinary,” said Cuomo at a rally to celebrate the occasion inside One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan on June 15. “We can now return to life as we know it.”

New York crossed the 70% threshold Monday, federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, with more than 20.7 million vaccines administered in the state, while COVID-19 positivity rates dropped to 0.4%.

The city’s positivity rate continued to decline to 0.57% over a seven-day average as of June 13, according to the Health Department.

The state will relax its coronavirus mandates for most commercial and social settings effective Tuesday, such as retail, construction, manufacturing, gyms, movie theaters, and sports and recreation, as Cuomo first announced last week

The lifted limits include capacity restrictions, social distancing, health screening, cleaning and disinfection protocols, and information gathering for contact tracing. Businesses can keep restrictions in place as long as they don’t violate state and federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Federal CDC mask requirements will remain in effect for pre-K–12 schools, public transit, and healthcare settings, Cuomo said. 

The state public buildings will be lit in blue and gold and there will be firework displays across the Empire State, the governor said. 

However, the end of of the state’s restrictions does not mean the pandemic is over, said Cuomo. 

“That’s not to say that 70% is the end, we’re going to better than 70% but it is an important milestone and we’re going to keep pushing to do more,” he said. 

He likened the city’s coronavirus recovery from a peak positivity rate of more than 48% last year to Gotham’s comeback after the September 11 attacks, saying that New York is poised to emerge better than ever.

“Twenty years ago, 9/11, we got knocked on our rear end and there are a lot of similarities between the 9/11 moment and the COVID moment,” Cuomo said. “We came back better than ever, even with other obstacles. This site, One World Trade Center, a symbol of resilience and determination of faith. You knock us down, we get up, we get up stronger and taller than ever before because that’s who we are.”