Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 70% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, adding that the state will celebrate by easing many of its remaining social distancing rules and shooting fireworks.
“What does 70% mean? It means we can now come back to life as we know it,” Cuomo told the invitation-only crowd at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Effective immediately, he said, the state is lifting regulations that require a range of businesses to follow cleaning protocols or to take people’s temperatures or screen them for recent COVID-19 symptoms.
Businesses will no longer have to follow social distancing rules, or keep people 6 feet (2 meters) apart based on how many people to allow inside. New York previously allowed businesses to stop enforcing social distancing and mask rules for vaccinated patrons.
Some rules will remain: New Yorkers will continue to wear masks in schools, subways, large spaces, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and prisons for now.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said there would be a fireworks display across the state on Tuesday. He had said in the past that the fireworks would be a reminder of the 70% limit, but said on Tuesday that the fireworks are meant to honor essential workers.
New York has, essentially, been on that mark for days. It reached 69.5% of adults on Saturday and 69.9% on Monday.
But Cuomo said New York would remember Tuesday, June 15 — also the birthdate of his late father, former Governor Mario Cuomo — as the date when New York “raised again.”
It is not clear how many more people will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, when enough people have immunity that the virus has trouble spreading.
It is unclear what that threshold is for the coronavirus, although many experts say it is 70% or more. According to federal figures, only half of all 20 million residents of all ages in New York have been fully vaccinated.
Leading medical experts have retreated from focusing on a set number for herd immunity: Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a June 4 interview that the country’s priority should be to vaccinate as many people as possible “to find out That’s the number for what it is.”
Since January 1 alone, nearly 1.1 million people in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state data, but new infections have declined this spring.
Over the past seven days, New York has reported an average of about 455 new coronavirus cases a day, the lowest level recorded since the pandemic began. Fewer than 620 people were hospitalized across the state.
The pace of vaccination has also slowed down considerably. New York delivered about 582,000 doses over the past seven days, which is less than the average of 1 million doses each week.
New York has tried to boost vaccination rates by offering a $5 million lottery scratch ticket and discontinuing a four-year public college scholarship.
Vaccination rates are low in parts of the state, including rural counties and parts of New York City.
In Allegany County, a rural area in western New York, only 30% of the population is vaccinated.
Also on Tuesday, health officials announced that an expired COVID-19 vaccine was administered to nearly 900 people at a vaccination site in Times Square earlier this month. The New York City Department of Health said the 899 people who received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the former NFL Experience Building in Times Square between June 5 and June 10 should schedule another Pfizer shot as soon as possible.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.