New York State is reopening from most Covid-19 restrictions, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday afternoon.
The governor said that more than 70% of New York State adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, meeting a threshold he set last week that would trigger an easing of most of the state's restrictions that have been in place during the 15-month pandemic.
"This is a momentous day," Cuomo said from One World Trade Center. "It's been a long, long road.
"Life is about interacting. Now we get back to living, and life."
Western New York's regional vaccination rate is 69.5%; Long Island's is the state's high among the 10 regions at 75.3%.
Cuomo said many of the state's landmarks will be lit up in blue and gold while fireworks displays would be held throughout the state tonight. Niagara Falls will be lit up and Niagara Falls State Park is one of 10 fireworks sites; fireworks begin at 9:15 p.m.
"It's our way of saying thank you all across the state to essential workers, to celebrate our reopening, our reimagining," the governor said, "and to remind New Yorkers to get vaccinated, so you don't need the essential workers again."
Cuomo said the state went from the highest Covid-19 positivity rate in the country, 48.16%, to the lowest in the country at 0.40% today, citing Johns Hopkins University statistics.
"What New York has done has been extraordinary," Cuomo said.
Restrictions being lifted – in most commercial settings – include social distancing, capacity limits, cleaning requirements, health screening protocols, as well as contact tracing preparations.
"The state mandates that have proven right and correct and brought us through this pandemic are relaxed as of today, effective immediately," Cuomo said.
State mask policy still follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which requires unvaccinated individuals to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
After state restrictions are lifted, businesses may implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons, including requiring masks and 6 feet of social distancing.
The state's Covid-19 guidelines will still apply to several categories – including large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings – until more New Yorkers are vaccinated.
The governor had announced on June 7 that the state would fully reopen, with some caveats, when the state hit the 70% mark.
"That's not to say 70% is the end," Cuomo said. "We want to do more. But it is a testament to the people of New York."
In his 41-minute speech, Cuomo listed the state's accomplishments during the pandemic, paid tribute to former Gov. Mario Cuomo on his late father's birthday, and drew comparisons to New York's recovery from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"On 9/11, we got knocked on our rear end, and there are a lot of similarities," the governor said. "Remember those who said New York would never come back ... you know we came back, and we are standing in a monument to coming back better than ever before.
"The recovery was not automatic, it was not spontaneous – we had to restore confidence and restore faith and restore security. ... You knock us down, we get back up. We get back stronger and taller than ever before, because that's who we are. ... We rise as New Yorkers."
On June 7, the state had 68.6% of adults with one dose of the vaccine. Near the end of the June 7 news conference, Cuomo asked his staff to take a guess on which day the state would hit 70%. His staff's guesses ranged from a week to a month. Cuomo guessed eight days.
On Monday, the governor set the stage for today's announcement by announcing that the number had reached 69.9% during a news conference in Syracuse.