Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fireworks Erupt in Most Major NY Cities:
UPDATE: All Covid restrictions have been lifted after NY hits 70% vax rate

NEW YORK — It was 465 days. That’s how long New Yorkers endured stricter capacity, social distancing, disinfection and additional health screening requirements in businesses and social settings since the COVID-19 pandemic official began March 7, 2020. The first New York resident tested positive for COVID-19 on March 1, 2020.

Most of the state’s mandated coronavirus restrictions were lifted Tuesday afternoon after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced more than 70% of New York adults have received at least one COVID vaccine dose to be inoculated against the upper respiratory disease.

“What does 70% mean? It means we can now return to life as we know it,” Cuomo said while delivering a speech Tuesday on the 64th Floor of One World Trade Center in Manhattan.

The pandemic-era rules were immediately lifted for sports and recreational centers, construction, manufacturing and trade, food services, offices, real estate, agriculture, gyms, malls, movie theaters, personal care services and more. The state’s limits on public and private social gatherings, requirements for contact tracing and additional cleaning and social-distancing protocols were also lifted immediately following the governor’s announcement.

“New York has vaccinated a larger share of adults than any other big state in the country,” Cuomo said. “We’re no longer just surviving ... Life is not about survival, life is about thriving. Life is about seeing people, life is about loving. Life is about celebrating, life is about enjoying, life is about interacting and now we get back to living and life.”

State requirements remain in effect for students in pre-K through 12th grade to wear masks or facial coverings. Masks must continue to be worn on public transportation and in health care settings, Cuomo said, citing the current U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines. The state’s state of emergency also remains in effect, along with the governor’s expanded decision-making and spending authorities.

Firework displays will be held across the state Tuesday night, with state landmarks to be lit in blue and gold in honor of reaching the vaccine milestone and end of the pandemic rules. Fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m. above the New York Harbor in New York City, the Empire State Plaza in Albany, Binghamton University M Lot, Lake Placid Club, Niagara Falls State Park, Nyack Memorial Park the Rochester Dome Arena, the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse and downtown Utica.

Local state representatives called the lifting of the restrictions welcome news, while also taking the opportunity to again call on Cuomo to end the state of emergency.

“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,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said in a statement. “Only then can we fully repeal unnecessary restrictions like masks mandates for school children.”

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, whose district includes part of Livingston County said the news was “long overdue” and “a credit to the resilience and commitment of New Yorkers, who have endured extraordinary challenges over the past 15 months.”

“Today’s declaration only underscores the reality that the governor still wields unilateral, decision-making power thanks to the Legislature’s failure to reassert its constitutional duty before the end of the legislative session,” Borrello said, who called on the Legislature to “return to Albany to end the disaster declaration and the unjustifiable executive power it is perpetuating.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said that New York had “reached a state of recovery – not emergency – and residents and businesses deserve to return to a sense of normalcy” as called for an end to emergency declarations and mandates.

“After all the governor’s rhetoric today, after another self-congratulatory speech and after his orchestrated celebrations are over, New York is still, inexplicably, operating under a state of emergency,” Barclay said. “The real celebrations should take place once we are all out from under Gov. Cuomo’s unilateral control.”

Ortt, in his statement, also thanked “the thousands of frontline workers, healthcare professionals and countless others who helped us through this crisis and led us to this point. I would also like to recognize the many small businesses who fought to make it out of this pandemic and provided paychecks to millions of New York families during this difficult time.”

Added Barclay: “For thousands who lost loved ones, whose jobs are gone and never coming back, or whose livelihood was taken away due to lockdown orders, today’s announcement is hardly a cause for celebration or a fireworks display. It’s yet another reminder of the steep price that was paid.”

New York State reached the 70% goal two-and-a-half weeks ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal to vaccinate 70% of eligible Americans by the Fourth of July holiday. Global health experts, including the CDC and the World Health Organization, classify 70% as the minimum percentage to reach herd immunity against a disease.

Long Island has the highest rate of vaccinated adults at 75.3%, followed by 74.4% of people ages 18 and older in the Capital Region.

About 71.9% of people in the Mid-Hudson region have been vaccinated, with 70.5% in Central New York, 69.5% in Western New York and 69.5% in the Finger Lakes. The North Country has the second-lowest vaccination rate of the state’s 10 regions at 63.9%.

COVID-19 vaccinations are lowest in the Mohawk Valley at 60.6%.

About 68.4% of people have been vaccinated in New York City, the global epicenter of the virus in March and April 2020. The state had the nation’s highest COVID positivity rate at the time, peaking in April at 48.16%. New York had one of the lowest infection rates of any U.S. state or territory Tuesday at 0.40%.

Cuomo, who remains under an impeachment probe by the state Legislature and multiple investigations by state and federal prosecutors, did not take questions from the press after Tuesday’s announcement. Cuomo noted the state reached the 70% mark and could lift most pandemic rules on June 15 — his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s birthday.

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