© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NYS hits 70% vaccination milestone, most mandates lifted

Office of the Governor
Cuomo thanked supporters at a celebration at NYC's World Trade Center, after the state reached his goal of 70% of adults receving at least one vaccine dose.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he is lifting all remaining state COVID-19 restrictions, including requirements for masks and social distancing, and capacity limits at events, now that New York has reached the governor’s goal of 70% of adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.

Cuomo, in a campaign-style event held before a cheering crowd of union leaders and others at the World Trade Center, said the goal was reached sometime on Monday, according to numbers compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Seventy percent vaccination,” Cuomo announced to applause. “It is the national goal and we hit it ahead of schedule.”

The number of New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received all of their required doses two or more weeks ago, is significantly lower, at around 50.3%, according to numbers from the State Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s far less than what scientists say is enough people vaccinated to reach herd immunity from the virus.

Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for a vaccine. In some rural and urban low-income areas, less than 35% are fully vaccinated.

Despite that, Cuomo said there will no longer be any state imposed restrictions at restaurants, gyms and hair salons or for concerts or social gatherings.  

“The state mandates that have proven right and correct and brought us through this pandemic are relaxed as of today,” Cuomo said.

Credit Ian Pickus / WAMC

Cuomo gave awards to union leaders for the essential work their members performed during the pandemic, while others were able to stay safely at home. The governor said in celebration of New York’s milestone, all state-owned buildings will be lit with blue and gold lighting and there will be fireworks displays in cities across the state.

In his remarks, the governor recounted how New York went from the world epicenter of the coronavirus in spring 2020 to now having the lowest infection rate in the nation. He also listed building projects that his administration has completed in recent years, saying he hopes there will be more progress in the post-pandemic era.

There was no mention at the event of the over 2 million New Yorkers who were sickened by the coronavirus, the over 40,000 New Yorkers who died from COVID-19 or of their grieving friends and families.

Not all of the pandemic-related restrictions are over yet. Even though New York no longer requires special rules to protect people from the virus, federal regulations still apply.

Masks continue to be required on public transit and in health care settings. The CDC continues to recommend that unvaccinated people continue to wear masks. Children, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, will continue to wear masks inside schools.

The governor acknowledges that things are not automatically back to normal. He said New York is still in the process of reopening from the months-long mandatory lockdowns and he said there are still dangerous variants of the virus spreading in other parts of the world.

In a statement, the business group Upstate United said it agrees that there is more work to be done. They say 1.3 million New Yorkers are unemployed and one-third of small businesses have not yet reopened.

The state’s restaurant industry called Cuomo’s announcement “a critically important step forward” on a long road to recovery. Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said more needs to be done to help struggling restaurants, including lobbying the federal government to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The celebratory announcement comes as Cuomo faces multiple scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment and in one case sexual assault, accusations that he and his top aides covered up the true number of nursing home residents who died from the virus, and allegations that he gave family and friends special access to COVID-19 tests and used staff to help him write a memoir. There are ongoing federal and state investigations and the state Assembly is conducting an impeachment inquiry.

The governor could have been speaking about what he  hopes is his own political comeback when he recounted the societal efforts needed to fully recover back from the long pandemic.

“What do you do when you get knocked down? Do you stay down? Do you feel sorry for yourself?" Cuomo said his voice rising, “or do you pull yourself up and say, 'I’m going to learn and I’m going to be better?'”

Even though the governor said all COVID-related restrictions are over, he still holds the emergency powers granted to him at the start of the pandemic by the state legislature. The Senate and Assembly did not act to rescind the temporary powers before they adjourned the legislative session for the summer.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
Related Content