New York close to 70% vaccination benchmark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a COVID-19 briefing at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse on Monday. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office

SYRACUSE — The state is less than a tenth of a percent from reversing its COVID-19 and pandemic-era restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, before announcing additional incentives to increase the vaccination rate in hundreds of communities.

About 69.9% of New York adults have received at least one dose in getting vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. Last week, the governor announced the state will lift all capacity, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, contact tracing and additional health screening requirements in commercial and social settings once 70% of adults have received at least one shot.

“The national goal is 70% — we’re at 69.9%,” Gov. Cuomo said Monday during a COVID-19 briefing at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. “We’re going to hit 70, it’s just a matter of time, and it’s going to be cause for celebration.”

Global health experts, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the World Health Organization, classify 70% as the minimum percentage to reach herd immunity against a disease.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden set the national goal to vaccinate 70% of eligible Americans by the Fourth of July holiday.

More than 9.8 million New Yorkers are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, with more than 11.1 million people receiving at least one dose to date. About 200,000 more people were vaccinated over the last week, edging the state closer to the 70% goal.

“[When we hit 70%] We want to celebrate, but we want to remember what we are celebrating,” Cuomo said. “...It doesn’t mean when we hit 70%, it’s over. It means, it’s working. It means we’re doing well, but it also means keep going, and that’s what the celebration’s going to be. It’s not the finish line at 70, but we’re coming around the last turn on the track and we have to focus.”

State Health Department and local officials continues to combine efforts in 175 ZIP codes across the state with the lowest vaccination rates. Of the 1,755 ZIP codes across New York, those in the bottom 10% are at or below a vaccine rate of 38.8%.

The target areas had an average vaccination rate of 36.3% when the governor announced the focus areas one week ago.

Monsey in Rockland County of the Mid-Hudson Region has the state’s lowest vaccine rate of 17.8%, up slightly from 17.6% last week.

Three Capital Region ZIP codes have risen slightly in the last seven days: Surprise, in Greene County, at 28.2%; Jewett on the mountaintop at 32.6% from 32.8%, and Coeymans Hollow in southern Albany County at 27.3% from 26.8%.

“These are the target areas you want to increase the vaccination rate all across the state of New York — I want local governments to pay attention to these ZIP codes,” Cuomo said. “Get in there, go door to door, go to churches, go to social events, go to community events.”

Evans Mills, in Jefferson County, has the state’s sixth-lowest vaccine rate at 31.9%, up from 30.6%. La Fargeville ranked 24th lowest for vaccine rates at 34.8%, up a week ago from 34.1%. Calcium, also in Jefferson County, remains a state focus at 32.2%.

The state partnered with six upstate public transportation providers Monday to incentivize more residents to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Any New Yorker eligible to get their first dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s two-dose, or Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine will get an unlimited seven-day pass for to ride any method of public transportation for free within a participating provider’s transit network.

The program starts Tuesday and runs for a month through July 14. Any person who gets their first vaccine dose from June 15 to July 14 and presents a proof of vaccination at a participating transportation redemption center by July 14 will receive their one-week pass.

The Capital District Transportation Authority, Greater Glens Falls Transit, Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, Central New York Regional Transportation Authority, Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit and Broome County Transit are participating in the program.

“If you get a vaccine, get an unlimted transit pass,” the governor said. “You don’t have to pay for any cost on public transportation for the week — every upstate transportation agency is working with us on that. ...Another good reason to get it done.”

The incentive is one of several active state programs to encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated against novel coronavirus COVID-19 — including free two-day passes to a state park, free tickets to a Yankees or Mets baseball game, a $5 million lottery ticket or an ongoing drawing for a free four-year scholarship to any public college or university.

Health officials are working to target vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds against COVID-19, who remain the eligible age group with the lowest percentage of people fully vaccinated.

About 21.1% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the state have been vaccinated against the disease.

The state’s COVID-19 positivity dipped to 0.52% Monday, which reflects a continuing 70-day decline from the surge over the winter months and holiday season. The state’s infection rate peaked at 7.94% Jan. 4.

New York’s positivity rate over a seven-day average is 0.41%, down to its lowest infection rate since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and a tenth of a percent lower than 0.51% one week ago.

Each of the state’s 10 regions has maintained a virus infection rate below 1% for the first time since last August.

The Capital Region has the highest virus positivity at 0.64%, but down from 0.85% one week ago, according to the state Health Department.

The Finger Lakes region has the second-highest number of new coronavirus infections at 0.62% — down from 0.98% last week.

The state reports about 0.38% positivity, down from 0.66%, in Western New York and a flat 0.58% positive in the North Country, which is slightly up from 0.5% this time last week.

New York City, the initial global epicenter of the virus outbreak in spring 2020, has an infection rate of 0.39%.

Virus hospitalizations in the state reached a new eight-month low Monday at 617 patients, down 13 people overnight. About 800 New Yorkers were hospitalized with virus complications one week ago.

Seven New Yorkers died from coronavirus complications Sunday, flat from single-digit daily fatalities over the last week.

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