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 officially 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 current U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines.
The state’s state of emergency remains in effect, along with the governor’s expanded decision-making and spending authorities.
Fireworks 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.
The 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 pandemic, 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 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 — the birthday of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Check back for more details on this developing story.