New York|N.Y. businesses can choose to end most remaining limits after 70 percent of adults have gotten one shot, the governor says.
New York will lift most of its remaining pandemic-era restrictions on businesses and social settings once 70 percent of the state’s adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Monday.
The governor said that reaching the threshold would signify the end of restrictions on capacity limits, social distancing, disinfection protocols and health screenings. Instead, it would become optional for stores, restaurants, offices, gyms, hair salons and other businesses to impose such health precautions on their premises.
He said, however, that the state would abide by mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some restrictions would also continue in schools, public transit, homeless shelters and large venues, as well as correctional and health care facilities.
“When we hit 70 percent we will be back to life as normal,” Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said during a news conference in Manhattan. “Or as normalized as you can be post-Covid.”
So far, 68.6 percent of New Yorkers over 18 have received at least one shot, he said. Mr. Cuomo said reaching 70 percent would depend on the state’s efforts promoting the vaccine in ZIP codes with low vaccination rates, but he estimated the state could reach the threshold in as soon as eight days.
Even after the state hits the threshold, businesses could still choose to require masks and six feet of social distancing, precautions that state health officials strongly recommend in indoor setting where it may be unclear who is vaccinated.
The announcement was the latest effort by Mr. Cuomo to accelerate the state’s economic reopening while also incentivizing people to get a vaccine as inoculation rates in the state, and the country, have tumbled.
Last week, the state ended the midnight curfew on indoor dining for bars and restaurants, a major milestone in the state’s recovery that eliminated one of the most burdensome rules on the restaurant industry. Twenty-four-hour subway service also resumed on May 17.
Bars and restaurants were allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity on May 19, but certain precautions, such as social distancing, were left in place if all patrons were not vaccinated. Restaurants, for example, currently must either place tables six feet apart or separate them with physical barriers.
Currently, businesses are still required to have hand hygiene stations, specific air filtration systems and protocols to disinfect surfaces at least once a day. The social gathering limit in the state is 250 people for indoor settings and 500 for outdoors, limits that can currently be bypassed if everyone shows proof of vaccination.
To coax New Yorkers to get vaccinated, state officials have also opened vaccination sites at subway stations, raffled off college scholarships and given away free baseball game tickets.
Mr. Cuomo has also encouraged entertainment venues, such as sports arenas and concert halls, to require that most, if not all, attendants be fully vaccinated. More than 58 percent of adults in the state were fully vaccinated.
The easing of restrictions comes as the state’s coronavirus metrics have improved markedly after a winter holiday resurgence and more people have gotten vaccinated.
The seven-day average positivity rate statewide was 0.51 percent on Monday, the lowest since the pandemic began, the governor said. And the number of people currently hospitalized because of the virus dropped to 799, the lowest level in months.
Also on Monday, Mr. Cuomo said that while children will be required to wear mask indoors at schools for the remainder of the school year, it will be up to local school districts to decide whether children will be required to wear masks outside.
New York City officials said they planned to continue the city’s universal mask policy at schools, but would abide by any changes in C.D.C. mask and social distancing guidelines.