Updated: June 15, 2021 05:09 PM
Created: June 15, 2021 11:49 AM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Virtually all COVID-19 restrictions in New York State were officially lifted Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement as the state hit its goal to have 70% of adults get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Cuomo said restrictions on capacity, physical distancing, and health screening are now lifted at most places, including businesses, restaurants, and gyms. Sharing contact information for potential contact tracing is also lifted.
Cuomo said schools, public transit, and health care facilities would still be under restrictions. People who are unvaccinated will still be asked to wear a mask and keep physical distance.
Tuesday's news marked the largest repeal of restrictions since the state first announced it would adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines on masking and physical distancing for people with the vaccine.
Cuomo reflected upon the state's experiences with the virus, saying the state was "ambushed" by the virus. This includes the statewide positivity rate, which at one point sat at 48.16%, the highest in the country at the time. As of Tuesday, state data showed the rate at 0.40%, the lowest in the country.
While restrictions are rolling back, the Governor said the state is still focusing on zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates across the state. The Finger Lakes Region currently has three zip codes on the state's top 25 list, which include two in Rochester (14,163 and 14,605) and one in Romulus (14,541).
Several pop-up vaccine clinics continue on, including Monroe County's ongoing "Choose Your Brew" campaign.
At a pop-up vaccine clinic that is part of the campaign at the Irondequoit Beer Company Tuesday evening, there was a steady stream of people coming through to get that shot, with a beer, including older people who have been eligible to get a vaccine for months.
Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza said that's significant, and a sign that, even as we cross a major mile stone, there is work to do and there are people to reach.
He said it's thrilling to see the end of so many burdensome restrictions, especially urges people to get outside, but he's not declaring victory.
"I can understand why some people are vaccinated, whole family vaccinated, visiting the relatives and all that, it's generally over," Mendoza said. "The reality is we still have a large number of people 11 and under or not you're going to get the vaccine. And so, it's not over until we figure out how to get everybody vaccinated and ensure everybody can remain healthy and safe."
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says the county's vaccination rate is above 70%, but that's not the case in all communities, so there are more people to reach.
Concerns still exist over the Delta strain of the virus, which originated in India. The variant currently makes up 6% of all cases in the U.S., but research from the United Kingdom shows the Pfizer vaccine to be 96% effective in keeping people who catch the variant out of the hospital.
Despite that, the COVID-19 rates continue to drop in New York, as Sunday it was announced the state hit its single-day record low for positivity rate over a seven-day span. Rochester General Hospital and Unity Hospital, which are both a part of Rochester Regional Health, announced Monday there are no new COVID-19 cases in either hospital's intensive care unit.
Additionally, Cuomo said businesses can still choose to keep previous restrictions in place.
In celebration of the milestone, Cuomo announced fireworks will be launched across several cities including Rochester Tuesday night. The local display will launch from the Dome Arena in Henrietta at around 9:15 p.m. Members of the public wishing to view the fireworks should use the East Henrietta Road entrance. They will then be directed to the parking and public viewing areas by Town of Henrietta employees and state troopers.
The state-wide fireworks will launch locally at the Dome Arena in Henrietta. https://t.co/IeKkNaHmF8— news10nbc (@news10nbc) June 15, 2021
Cuomo did not take questions from reporters.
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