What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will lift virtually all remaining COVID rules for businesses and social settings once 70% of New York adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose
- NY's industry-specific guidelines for businesses from retail to restaurants, gyms, amusement centers and salons will be optional; they'll stay mandatory for schools and transit
- In perhaps the most symbolic sign of recovery yet, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says NYC will hold a ticker-tape parade to celebrate frontline heroes on July 7; it'll march up the legendary Canyon of Heroes
New York is ready to return to "life as normal" -- or as close to that as what will be possible for the near future -- according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's vaccine milestone to lift remaining restrictions on businesses.
Meanwhile, the city is poised to hold its first epic ticker-tape parade since the pandemic hit. Now, officials say, that nightmare appears to be receding.
The CDC's latest data showed late Monday that 70% of adult New Yorkers have gotten at least one vaccine dose, the metric set by the governor exactly one week ago, to lift industry-specific guidelines -- including capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening and obtaining personal information for tracing -- for retail, food services, offices, gyms, amusement centers and personal care businesses, among others.
Earlier in the day, Cuomo had revealed that figure stood at 69.9% and would cross his threshold in "just a matter of time." The state did not update their number after Cuomo's press conference; it's likely that an announcement would come Tuesday regarding when businesses would be allowed to drop the requirements.
Pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, large-scale event venues, correctional and healthcare facilities and nursing homes will be exempt from that restriction lift and will be required to continue following state COVID guidance.
"You remember those frightening days," Cuomo said Monday. "We have gone from that point to today, where New York has virtually the lowest positivity rate in the United States of America. There is a logic to it -- the more people get vaccinated, the lower the positivity rate. And that's why we've been working so hard."
About 50% of all New Yorkers are fully immunized, though the pace has slowed to an exceedingly slow drip in recent weeks, especially among long-eligible adults.
When Cuomo initially announced the 70% benchmark last week, New York was 1.4% away from reaching it. It has taken a full week to shave that off, though the newest eligible group -- those ages 12 to 15, who are not included in the governor's benchmark -- have seen a higher rate of increase as of late.
The governor is also hypertargeting communities where vaccination rates are well below the state average. Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing the same in New York City.
He unveiled a new program Monday as part of the five boroughs' ongoing community-based efforts to reach those more hesitant: NYC Vaccine Referral Bonus. For every person a community organization refers to get a shot, that group gets $100. That person will also be eligible for the city's weekly vaccine contests and incentives. Groups can sign up here starting Wednesday.
"This is what we call a win-win," de Blasio said. "This is going to help us do things we haven't been able to do before right when we need to take vaccination up to the next level."
And to celebrate those he says got NYC to this point after a devastating year and a half, the mayor set July 7 as the date for his long-promised ticker-tape parade to honor frontline healthcare staff, essential workers and first responders. It will march along Manhattan's iconic Canyon of Heroes.
When asked about it in an interview later Monday, de Blasio didn't have any information regarding whether social distancing or other rules that had become standard will be necessary at the government-sponsored parade, other than "some smart precautions."
It'll be the first large parade in New York City since the pandemic hit. Expect floats for everyone from transit and grocery and education workers to healthcare staff and others. De Blasio called it "a day to celebrate the heroes who often go unsung."
"We're always going to remember the pain and the tragedy of COVID. No one is ever going to forget those we lost and what families are still going through. But we need a day to celebrate the heroism of everyday New Yorkers," de Blasio said. "Ticker-tape parades up the Canyon of Heroes, they've happened for generations, but this one is going to have a special spirit to it and a special heart and soul."
Even as fewer adults are getting newly vaccinated, New York's core viral metrics have plunged to record lows. The state's rolling positivity rate is 0.41%, among the lowest in the country, according to Johns Hopkins. It has set all-time pandemic lows for the last 17 days straight and is in the midst of a 70-day stretch of decline.
Hospitalizations have dwindled to 617, the lowest total since Oct. 3. The current total marks an 86% drop in just three months and a 93% decline from January's peak. Daily death tolls, meanwhile, have fallen into the single digits. The seven new fatalities Cuomo reported overnight mark the lowest daily toll since Oct. 20.
Cuomo says New Yorkers are ready to return to normal.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
"We are moving forward to our reimagined, post-COVID future at an incredible pace. A year ago, it was unfathomable to think we'd be at this point today," the governor said Monday as he announced the legendary New York State Fair will reopen at 100% capacity in August, a change in plan from his previous announcement in late April, when statewide COVID rates were significantly higher.
"When the facts change, we change with the facts," Cuomo said. "We're not only reopening, we're reimagining -- and it's better than before. If you haven't already, I encourage you to get your COVID-19 vaccine so that you can fully enjoy all that this beautiful state has to offer with your loved ones this summer."
Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here
New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers
Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC
Another small sign of resurgence Monday: New York City Parks reopens 13 senior recreation centers to existing members starting Monday.
Those sites include Hunts Point in the Bronx, Brownsville in Brooklyn, Greenbelt, Lyons and Faber on Staten Island, Highbridge, Hansborough, Alfred E. Smith, Rec Center 54, Thomas Jefferson and Tony Dapolito in Manhattan and Al Oerter and Lost Battalion Hall in Queens. Two additional locations, Brooklyn's McCarren and Staten Island's Ocean Breeze, reopen next Wednesday, June 23, officials say.
The centers will operate at reduced capacity and masks will be required regardless of vaccination status for now. Other places where New Yorkers still have to wear masks whether they're vaccinated or not include inside schools and on subways and buses, among other scenarios deemed to be higher-risk.
While masks will still be required on Metro-North trains, the transit agency said there will be increased service on the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines starting next week. Metro-North greatly reduced its service amid the pandemic, but will be back above 50 percent in a matter of days, and will bump up to 83 percent of pre-COVID levels by the end of August, as more businesses and schools will return to full-time in-person schedules.
Schools have hardly been breeding grounds for COVID-19, consistently showing substantially lower transmission rates than their surrounding neighborhoods. The CDC, though, still recommends masks in those settings, in part because kids in half of grades pre-K through 12 aren't yet eligible for vaccines. New guidance on that front isn't expected for a few weeks, meaning kids will stay masked up for the remainder of this academic year. For New York City public schools, it ends on June 25.
Asked recently whether masks would be required in schools this fall, de Blasio said he expects that to be the case at this particular juncture in time. That's likely to change in accordance with developments in CDC guidance over the next few months, however, and as more children become eligible for vaccination.
It's not clear how much longer it could take before even younger kids become eligible, though.
Over in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed sentiments similar to de Blasio's in the past as far as masks in schools in the fall but on Monday seemed more hopeful the mandate would end well before the next school year begins.
He was the last of the three tri-state governors to lift his statewide indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated people last month, but the tide seems to be shifting as more people get vaccinated and as New Jersey's core COVID rates continue to fall.
On Monday, the Garden State reported just five new COVID deaths and 160 new daily cases. It marks a jolting decrease in numbers that Murphy ascribes to the benefits of vaccination. He declared Monday the pandemic, or what remains of it in his state, appears to be mainly a "pandemic of unvaccinated" people -- and he urged people who haven't gotten their shots yet, for whatever reasons, to do so.
"The 260 cases that we are reporting today should be considered to be almost entirely, if not exclusively, from unvaccinated individuals," Murphy said. "This is becoming increasingly by the day a pandemic of unvaccinated individuals.”
New Jersey ranks fifth (76%) in the nation in terms of the percentage of its adult population partially vaccinated, while Connecticut comes in fourth (77%), according to New York Times data. New York is No. 14. By fully vaccinated adult population, Connecticut still ranks fourth (68%) in the country, while New Jersey is sixth (64%) and New York comes in at No. 12 (61%), Times data shows.
Nationally, 54.1% of American adults are fully vaccinated, while 64.4% have had at least one dose, according to the CDC. New daily case counts in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest point since testing became widely available, while daily death tolls are the lowest they've been since the World Health Organization declared COVID a pandemic.