NY celebrates 70% vaccination milestone, end of COVID restrictions with fireworks

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Fireworks lit up the night sky Tuesday after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced state-mandated coronavirus restrictions are being lifted immediately as new data showed 70% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The data was released late Monday evening by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Cuomo had previously said that the state would lift the remaining restrictions when the state hit the benchmark.

Capacity limits, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing will now become optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other social and commercial settings.

Mask rules would still apply to large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities.

Unvaccinated individuals will still be responsible for maintaining proper social distancing of six feet and wearing a mask as per federal CDC guidance.

During his press conference on Tuesday, the governor stressed that New York State has come an extremely long way over the last 15 months, and possibly even longer.

“New York was the victim of COVID. The fact was that when everyone was talking about COVID and China, COVID had left China and has gone to Europe and was in Italy and Spain and France and the flights from Europe landed where? JFK,” Cuomo said. "We were ambushed by COVID. We had people dying from COVID before we even knew it was here.”

He continued: “[We had the] highest infection rate on the globe and we were alone, and it was frightening – it was like living through a science fiction movie.”

However, the governor was proud of the turnaround the state has been able to accomplish and thanked all New Yorkers for their hard work in overcoming the pandemic.

“Where are we today? We have the lowest COVID positive rate in the United States of America,” Cuomo said. “What New York has done is extraordinary.
We went, literally, from worst to first.”

The governor said that reaching the 70% benchmark now means that “we can now return to life as we know it.”

To celebrate the milestone, Cuomo confirmed there would be fireworks displays all across the state at 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday night.

“Wherever you are, it will be in your community,” the governor said.

Some municipalities had already started to post details about the event prior to the governor's press conference.

The Village of Nyack announced the state would host a fireworks show in Memorial Park at 9 p.m.

Fireworks were also to be held in New York Harbor, Jones Beach State Park, Binghamton University, Empire State Plaza, Lake Placid Club, Niagara Falls State Park, Rochester Dome Arena, New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, and Downtown Utica.

Landmarks across the state, including the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, were also lit in blue and gold to mark the milestone.

According to CDC data, the state has administered 20,713,525 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Over 9.7 million people in the state are fully vaccinated.

During his Tuesday press conference, Cuomo announced that New York State's single-day COVID-19 positivity rate continues to remain at a record low percentage of 0.35%.

New York's 7-day average positivity rate had also dropped to 0.40% and remains among the lowest in the country.

However, even with the announcement on Tuesday, the governor stressed that the fight is not entirely over, and New Yorkers need to continue to remain vigilant as COVID variants are still a threat.

“This is not to say that our journey is over, because it's not