ALBANY — COVID restrictions will be further eased in coming weeks in New York, with indoor fitness classes allowed to resume and the 11 p.m. curfew ended for casinos, bowling alleys, gyms and certain other businesses.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the changes Wednesday and said the 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars will be re-evaluated late next month.
The announcement came as New York state ticked up to a three-week high on positive COVID tests, with the seven-day average hitting 3.3% after hanging at 3.1% or 3.2% positive since Feb. 25.
But it also came on the day New York surpassed 7 million doses administered of the vaccine that is expected to knock down the pandemic once and for all.
Cuomo himself got the vaccine Wednesday, choosing a popup clinic at a Baptist church in Harlem for the occasion. The move reinforces his recurring message to Black and Hispanic New Yorkers that the vaccine is safe and they should stop hesitating to receive it. Both groups of New Yorkers lag well behind white and Asian New Yorkers in receiving the vaccine.
Surrounded by Black community leaders, Cuomo gave a thumbs up as the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was pumped into his right triceps.
“Don’t cry, don’t cry!” one onlooker called out.
The governor didn’t even blink.
Later Wednesday, Cuomo briefed reporters on the changes he is making to the restrictions his administration imposed to control the spread of COVID-19:
- Effective March 22, the state’s five remaining yellow-zone cluster areas (and the special restrictions that go with them) will be eliminated; they all are in New York City or the lower Hudson Valley.
- Effective April 5, the 11 p.m. curfew will be lifted for billiards halls, bowling alleys, casinos, fitness centers, gyms and movie theaters.
- In late April, the 11 p.m. curfew for food and drink establishments and the midnight curfew for catered events will be re-evaluated.
“We know the vaccine is the weapon that defeats this invisible enemy and we are getting more shots in arms than ever before,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “As we re-open and an increasing number of New Yorkers receive their vaccines, it is more important than ever to continue the practices we know stop the spread of COVID-19. I encourage New Yorkers to continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands. We are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel and if we stay New York Tough, we will get there together.”
In other COVID news Wednesday:
- As of midday, 7,003,834 doses of vaccine had been administered statewide; 4.69 million people have received at least one dose and 2.44 million have received a complete vaccine series. That’s 23.5% and 12.2% of the state population, respectively.
- Schenectady County reported it had administered 3,446 first doses from March 6-12, its most-ever for a single week, thanks to an additional allocation of vaccine from the state. As of March 17, 45,512 county residents — 29.3% of the population — have received at least one dose, placing Schenectady County for now among the highest-vaccinated counties in the state.
- The seven-day positive COVID test rate stands at 3.3% statewide, 1.8% in the Capital Region and 1.5% in the Mohawk Valley. At the county level, the rate is Albany 1.6%, Fulton 2.8%, Montgomery 2.9%, Rensselaer 1.3%, Saratoga 2.3%, Schenectady 2.0% and Schoharie 2.4%. Statewide, 4,624 people were hospitalized with COVID, 95 in the Capital Region and 64 in the Mohawk Valley. The official state tally of those killed by the virus reached 39,690 with 54 new deaths, including one each in Rensselaer and Schenectady counties.