ALBANY — New York is on the verge of a significant rollback of COVID restrictions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that when at least 70% of New Yorkers age 18 and older have at least one dose of vaccine in their arms, many of the rules imposed for the last 15 months — health screening, social distancing, capacity limits, disinfection requirements — will become optional for retailers, gyms, offices and other commercial settings.
New York is quite close to 70%.
The state’s own dashboard indicates that 66.3% of adult New Yorkers have at least one shot but Cuomo on Monday cited the federal Centers for Disease Control tally — 68.6%.
“When we hit 70%, then I feel comfortable saying to the people of this state we can relax virtually all restrictions,” Cuomo said. “We’re at 68.6, almost there, but this isn’t horseshoes. We want to be at 70%. [Another] 1.4%, and then we can lift the capacity restriction, social distancing, the hygiene protocols, the health screenings, the potential tracing.”
A population vaccination rate of 70% is one of the estimates of what it would take to reach herd immunity, a situation where enough people are vaccinated that the virus can’t move quickly enough from person to person to sustain a pandemic-level infection rate.
Only 47.3% of the entire state population was fully vaccinated as of Monday, according to the state dashboard. Children now ineligible or ineligible until recently are lowering the total numbers. Just 25% of New Yorkers age 12-15 and none below age 12 have received the shot. Cuomo on Monday urged counties and school districts to offer on-site vaccinations to students in the short remainder of the school year.
Meanwhile, the return to normalcy that Cuomo promised upon 70% adult vaccination is partial and conditional.
Those who are not vaccinated are still expected to mask up and keep six feet away from everyone else in public, for starters.
Also, the state protocols will remain in place at large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12th-grade schools, public transit, homeless shelters, jails and prisons, nursing homes and healthcare settings.
Finally, businesses still will be able to require masks and six foot distancing on premises.
New York continues to make progress against the pandemic. For the first time since Aug. 19, the seven-day average positive COVID test rate in each of the state’s 10 regions is below 1%. The statewide rate was just 0.51% on Sunday; the Capital Region stood at 0.61% and the Mohawk Valley at 0.74%.
Statewide, 799 people were hospitalized with COVID, the fewest since early October.
The daily death toll continues to decrease most days, as well; nine new deaths were reported statewide Monday, including a Schenectady County woman in her 80s.
New York has the highest rate of vaccination of any large-population state, though not every part of New York is highly vaccinated. Cuomo noted at the news conference that the vaccination rate in the bottom 10% of New York ZIP codes is below 36%. Among the places he listed was Fort Plain in Montgomery County.
Locally, six of the eight Capital Region counties exceed the statewide rate of residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine. All six Mohawk Valley counties lag behind the statewide rate.
More from The Daily Gazette: