Maybe Gov. Andrew Cuomo should have saved the fireworks displays until we had more to celebrate.
The governor on Tuesday announced the lifting of most of the state’s covid restrictions, including mask rules and social distancing, due to New York reaching a 70% vaccination rate.
The milestone was to be marked Tuesday night with a celebration of fireworks displays around the state. The display was also intended, the governor wisely added later, to honor health workers.
Ding-Dong, New York. The Wicked Witch is dead.
But while the state’s infection, hospitalizations and death rates have plummeted lately, we are not out of the woods.
To achieve herd immunity to ensure that all of society is protected, about 75%-85% need to be fully vaccinated.
We’re also not sure how new variants of the virus will affect caseloads in the future, particularly if so many people continue to remain not fully vaccinated.
That 70% vaccination rate touted by the Cuomo administration is only the percentage of adult New Yorkers that have received one dose of the two-dose vaccine.
“What does 70% mean?” Cuomo said in Manhattan on Tuesday. “It means that we can now return to life as we know it.”
The governor might want that to be true to help detract attention from his political and legal troubles. But the number is misleading and potentially dangerous.
The two-shot vaccines aren’t nearly as effective in protecting you against covid-19 and its variants without the second shot.
If you’re older and at greater risk of harm from the virus, you’re much more vulnerable without the second shot.
The truth is only around half of New York’s 19.3 million residents (adults and children) are fully vaccinated.
The percentage of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose was only about 58% on Monday.
In New York City, where nearly half the state’s population lives, only 58% of residents in Manhattan are fully vaccinated — and that’s by far the highest of the five boroughs.
In some rural counties of the state like Allegany and Wyoming, the percentage of full vaccination is still in the 30s.
If you look around the country and the rest of the world, such a celebration in many places also would be premature.
In the United States, only 53% of American have gotten at least one shot and only 44% are fully vaccinated.
Fears about the new Delta variant, which is about 64% more transmissible than the original virus, prompted England on Monday to delay full reopening for a full month.
We’re not saying the situation hasn’t improved drastically. And we’re not saying rules shouldn’t be relaxed.
But until more people get fully vaccinated, there is still a danger that those rates of infection, hospitalization and death could rise again.
If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.
And everyone should continue to take precautions until the time comes when we can really celebrate.