Gov. Cuomo: ‘Today is a milestone in New York state’s war against COVID’

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday is a “milestone” in New York’s pandemic response efforts.

Wednesday marks May 19, the day the governor targeted for “major reopening” efforts statewide earlier this month.

Effective May 19, the state has adopted the CDC guidance on masking, and distancing for fully vaccinated people. It also mark the day that capacity restrictions are lifted for many industries, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and more.

Additionally, the outdoor food and drink service curfew was lifted Monday, with indoor food and drink service curfew scheduled to be lifted at the end of the month. Those lifted curfews will be in effect for catered events statewide as well.

The governor released the following statement Wednesday:

“Today is a milestone in New York State’s war against COVID. With positivity and hospitalization rates at their lowest levels since last fall, and more than 10 million New Yorkers having received at least one vaccine dose, today New York State is adopting the CDC’s updated guidance on masks and social distancing. 

This means that, 399 days after New York was the first state in the country to implement a mask mandate, effective today, fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to use a face covering in most public places. New York is coming back, and it’s a testament to the strength and grit of New Yorkers who banded together, stayed tough, and fought as one to defeat this COVID beast.

The steps we’re taking today don’t mean that COVID has been officially relegated to the history books. We need to stay vigilant, continue to follow the safety guidelines in place, and help every single eligible New Yorker get vaccinated, so that we can finally reach that light at the end of the tunnel. And as we start to climb the next mountains in our path, we need to ensure that the values that got New York through this crisis — community, discipline, strength, toughness, and love for each other — endure.”

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated. The CDC will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds.

“If you are vaccinated, you are safe,” Gov. Cuomo said. “No masks, no social distancing.”

The governor said individual private venues still have the ability to add additional guidelines to existing state and federal guidance should they choose to do so.

“We took a couple of days to analyze what it would be,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We aligned it with our guidance, we’re announcing that today. We’re then giving vendors, local government notice today. It goes into effect Wednesday, so they have a day to make adjustments. I’m sure they’ll say it’s too fast, they need more than a day, but that’s where we are.”

The governor said he expects that many people will continue to wear masks even if they are fully vaccinated as people adapt to this next phase of the pandemic.

“”This has gone beyond government rules and regulations,” Gov. Cuomo said. “People have inculcated this [mask] into their psyche. I’ve had more people ask me ‘are you saying I can’t wear a mask anymore? Because I still want to wear a mask.’ I suspect there will be a lot of people who are not just going to flick a switch and be over this. I think there is going to be lingering concern. And I think you’ll see a lot of people wearing masks going forward, but it is up to the private vendor, or venue.”

There are some caveats in the new CDC guidance. Officials encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Masks will still be required on public transportation, in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, and health care facilities.

Ghinwa Dumyati, M.D., an Infectious Disease Expert at URMC, said it’s important those who choose not to get vaccinated continue to protect themselves and others.

“If you elect not to get vaccinated, eventually you remain at risk of getting the disease from other unvaccinated people, so you have to still remain careful and use distance and face masks and avoid crowded situations where you are unmasked,” Dumyati explained.

She also said she hopes these new guidelines encourage those who haven’t been vaccinated to get the shot.

“I am hoping that people that are on the fence, you know, will choose to get vaccinated so we can go back to life, going back to seeing people, the movies, restaurants,” Dumyati said. “I just have to emphasize how important and how freeing it is to be vaccinated…you can go back to what you we were doing more than a year and half ago.”

For Wednesday’s update on COVID-19 numbers in New York, the governor provided the following data:

Today’s data is summarized briefly below:

  • Test Results Reported – 142,770
  • Total Positive – 1,431
  • Percent Positive – 1.00%
  • 7-Day Average Percent Positive – 1.06%
  • Patient Hospitalization – 1,521 (-64)
  • Net Change Patient Hospitalization Past Week – -407
  • Patients Newly Admitted – 205
  • Number ICU – 362 (-25)
  • Number ICU with Intubation – 209 (-14)
  • Total Discharges – 180,300 (217)
  • Deaths – 21
  • Total Deaths – 42,524

Each region’s 7-day average percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:

Capital Region1.34%1.26%1.16%
Central New York1.37%1.38%1.43%
Finger Lakes2.72%2.58%2.55%
Long Island0.98%0.94%0.91%
Mohawk Valley1.15%1.07%1.00%
New York City0.91%0.88%0.86%
North Country2.00%1.92%1.98%
Southern Tier0.59%0.62%0.64%
Western New York1.86%1.74%1.71%

“New York is making tremendous strides in beating back COVID – our positivity rates are the lowest we’ve seen in months and more than 10 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” Governor Cuomo said in a Wednesday press release. “This progress has been a function of the hard work and dedication shown by New Yorkers throughout this entire pandemic, and it’s because of that progress that we are able to ease restrictions on businesses and lift mask and social distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals in most public places. This is a huge milestone in our reopening and our efforts to build New York back better and stronger, but we must remain vigilant and work even harder to get every single eligible New Yorker vaccinated if we want to defeat COVID once and for all.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, New York’s vaccination progress is as follows:

  • Total doses administered – 17,854,772
  • Total doses administered over past 24 hours – 109,748
  • Total doses administered over past 7 days – 800,437
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose – 62.2%
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series – 53.0%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose – 50.5%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series – 42.5%  

According to the CDC, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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