NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to One World Trade Center in New York City Tuesday to announce a major update on the state’s reopening progress.

Last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that once 70% of New Yorkers 18 and older received at least one vaccine dose, most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted.

As of Tuesday, that 70% threshold was reached, meaning cleaning and disinfection, social distancing, health screenings, and contract tracing will be lifted for retail, food services, offices, gyms, amusement parks, barbershops and hair salons.

“This is a momentous day, and we deserve it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We will remember where we were, and where we’re doing. If you had said to us on Day 1, that we were going to be capable of the accomplishment we have reached, no one would have believed you,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We had the highest positivity rate of anywhere on the globe.

“The fact was that New York was the victim of COVID,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Everybody was talking about China, but COVID had left China and went to Europe, and the flights from Europe came here. We were ambushed by COVID. We had people dying from COVID before we knew COVID was here. We were alone, it was frightening, it was like living through a science fiction movie.

“It was probably the most frightening moment we went through and it was a moment that changed us,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Where are we today? We have the lowest positivity rate in the United States of America. On the facts, what New York has done is extraordinary — we went from worst to first. And not only do we have the lowest rate, we hit the national goal ahead of schedule.”

There will be exceptions to the state’s rollback, including federal guidelines that stay in place: COVID-19 health protocols will still be in place for large-scale event venues, schools pre-k to 12th grade, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care facilities. Unvaccinated people would still be required to keep a social distance of six-feet and wear a face mask.

“20 million vaccines — more per capita than any big state in the country,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Congratulations to New Yorkers. We did it.”

The governor announced that, effective immediately, all state-mandated COVID restrictions are lifted across commercial and social settings, including:

  • Sports and recreation
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Trade
  • Child care
  • Camps
  • Food services
  • Offices
  • Real estate
  • Buildings
  • Agriculture
  • Fishing
  • Forestry
  • Amusement and family entertainment
  • Personal care services
  • Gyms
  • Retail
  • Malls
  • Movie theaters

“Effective immediately, commercial, social, construction — all across the board, businesses are open,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Capacity restrictions, cleaning and sanitizing protocols are gone. It’s up to individuals and places. The CDC and federal guidelines are there for public transit and younger school grades.”

The governor said this achievement was a testament to New Yorkers statewide and their commitment to each other during this pandemic.

“It’s a testament to the people of the state of New York,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Most of all, the essential workers whose courage brought us through this day. We can’t say enough, we’ve said thank you, but we want to say thank you again.”

The governor announced that there will be fireworks all across the state of New York Tuesday to honor the essential workers.

The tone of the governor’s announcement was celebratory, but he reminded New Yorkers that this isn’t the end of the pandemic, just the beginning of it.

“This is not to say the journey is over,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We still have to manage COVID. We still have to be careful, and as in any disease, we have to move to recovery. It’s not going to be spontaneous. It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to take time, but there’s going to be opportunity. Every state is trying to figure out how to recover. Our future is not predetermined. Our future is going to be what we make it. It’s going to be up to us — what do we build? How many lessons have we learned?

“It is going to be our contribution to the country, as a generation, what do we do in this moment?” Gov. Cuomo said. “What do we do in this moment? It is up to us. We are going to make it better than it has ever been. We are not reopening, we are reimagining. We have to seize this moment and make New York better than it has ever been before.”

The governor compared the current situation to the aftermath of 9/11, which happened 20 years ago this September.

“There is work to do, but we know that we can do it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We are being tapped on the shoulder and we are ready and we are willing. Twenty years ago, 9/11, we got knocked down, and there are a lot of similarities. We came back, and we are standing in a moment of coming back, better than ever before. COVID has many similarities to 9/11; the recovery was not automatic, and this won’t be automatic. We had to restore confidence, faith — we had to build back better. This site, the One World Trade Center, a symbol of resilience. The same site that was overcome by hurricane, but it will rise again. That’s our motto: Excelsior, ever upward. Remember June 15. Remember today, because it is the day that New York rose again.”

The following state landmarks will be lit in blue and gold tonight, June 15, in honor of reaching this COVID milestone:

  • Empire State Building
  • One World Trade Center
  • Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge
  • Kosciuszko Bridge
  • The H. Carl McCall SUNY Building
  • State Education Building
  • Alfred E. Smith State Office Building
  • State Fairgrounds – Main Gate and Expo Center
  • Niagara Falls
  • The “Franklin D. Roosevelt” Mid-Hudson Bridge
  • Grand Central Terminal – Pershing Square Viaduct
  • Albany International Airport Gateway
  • MTA LIRR – East End Gateway at Penn Station

Fireworks will be held at the following sites across the state, beginning at 9:15pm tonight, June 15:

Watch the full speech

From the governor’s office

The State’s health guidance and New York Forward industry specific guidelines—including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing—are now optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other commercial settings. 

Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Consistent with the State’s implementation of the recent CDC guidance, masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals. Further, the State’s health guidelines continue to be in effect for large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.

The State’s COVID restrictions remain in effect for large-scale indoor event venues—now defined as indoor venues that hold more than 5,000 attendees. Consistent with the State’s implementation of the CDC guidelines, proof of vaccination can be used to eliminate social distancing and remove masks for fully vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated or unknown vaccination status individuals who are over the age of four must continue to present proof of a recent negative diagnostic COVID-19 test result and wear masks within the venue. However, social distancing can be reduced or eliminated between tested attendees, allowing venues to reach 100 percent capacity in all sections.

As of today, over 70 percent of adult New Yorkers have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and the rate of new COVID-19 cases has plummeted to the lowest levels in the nation. Given New York’s progress and the diminished risk of COVID-19 within the community, the State is lifting COVID-19 restrictions effective immediately, except for the mask requirement for unvaccinated individuals and in certain settings (e.g., large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings per CDC guidance). While New York Forward industry reopening guidance is no longer mandatory for most industries, these documents will be archived and made available as a public reference.

With the removal of the State’s minimum standard for reopening, businesses are free to choose to lift all or some restrictions, continue to adhere to the State’s archived guidance, or implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons. Businesses are also authorized to require masks and six feet of social distancing for employees and patrons within their establishments, regardless of vaccination status. Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.