New York Forward Industry Guidance on Capacity Restrictions, Social Distancing, Cleaning and Disinfection, Health Screening, and Contact Information for Tracing Purposes Will Become Optional In Most Commercial Settings
Required Guidance Lifted for Retail, Food Services, Offices, Gyms and Fitness Centers, Amusement and Family Entertainment, Hair Salons, Barber Shops, Personal Care Services and Other Commercial Settings
Unvaccinated Individuals Responsible for Maintaining Social Distancing of Six Feet and Wearing a Mask, Per Federal CDC Guidance
Large-Scale Events Venues, Pre-K to 12 Schools, Public Transit, Homeless Shelters, Correctional Facilities, Nursing Homes and Health Care Settings will be Exempt and Will Still Adhere to State's Existing COVID-19 Health Protocols
Governor Cuomo: "The light at the end of the tunnel is to remove the remaining COVID restrictions, right? Get to a point where COVID is not inhibiting our society, not inhibiting our growth. To do that we have to be at 70 percent. When we hit 70 percent, then I feel comfortable saying to the people of this state we can relax virtually all restrictions. We're at 68.6 almost there, but this isn't horseshoes. We want to be at 70 percent. 1.4 percent to go, and then we can lift the capacity restriction, social distancing, the hygiene protocols, the health screenings, the potential tracing. Masks will only be required as recommended by the CDC. There'll be still will be some institutional guidelines. Large venues, schools, public transportation, hospitals, nursing homes. But we hit 70 percent we will be back to life as normal, or as normalized as you can be post-COVID."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted once 70 percent of New Yorkers aged 18 or older have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination series. State's New York Forward industry specific guidelines — including capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing — will become 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. Large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings must continue to follow the State's guidelines until more New Yorkers are vaccinated.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks are available below:
Good morning. Happy Monday. We have all the big shots here today. My far right Kelly Cummings, Director of State Operations. My immediate, right, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my left, Robert Mujica, Budget Director. To his left our esteemed Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker.
We have a lot of announcements today. So let's just start. As you know, the state is working on two goals as a primary focus. First managing COVID and the vaccination process, et cetera. Second, reimagining New York and rebuilding New York. We don't just automatically rebound post COVID in my opinion. You have an illness, you then have to go through rehab. We have to rehabilitate New York. We have to work to bring New York back. It's not spontaneous. Government can come up with big projects to spur the economy, provide business, a provide tenant aide. That's what we're doing. That's reimagining New York better than ever before.
But it's not an automatic recovery post-COVID, not at the rate we want it. But on both fronts, we are doing great. Well, you're the governor. Of course you're going to say that. No, if you look at the data we're doing great. The positivity today is 0.66. 799 people in hospitals. I mean, just remember where we were just a few months ago. January 7.9, almost eight percent. Today we were at 0.51 percent. 63 straight days of decline. Across the state, Finger Lakes has the highest. But again, look at that range. 0.98 from less than half that in other parts of the state. New York City, the Bronx, 0.57 has the highest. New York's progress is extraordinary and exceptional. It has the lowest positivity, one of the lowest positivities of any state in the United States, okay? So that is saying something. 10 straight days of record low positivity. Every region is below one percent.
We have never been in a better position vis-a-vis COVID than we are today. I have such respect for the actions of New Yorkers because New Yorkers are the ones who determine the positivity rate, et cetera. And they have done a fantastic job.
Not only is the positivity coming down, the vaccinations are going up and the two are linked, right? They are opposite curves. As vaccinations go up, positivity goes down and that's what we are seeing. Vaccinations now, 19 million. 10 million with at least one dose. Nine million fully vaccinated.
According to the CDC, we have done more shots in arms per capita than any big state in the country. We're at 68.6, but who's counting? We're counting. That's why we know it's 68.6. Wow. That's great. It is great, but it's not enough. And we have to do more.
The light at the end of the tunnel is to remove the remaining COVID restrictions, right? Get to a point where COVID is not inhibiting our society, not inhibiting our growth. To do that we have to be at 70 percent. When we hit 70 percent, then I feel comfortable saying to the people of this state we can relax virtually all restrictions. We're at 68.6 almost there, but this isn't horseshoes. We want to be at 70 percent. 1.4 percent to go, and then we can lift the capacity restriction, social distancing, the hygiene protocols, the health screenings, the potential tracing. Masks will only be required as recommended by the CDC. There'll be still will be some institutional guidelines. Large venues, schools, public transportation, hospitals, nursing homes. But we hit 70 percent we will be back to life as normal, or as normalized as you can be post-COVID.
So, how do you get the vaccinations up? And the vaccination rate has slowed dramatically, which is obvious. The higher you get, the fewer people there are to get vaccinated. And the lowest vaccination demographic is still the 12 to 17 because they just became eligible and we just spent a year telling them this is not really about you. It's about older people. So we're trying to get it up into 12 to 17 groups, but focus on the places that have low vaccination rates. Well, how do you know where you have low vaccination rates? Study the data. We have 1,700 zip codes in the State of New York, okay? If you look at the zip codes by vaccination rate, the bottom 10 percent of the zip codes are below 36 percent, okay? The overall vaccination rate in the state is 68. So these zip codes are like almost half of the vaccination rate. Target those areas. Remember when we went through the hospital vaccination protocol early on, and we couldn't get the hospital numbers up, and I then literally did the numbers by hospital, and now people knew that we were looking at hospital numbers, and there was more accountability? We're going to do the same thing with zip codes. Yes, we're working statewide, but we're going to focus on these zip codes, and I want everybody focusing on the zip code, because they dramatically different.
This is starting with the lowest percentage of vaccinations, right? Muncie in Rockland County. Romulus in Seneca County, Monroe in Orange County, Spring Valley in, well, Monroe in Orange and then Rochester in Monroe. It's a little confusing. Monroe in Orange County, Rochester in Monroe County. Spring Valley, Evans Mills, Franklinville, Gowanda, Far Rockaway, Queens. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Rochester city in Monroe, Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, Canarsie, Brooklyn, Brownsville, Brooklyn. Buffalo, City of Buffalo in Erie County. Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Borough Park, Brooklyn. Delevan in Cattaraugus, Baychester in the Bronx, Addison in Steuben, Fort Plain, Montgomery, Hunts Point in the Bronx. Jefferson County, Marine Park, which surprises me.
And if you have, this is not just a reminder of the zip codes and their vaccination rates. It is also an IQ test. Who can read the top county or town? Anybody? Okay. Then you'll have to look at it on the website, we'll skip this chart. But that is the remainder of the zip codes of the 176, and we're going to be focusing on those.
To the county health departments and local governments I say, focus your resources there. That is where we have the greatest chance for advancement, and the local governments have the resources because the vaccination rate is way down. We don't have enough people coming into vaccination centers to justify having the centers open right now. We have centers open all day, and two, three, four people show up. So, redeploy those assets to these zip codes, because that's where it can make a difference.
On the issue of schools. The numbers show that the risk of transmission by children is extremely low, especially in this state, which has an extremely low positivity rate. You have states in this nation that have multiples of our positivity rate. We spoke with the CDC. They have policy guidance for schools nationwide. So their policy guidance is for the lowest positivity rate state and the highest positivity rate state. They're not going to change their guidance for several weeks. In New York State, we're going to modify the CDC guidance and allow schools to choose no mask outside for children. In other words, children wear masks in school, inside. When they're outside of the school building in recess, et cetera, it's hot, they're running around, but they're outside, there is no mandate for masks outside. We'll leave that up to the local school district. We spoke to CDC and CDC has no objection to that and is fine with it.
This will allow us to align camp and school guidance. To me, it's very important that people understand the logic between these decisions and that it's rational and based on the science and the data. We've asked people to do all sorts of extraordinary things. We've had all sorts of regulations, but I always could look right in the camera and say, this makes sense for the following reasons. We have a disconnect right now between the school guidance and the camp guidance. You send your child to camp, they don't have to wear a mask. You send your child to school, they have to wear a mask- even outside. How do you square those two regulations? And I don't think you can and that's important, because if people don't think the rules are logical, then they're not going to want to follow the rules.
So, we're going to align them for schools outside. If you can go to camp and run around and play volleyball and not wear a mask, you in the playground in school, you can not wear a mask. Inside school is obviously different and then it's up to the local school districts. Also, for schools, they should now be vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds. They are in the school. They're there now you. You have them in one place. They are a captive audience, so to speak. You have a nurse in the school, or you have a local government that can send the vaccination team to the school. We're closing vaccination sites, redeploy them to the school. Get them vaccinated now. Parental permission slip and then vaccinate the child.
Once summer vacation happens, they're gone. They go home. They're in the neighborhood. They go on vacation. They go to camp, who knows where they go, but you have them right now in the building and you want to start the new school year in September with a clean slate. Get them vaccinated now. It makes no sense.
Connecticut did something called the Ferris Bueller Day Off. Who remembers Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Well, you are non-participatory. Do you remember, Zack? You remind me of Ferris Bueller by the way, but Connecticut did a Ferris Bueller Day Off. If you get vaccinated, you get the rest of the day off. Get creative and get those 12- to 17-year-olds vaccinated now. It will make reopening the schools much safer and much easier and I think every school should be doing that right now. If they don't have a nurse. And if the local health department can't do it, the state will do it, but get it done now, it's a golden opportunity.
The world is open for the vaccinated. There are benefits of vaccination. Radio City Music Hall: 100 percent vaccinated. Sports teams are increasing the number of seats that they're going to have for vaccinated people. You want to go see the Nets? You want to see the Islanders? They're increasing the number of seats. I told you this was going to happen, because the venue wants to sell more seats and in the unvaccinated section, you have to leave seats empty. In the unvaccinated, you don't. So, you see it at sports games, you see it at concerts.
Empire State Building is doing something creative. They are offering people with Excelsior passes - the Excelsior Pass is the app that shows you got vaccinated - $10 off on observatory tickets. They're going to have exclusive access hours where people will know everybody there is vaccinated, which I believe is going to increase attendance because people will feel more comfortable, and then they're going to do a special event just for vaccinated people. I think this is great. I want to say to people, get vaccinated and there are benefits to vaccination besides the obvious ones. Yes, your health, your family's health, et cetera. Plus, it's a passport to fully enjoy life.
Empire State Realty Trust is also doing something else where, if you have an Excelsior Pass, they're going to make an entrance into the office building much, much simpler, and much easier. And they're going to be doing that with eleven buildings across the state.
I recommend many office complexes follow this precedent. If a person is vaccinated, they are safe. I have no problem with a different set of rules for people who are vaccinated.
We have to hit 70 percent. When we hit 70, it's going to be a day to celebrate, and the restrictions will come off and the Empire State Building will be blue and gold and all the state assets will be blue and gold and we can say we did it. We did it. We went from the highest infection rate on the globe to one of the lowest positivity rates on the globe, and to one of the highest vaccination rates on the globe. A turnaround story that has never been seen in this state and we saved thousands and thousands of lives in the meantime.
We do it when we do it together, and we will, and we'll go on to be better than ever.