New York state returns to ‘life as we know it’ but US COVID death toll passes 600,000 mark

US News

New York is returning to “life as we know it” after at least 70% of adults in the state have received at least one COVID jab, its governor has said.

Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday he is lifting virtually all remaining COVID-19 restrictions for businesses and social settings.

It comes on the day the US, the worst-affected country during the global pandemic, hit another grim milestone as the number of people who have died passed 600,000 from more than 33 million cases.

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Addressing an invited audience at the World Trade Centre, Mr Cuomo said: “What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it.”

COVID restrictions are being lifted across more than a dozen commercial and social settings, including childcare, camps, food services, offices, real estate, amusement, gyms and more, Mr Cuomo said.

The state is immediately lifting restrictions that limited the size of gatherings and forced some businesses to follow cleaning protocols, take people’s temperatures or screen them for recent COVID-19 symptoms.

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Firms no longer have to adhere to social distancing rules or limits on the number of people allowed inside.

But for the time being, masks will still need to be worn in schools, subways, large venues, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.

Fireworks displays will be held across the state on Tuesday evening to honour essential workers, Mr Cuomo said, with bridges, along with the Empire State Building, lit blue and gold.

Mr Cuomo said: “It’s our way of saying thank you all across the state. I’ll tell you how to honour essential workers. You get vaccinated so you don’t need the essential workers again.”

Half of all 20 million residents in New York are fully vaccinated, according to government figures released on Monday, while about 58% of residents of all ages have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The city has been averaging around 450 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, the lowest level since the pandemic began.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo winks during his remarks about lifting lockdown rules
Image:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo winks during his remarks about lifting lockdown rules

Vaccination rates are particularly low in parts of the state that were hit hard by the winter coronavirus surge, including parts of New York City and rural counties in western and central New York.

California, the most populous US state and the first to impose a coronavirus lockdown, has also dropped state rules on social distancing and limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums and other places, governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.

Passing 600,000 means the US death toll is now more than the population of cities such as Baltimore or Milwaukee and about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019.

Worldwide, about 3.8 million people have died from COVID-19.

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