TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Gov. Andrew Cuomo made another sweeping announcement on Monday afternoon, declaring that the state would end “virtually all” of its COVID-19 restrictions as soon as the adult vaccination rate reaches 70 percent statewide.

The statewide rate is currently at 68.6 percent, meaning there is still 1.4 percent of adults in New York needed to receive the vaccine. According to Cuomo, lifting the restrictions would include: ending capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection requirements, health screening protocols and having to submit information for contact tracing. Mask requirements will mostly adhere to whatever the CDC says, Cuomo stated.

Cuomo predicted that the state would reach 70 percent within the next few days.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is to remove the remaining COVId restrictions to get to a point where COVID is not inhibiting our society, not inhibiting our growth,” Cuomo said. “To do that, we need 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.'”

Cuomo did say that even after 70 percent vaccinations are achieved, certain institutional restrictions will remain in place, such as health protocols at large venues, schools, public transit, homeless shelters and correctional and healthcare facilities (large venues will likely still face capacity restrictions and vaccination differentiators between those are vaccinated and who are not). There’s been some confusion about what the mask mandate’s impact on schools is now as guidance changes, and more information about that will be released later today.

Tompkins County currently sits at 74 percent of people over 18 having received at least their first vaccination, and 66.2 percent of the county’s total residents have received at least their first vaccination.

The speed of the vaccination rate’s rise has slowed, naturally, as it has climbed, though Cuomo’s announcement does seem to implement a lower bar than had previously been announced: it’s long been preached that 75 percent vaccination rate would be necessary for a herd immunity effect (with some admitting it could even be higher than that), including by Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. Cuomo did not expound on why 70 percent is the state’s new chosen number.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com