New York, California lift most COVID-19 restrictions as vaccination rates top 70%

PinkOmelet/iStock

(NEW YORK) — California and New York, two states that imposed strict COVID-19 measures throughout the pandemic and were among the hardest hit, lifted most restrictions on Tuesday to much fanfare.

In California, the most populous state and the first to implement a stay-at-home order, that meant the end of a county-level, color-coded system that guided capacity limits and other mitigation measures. Venues, restaurants and bars can now operate at 100% capacity, indoors and out.

Fully vaccinated people also no longer have to wear masks in public, excluding health care settings, K-12 schools, public transit and office settings. New state guidance on masks in offices is expected on Thursday.

“California is open again. California has turned the page. Let us all celebrate,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press briefing Tuesday in front of Universal Studios’ iconic globe sign while flanked by Minions, Transformers and Trolls characters. Canons were fired, and confetti was blasted into the air.

Newsom touted the state’s progress in bringing COVID-19 transmission down and getting vaccination rates up. The state has had a COVID-19 testing positivity rate below 1% for over six weeks, he said, and over 70% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose.

“This is not a day where we announce ‘Mission accomplished.’ Quite the contrary,” Newsom said. “We’re here because of your hard work. We’re here because of your resilience. “

The state also awarded 10 winners $1.5 million each Tuesday as part of its massive vaccine lottery incentive. Newsom did not reveal the names of the winners but shared their county of residence.

Meanwhile, in New York, state pandemic mandates on commercial and social settings were lifted immediately on Tuesday. Federal guidelines involving mask use in schools, mass transit and health care settings remain in effect.

“We have hit 70% vaccination,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press briefing Tuesday, meaning the state can “now return to life as we know it.”

“What New York has done is extraordinary,” he added.

At least 70% of adults in New York have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, a threshold Cuomo set to lift most remaining pandemic restrictions.

To celebrate, there will be fireworks across the state and over a dozen landmarks will be lit blue and gold Tuesday night.

Most states have lifted all or most of their COVID-19 restrictions, with remaining measures typically involving mask use for unvaccinated residents.

Among those states that haven’t yet, Washington is set to lift all restrictions by June 30 and Michigan by July 1. New Mexico is set to end its restrictions by July 1 if it reaches a 60% vaccination rate. Currently 59.5% of adults in the state have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

Hawaii will drop all restrictions once it reaches a 70% vaccination rate; it currently is at 68.5%, based on CDC data.

Vermont relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions ahead of schedule on Monday after more than 80% of the state’s eligible population — those age 12 and up — had received at least one shot. It had previously planned to remove remaining business, gathering and travel restrictions by July 4.

President Joe Biden had set a goal of having 70% of American adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July Fourth and to mark America’s “independence” from the virus. Currently, 64.6% of those ages 18 and up have gotten at least one dose, according to the CDC.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky, Bonnie Mclean, Stephanie Mendez and Abigail Shalawylo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.