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Cuomo lifts restrictions as state hits 70% vaccination

OBSERVER File Photo Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas says that Music on the Pier can now return since Gov. Andrew Cuomo has lifted the majority of all COVID-19 restrictions.

Have you been missing things like fireworks or Dunkirk’s Music on the Pier? Well the good news is they’re coming back.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 70% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a threshold he said the state would celebrate by easing many of its remaining social distancing rules.

“What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it,” Cuomo told an invitation-only crowd at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Effective immediately, he said, the state is lifting rules that had limited the size of gatherings and required some types of businesses to follow cleaning protocols or take people’s temperatures or screen them for recent COVID-19 symptoms.

Businesses will no longer have to follow social distancing rules, or limit how many people they can allow inside based on keeping people 6 feet apart.

Some rules will remain: New Yorkers, for now, will continue to have to wear masks in schools, subways, large venues, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, jails and prisons.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said there would be fireworks displays around the state to celebrate.

It’s unclear how many more people have to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity, which is when enough people have immunity that the virus has trouble spreading.

It’s unclear what that threshold is for the coronavirus, though many experts say it’s 70% or higher. Just half of all 20 million residents in New York are fully vaccinated, according to federal data as of Monday.

Over the past seven days, New York has been averaging around 450 new coronavirus cases a day, the lowest level since the pandemic began.

Statewide the vaccination rate for adults may have crossed the 70% mark, but it continues to lag locally. According to the state’s vaccine tracker, 56.5% of people over the age of 18 in Chautauqua County have received at least one dose, representing 60,177 residents.

The rate is even lower in Cattaraugus County, where 50.6% of adults have received at least one shot to date.

County officials did note previously that the rate is likely higher since many may have crossed state lines to get the vaccine and not report it locally.

Only two new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday in Chautauqua County. There are currently only seven active cases, two people with the virus in the hospital and 37 in quarantine.

To date there have been 9,284 total confirmed cases, 9,120 recoveries and 157 virus-related deaths.

County Executive PJ Wendel said he was excited Tuesday that the county was able to announce there were only two new cases. “I can’t remember when we only had two,” he said. “I’m looking forward to when we can say zero.”

Wendel noted this reopening is coming at a good time, with summer quickly approaching. “It will jump-start our economy,” he said.

Unfortunately some organizations, like the county fair, decided there wasn’t enough time to plan for an event; but for those who were able to wait, things are looking up.

Tueday, Mayor Wilfred Rosas confirmed Dunkirk will definitely have its fireworks show this summer as well as Music on the Pier. He noted that he has been in constant contact with the New York

Conference Of Mayors. That organization felt that July 4th celebrations were safe to plan, although there was no guarantee. With Tuesday’s announcement, there’s nothing holding them back.

Rosas also said they’ve started planning Dunkirk’s weekly Music on the Pier series. He hopes to have their first show as early as June 24, although they’ve still got a lot of planning to make that happen.

Rosas feels things like Dunkirk’s fireworks or Music on the Pier not only are important community celebrations, but also are a shot in the arm for the economy. “The economic impact will be huge. Businesses have been hurting,” he said.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Irving, who has been a constant critic of Cuomo and his authority during the pandemic, felt this reopening should have happened sooner.

“The Governor’s move to lift the remaining COVID restrictions on businesses and in public spaces – while welcome news, of course – is long overdue. Despite his attempt to position himself as a hero, this progress is a credit to the resilience and commitment of New Yorkers, who have endured extraordinary challenges over the past 15 months as well as the arbitrary edicts of a leader who has sought to use this crisis to his political advantage,” he said in a statement.

Borrello referenced an impeachment inquiry and investigations into Cuomo’s “many misdeeds” and noted Cuomo still possesses the sole ability to determine the fate of 20 million New Yorkers and one of the country’s largest economies. “With the ’emergency’ clearly over and confirmed by the Governor’s announcement today, then it is the Legislature’s responsibility to return to Albany to end the disaster declaration and the unjustifiable executive power it is perpetuating,” he said.

Even though things are reopening, Wendel encourages those who haven’t been vaccinated to talk to their personal doctor to see what is best. “Don’t go to the internet. Don’t go to social media. Talk to your medical provider,” he said, adding that 157 county residents have lost their lives to COVID-19. “We remember those who did not make it through the pandemic.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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