Dear Commons Community,
Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom, the governors of New York and California, the states hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, announced yesterday that they had lifted virtually all coronavirus restrictions on businesses and social gatherings as both states hit milestones in vaccinating their residents.
In New York, where 70 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo means that restaurants will no longer be forced to space tables six feet apart; movie theaters will be allowed to pack their auditoriums without spacing seats apart; and entering commercial buildings won’t require a temperature check. As reported by The New York Times:
“This is a momentous day and we deserve it because it has been a long, long road,” Mr. Cuomo said at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, adding that the changes meant a “return to life as we know it.”
In California, where 72 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Gov. Gavin Newsom called Tuesday “reopening day,” as he lifted similar capacity limits on businesses and social distancing requirements, with some exceptions.
Businesses in both states, however, will still have the option of requiring health precautions on their premises. The two governors, both Democrats who are facing political difficulties, made their announcements at events that seemed more like rallies than news conferences.
For all the celebration, however, the nation was also poised to reach 600,000 dead from the coronavirus, a grim reminder of the virus’s painful toll even as Americans begin to enjoy a summer with significantly fewer limitations, if any, on their ability to live, work and socialize. More than 63,000 have died from the virus in California, while in New York that number has reached nearly 53,000 — the two highest totals in the country.
Yet both governors took the opportunity to look ahead.
In a 45-minute speech, Mr. Cuomo, who is facing multiple investigations and the possibility of an impeachment proceeding, highlighted many of his pet infrastructure projects, embraced political supporters and announced a display of fireworks statewide scheduled for last night (see video above).
Mr. Newsom, who is facing a recall campaign, but has seen his approval ratings improve as the pandemic has receded, showed up at Universal Studios Hollywood flanked by an assortment of Minions from the “Despicable Me” movie franchise and the “Transformers” robot hero Optimus Prime to announce $1.5 million lottery prizes to people who had been vaccinated.
In both states, health officials have struggled to expand vaccinations among significant pockets of their population. Some of the lowest adult vaccination rates in New York City, for example, are in the Bronx, where 38 percent of adults are fully vaccinated and in Brooklyn, where 41 percent are, while several populous counties in California have yet to hit a 40 percent full vaccination rate for all residents.
Cautious congratulations to Coumo and Newsom for leading us out of the pandemic. It wasn’t easy.