New York state lifted nearly all remaining Covid-related restrictions on Tuesday, 15 months after a raging pandemic forced America’s largest city into an unprecedented lockdown, decimated its small businesses and cost the country life to more than 33,000 of its residents.
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, announced the milestone in a sweeping ceremony at One World Trade Center – the skyscraper rebuilt after the 9/11 terrorist attacks – which was to sound like a declaration of victory after a long war.
“Remember June 15, remember today! Because this is the day New York is resurrected, ”Cuomo said.
New York made its decision the same day California, another center of Covid devastation, also lifted most restrictions. The two states did so after the proportion of adults who received at least one dose of a vaccine surpassed the 70% mark recommended by public health authorities as a threshold for rolling back prevention measures.
As a result, the masks and social distancing restrictions that have governed daily life in two of the most populous US states for more than a year will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas, stores, sporting events, workplaces and the like. places. Or, as Cuomo said, “We can now come back to life as we know it. “
Masks will always be required on public transportation since this is governed by federal rules.
The movements coincided with other green shoots of recovery. A survey published by the Business Roundtable showed that the confidence of American executives had reached near-record levels between the first and second quarters of the year. Its members expect the US economy to grow 5 percent this year, down from 3.7 percent previously, and a concomitant increase in hiring and investment.
New York City has been creeping towards normality from the darkest days of the pandemic over a year ago, when life was at a standstill and the howling of sirens – many carrying Covid patients to overwhelmed hospitals – filled the air.
The reopening of New York and California comes despite a slow down national immunization campaign, with immunization rates in some states significantly lower than others. In Wyoming, Louisiana and Alabama, less than half of the adult population has received a dose and case rates are above the national average.
Deaths in the United States attributed to The Covid-19 has exceeded 600,000 Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Latest coronavirus news
Follow FT’s live coverage and analysis of the global pandemic and the rapidly evolving economic crisis here.
As new infections have subsided in New York City, restaurants that haven’t failed are filling up again. Apartment lease signatures have increased over the past two months, but at reduced rents, and the city’s cultural life has started to pick up. Tickets have gone on sale for Broadway shows, one of New York’s biggest tourist draws, which are set to reopen in September.
But the return of workers to the city’s office towers, particularly in Midtown Manhattan, has been slow. Only 20.7% of workers did, according to data from Kastle Systems, the office security company. This raised questions about the viability of shopping districts in a new era of remote working.
Several banks have ordered their employees to return to their desks in the coming weeks, and many executives believe the office, the center of the city’s economy, rebound noticeably by September.
Kathryn Wylde, chair of the Partnership for New York City, an employers’ group, said Tuesday’s announcement was “the green light employers have been waiting for to get employees back to the workplace.”