As worries about the spread of deadly COVID variants prompts the UK to delay plans to reopen its economy, in the US, it's full steam ahead as more major states announced reopening measures on Tuesday, while the number of confirmed COVID deaths in the country topped 600K.
Daily US cases and deaths have fallen substantially as the percentage of the adult population that has been vaccinated has climbed. Now, with some states hitting their thresholds for herd immunity, they're loosening the yoke of repressive restrictions that were justified for more than a year because of COVID.
California, New York and Maryland all affirmed plans to drop most of their COVID protocols on Tuesday in what the press mostly characterized as a "full reopening" after months of lockdowns across the country.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California rescinded the Golden State's stay-at-home order, ended capacity restrictions and stopped the state's tier system that determined which rules certain companies were forced to follow. Newsom announced a "grand reopening" for the state, which was memorably the first in the US to shut down in the March 2020, kicking off a wave of national lockdowns. The state has also "aligned itself" with the CDC's new guidelines for mask wearing which states that fully vaccinated people can ditch their masks in most settings.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo joyfully announced on Tuesday that the Empire State would be lifting all of its COVID-19 restrictions after the state on Monday passed the 70% threshold whereby 70% of the state's adults have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
Capacity restrictions will be lifted in most settings, and mask and cleaning protocols will also be relaxed. Though restrictions will remain in some places, like, well, nursing homes (an area where Cuomo is notoriously vulnerable) hospitals and schools.
"What does 70% mean? That means that we can now return to life as we know," Cuomo said Tuesday.
"All the state-mandated restrictions are lifted on commercial social settings sports and recreation construction, manufacturing, retail buildings, all across the board we can get back to living and businesses can open, because the state mandates are gone," Cuomo said.
Masks will still be required on mass transit and in taxis and ride-hails since that is a CDC recommendation, but they are not required indoors anywhere anymore by the state of New York.
In the Old Line State, Gov. Larry Hogan said he would lift the state's COVID state of emergency orders as of July 1 now that 72% of Maryland adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Hogan said at a news conference in Annapolis that all emergency mandates and restrictions put in place in Maryland over the past 15 months will be terminated. There will no longer be a statewide mask order in effect in any setting, including schools, camps and child-care facilities (though businesses can still require masks be worn on their premises).
July 1 will mark the beginning of a "45-day grace period," in which some regulations will still be relaxed, Hogan said. That includes drivers' license renewals and a moratorium on evictions, which won't expire until Aug. 15. Right next door in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam has already said he will allow his state's emergency declaration to expire at the end of June.
Most of these states offered some kind of statewide vaccination lottery program offering rewards in the millions of dollars for a lucky few as an incentive to convince more adults to accept the vaccine.
But for a reminder of how quickly things can change, just look over toward the UK, where PM Boris Johnson revived restrictions for England yesterday, and where Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Tuesday that plans for easing restrictions will be put on hold due to the dangerous "delta" mutant strain which was first documented in India.