In perhaps the strongest sign yet that America is preparing to get back to normal, officials in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have announced their states will drop most COVID-19 restrictions by May 19.
Portions of all three states are in the New York City metro. Mayor Bill de Blasio has previously said the city’s limits on businesses would be ending, but not as soon.
"The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York, and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we're able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal," Cuomo said in a statement.
New York and New Jersey are adopting many of the same rules. Starting later this month, business capacity limits will end and be replaced with provisions to maintain social distancing in places of business, including restaurants.
The limit of outdoor social gatherings will increase to 500 in New York on May 10, and indoor limits will rise to 250 on May 19.
Limits on outdoor gatherings at private residences will go away. New York will allow up to 50 people at private indoor events. In other words, things are getting back to normal in the nation’s largest metropolitan area.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the states are able to take this action because vaccination rates have been going up while infections and hospitalizations from the virus have been going down.
“Over these next few weeks, I encourage all remaining eligible New Jerseyans to get vaccinated so we can continue fighting back against this virus and move toward a 'new normal' for ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones," Murphy said.
Other states have independently taken steps to get back to normal. Texas was the first to act. In early March, Gov. Greg Abbott dropped the statewide mask mandate and allowed businesses to reopen at 100% capacity. Despite warnings that the action was premature, Texas did not experience an increase in COVID-19 cases.
This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order suspending all existing virus-mitigation rules, declaring the state no longer faced an emergency situation.
States appear to be getting ahead of the federal government on the issue. The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued last week, said fully vaccinated people can be outside and be part of small outdoor gatherings without wearing a face mask. However, the agency still recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask outdoors when in crowded areas.
In his executive order lifting the mask mandate in Florida, DeSantis suggested that requiring fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks would “undermine confidence” in the effectiveness of the vaccines.