NEW YORK — The state will focus on increasing the number of residents vaccinated against COVID-19 in 175 areas, including several north country towns, to hit a 70% vaccination rate statewide and reverse all pandemic restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

About 68.6% of New Yorkers have received one vaccine dose to date, putting the state about 1.4% from the goal line to lift capacity, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, contact tracing and additional health screening requirements in commercial and social settings.

“According to (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we have done more shots in arms per capita than any big state in the country,” Cuomo said Monday during a coronavirus briefing in Manhattan. “We’re at 68.6 (percent), but who’s counting? We’re counting.”

Officials are focusing efforts to inoculate residents in the 175 ZIP codes with the lowest vaccination rates. Of the 1,755 ZIP codes across New York, those in the bottom 10% are at or below a vaccine rate of 36.3%.

Evans Mills, in Jefferson County, has the state’s sixth-lowest vaccine rate at 30.6%. LaFargeville ranked 24th lowest for vaccine rates at 34.1%. Calcium is also a state focus at 32.2%.

Pyrites, Ramondville, Brier Hill and Richville, each in St. Lawrence County, also rank among the lowest-vaccinated cities and towns at 25.6%, 26%, 27.7% and 29.7%, respectively.

Constableville, in Lewis County, is also a target area at 30.2% vaccinated, as is Ellenburg, in Clinton County, at 32.2%.

“When we hit 70 percent, then I feel comfortable saying to the people of this state we can relax virtually all restrictions,” Cuomo said. “We’re at 68.6 (percent), almost there, but this isn’t horseshoes. We want to be at 70 percent; 1.4 percent to go, and then we can lift the capacity restriction, social distancing, the hygiene protocols, the health screenings, the potential tracing.”

Global health experts, including the CDC and the World Health Organization, classify 70% as the minimum percentage to reach herd immunity against a disease.

More than 9.4 million New Yorkers are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, with more than 10.9 people receiving at least one dose to date.

The state will continue to follow the CDC’s recommendations for requiring New Yorkers to wear masks or facial coverings in social or congregate settings.

Some institutions will continue to implement additional health precautions, including schools, large venues, public transportation, hospitals and nursing homes.

“But we hit 70 percent we will be back to life as normal, or as normalized as you can be post-COVID,” the governor said.

Cuomo, who asked each of his top aides to also make a guess, surmised the state would reach the 70% goal line within eight days.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa guessed the state would reach the goal within one week.

Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker conservatively estimated the first week of July.

“No one has a crystal ball on this,” Zucker said Monday. “We’re making an all-out effort to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

The state’s COVID-19 positivity dipped to 0.66% on Monday, which reflects a continuing decline for 63 days from the surge over the holiday season and winter months.

New York’s positivity rate over a seven-day average is 0.51% on Monday — its lowest infection rate since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Each of the state’s 10 regions has a virus infection rate below 1% for the first time since Aug. 19. Of them, the Finger Lakes region has the highest number of new coronavirus infections at 0.98%, followed by the Capital Region as the second-highest at 0.85%.

The state reports about 0.66% positivity in Western New York and 0.5% positive in the north country.

“We have never been in a better position vis-a-vis COVID than we are today,” Cuomo said. “I have such respect for the actions of New Yorkers because New Yorkers are the ones who determine the positivity rate, et cetera.”

Virus hospitalizations in the state reached a new eight-month low Monday at 799 patients, down 17 people overnight.

Nine New Yorkers died from coronavirus complications Sunday.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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