With more than 40% of all U.S. adults fully vaccinated and the daily number of new Covid-19 cases declining, governors across the U.S. are broadly rolling back restrictions implemented during the pandemic.
On Monday, governors from New York and New Jersey said their states would on May 19 lift most capacity restrictions at places of business.
Neighboring Connecticut previously ended many capacity restrictions and announced in April that it would end all restrictions on businesses beginning May 19, except for indoor masking requirements. On Monday, Connecticut became the first state in the U.S. to have 50% of its adults fully vaccinated, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Outdoor and indoor gathering limits are also being adjusted upward, said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, while businesses, including Broadway theaters, museums, offices and retailers can now make their own decisions on reopening plans.
“The key is smart reopening. Reopening is not a light switch,” said Mr. Cuomo.
May marks a key turning point as new states fully lift restrictions and sunset policies related to Covid-19. According to recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 27 states have fully reopened, up from 22 on March 15.
In interviews, epidemiologists said it isn’t yet clear how much vaccination is needed to dampen potential surges, especially now that more of the country is reopening.
Americans need to continue to follow public-health guidance and states need to push vaccination, they say, while everyone has to hope that no new strains emerge to undo the work that has been done. The public also has to understand that restrictions might need to be tightened if the disease starts to get out of control again, they say.
“It’s one of these situations where there is no perfect answer,” to timing reopening, said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, Director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College. “The only way we’ll know if the decision is correct is two to three weeks after the decision is made.”
“We will still have to wear masks in crowded settings and maintain social distancing,” said Dr. Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. “It won’t be exactly being back to normal.”
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he was immediately suspending any Covid-19 related emergency orders, including those issued by localities.
“I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines. You don’t believe in the data. You don’t believe in the science,” Mr. DeSantis said during a press conference.
There are many opportunities for fully vaccinated people to lead a different life now, said epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. But “there’s no way we will ever achieve herd immunity,” he said, adding that similar to measles, there will always be geographic pockets, social or ethnic groups where vaccination remains low and transmission is higher