Freedom day: America's two biggest blue states lift remaining COVID restrictions

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

There are two different milestones we could focus on today, one very good and one very, very bad.

Let’s accentuate the positive.

By sheer happenstance, California and New York are returning to (nearly) full normalcy on the same day. For Cali, June 15 has long been the target date for lifting all restrictions provided that no new waves of COVID materialized in the interim. For New York, the timing is a happy accident. Cuomo announced recently that all restrictions would be lifted once 70 percent of the adult population had received their first dose. That just happened.

Which means 60 million people across two indigo blue states are now finally out of lockdown jail. Some 453 days after their sentence was imposed.

What do California and New York have in common besides large, very liberal populations? Well, it’s summer in both places, of course, and evidence continues to mount that warmer weather leads to less transmission:

That makes mid-June an opportune moment to lift restrictions. More importantly, though, both states have high vaccination rates. California is 13th out of 50 measured by share of the total population that’s received a first dose while New York is right behind. That’s led to shockingly low positivity rates in both:


Manhattan has a positivity rate of 0.4 percent while Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people, has a rate of 0.3. Despite the density in both areas, there just isn’t much virus going around for people to transmit right now. In fact, it may be *because* of the density that the picture in both states is so bright now. Each suffered a ferocious COVID outbreak previously, which may mean that there’s more natural immunity in their populations than the average state has.

WaPo has been looking at the spread of the virus nationally across states with high and low vaccination rates. To the surprise of no one, they found that cases are mostly declining in areas where many people are vaccinated and rising in areas where they aren’t.

You can see there how vulnerable Wyoming is, with both a low vaccination rate and a relatively high number of cases. The Post spoke to the health director of a county where only a quarter of the population has been vaccinated and asked her what she’d do if a variant like B.1.617 started to run wild. “For me to try to say we need to go back and mask or do anything like that, I would almost think I need police protection,” she told them, adding that “the general public figures covid is done, gone and over with, and they don’t want to hear about it.” A lot of Indians felt the same way three months ago.

Speaking of which:

It won’t be much longer before the Indian/Delta variant, B.1.617, supplants the B.1.1.7 British/Alpha variant as the dominant strain in the U.S. Even so, unlike in the UK, summer fun here is still a go. The White House announced that it’s planning an “independence from the virus” celebration on July 4 and Bill de Blasio decreed yesterday that New York City will have a ticker-tape parade for doctors and nurses on July 7 to celebrate their service during the pandemic. In the U.S., left-wing Democrats are more willing to party this summer than British Conservatives are. Although we’ll see how they feel if and when the Indian variant reaches the same degree of prevalence in the U.S. as it has in the UK.