Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday the COVID-19 emergency declaration, which expires at midnight tonight, will not be extended. Courtesy photo: Governor's office

New York’s state disaster emergency, declared by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 7, 2020, will officially end at midnight, when the most recent extension of the disaster emergency is set to expire.

Cuomo announced yesterday that he would not extend the emergency order, citing “New York’s dramatic progress against COVID-19, with the success in vaccination rates, and declining hospitalization and positivity statewide.”

The governor’s announcement came a week after he announced most COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted in New York. On June 16, he issued an executive order removing capacity limits on indoor social gatherings at all but large-scale venues.

Federal CDC guidance will remain in effect, the governor said yesterday. CDC guidance includes masks for unvaccinated individuals, as well as all riders on public transit and in certain settings, such as schools, health care, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters.

Since mid-May, the statewide COVID-19 test percent-positive rates have fallen to record lows, remaining below 1% statewide after May 18. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the virus have also dropped.

At the same time, the percentage of adult New Yorkers that have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reached over 71%, according to CDC data.

“Now we’re starting to write a new chapter for a post-COVID New York,” Cuomo said yesterday. The state disaster emergency is ending and we can focus on reimagining, rebuilding and renewing our state. This doesn’t mean COVID is gone. We still have to get more New Yorkers vaccinated, but we are getting back on track and starting to live life once again.”

The state of emergency declaration, in effect for 474 days, including today, allowed the governor to wield broad powers over state government, commercial activities and individual behavior.

>>>>More COVID-19 coverage, data and updates

In his initial executive order imposing the disaster emergency, Cuomo suspended the authority of other state officials, including the state comptroller. He suspended laws regulating government purchasing and procurement processes, laws regulating certain professional licensing requirements. He also altered state health regulations and granted the commissioner of health authority to issue emergency regulations.

In the days and weeks that followed, as the coronavirus situation in downstate New York grew rapidly more acute, Cuomo amended the initial executive order to impose a myriad of restrictions on businesses, governments, courts and personal activity. He suspended or modified rules governing the operation of many types of health facilities and allowing the establishment of temporary hospitals.

Within a week of the March 7, 2020 emergency order, Cuomo ordered a statewide shutdown in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Subsequent executive orders suspended existing laws or rules and/or established new rules affecting everything from the opening of bids and the conduct of public government meetings to allowing health care providers and funeral directors licensed in other states to practice in New York, to deadlines for property tax and income tax payments.

From the start, the governor’s assumption of expansive executive powers met with criticism and pushback from state legislators, local officials, business groups and members of the public.

As early as last May, state legislators sought to enact legislation limiting the governor’s emergency powers. The proposals were supported by both Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), then a member of the assembly, and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who was a cosponsor. But the measure did not move forward.

Opposition to the governors’s emergency powers reached a peak this spring with the governor embroiled in scandals over his handling of the COVID crisis in nursing homes, omissions in the state’s reporting of nursing home deaths and lack of information on infections in those facilities and accusations against the governor by former and present aides and employees of sexual harassment and bullying.

State lawmakers in March passed bills curtailing the governor’s emergency powers and granting the legislature the power to strip him of all emergency management powers — but the measures did not rescind the governor’s emergency orders. Facing mounting criticism and calls for his resignation on both sides of the aisle, Cuomo signed the measure March 7, five days after it was passed by the legislature.

Earlier this month, members of the minority conference renewed their calls for the governor to rescind his emergency orders, citing the decreased number of infections and the increasing vaccination rates.

“It’s finally time to get New York state off of life-support,” Giglio said on June 7 at a press conference in Albany. “We’ve had a successful vaccine rollout and we’ve complied with the regulations. Our children need a care-free summer, our businesses should be fully open and we have all earned a well-deserved respite,” Giglio said. “It’s time to go back to normal. Repeal the state of emergency.”

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar lifted the emergency declaration in the town on June 15. Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman lifted the state of emergency in Southampton Town as of May 15.

To date, nearly 43,000 New Yorkers have died as a result of COVID-19 infections, according to the state health department.

As of Tuesday, there were 2,095,233 confirmed cases of the disease statewide, 938,747 in New York City, 201,261 in Suffolk and 183,825 in Nassau — for a total of 385,086 on Long Island. There have been 3,633 confirmed cases in Riverhead. Confirmed case data are those confirmed by COVID-19 viral testing and do not include antibody tests. In Suffolk County an additional 61,059 people were positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Studies done for the CDC indicate that actual infection rates may be as high as three to five times the documented infections because of mild and asymptomatic infections that go undiagnosed.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.