Just as life seems to get back to normal and city dwellers head out more than they have in the past two years, New York City is asking people to mask up again.
On Tuesday, with COVID-19 cases increasing 82% in New York City and hospitalizations increasing 30% in the city over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times, officials raised the city's alert level from "medium" to "high," which means there's high community spread. NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan is now suggesting all New Yorkers wear a mask indoors and at crowded outdoor spaces, particularly KN95 and KF94 masks and N95 respirators.
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"New York City has transitioned to a high COVID alert level, meaning now is the time to double down on protecting ourselves and each other by making choices that can keep our friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers from getting sick," he said in a statement.
Masking up indoors means wearing a mask when in a public setting, including at grocery stores, building lobbies, offices, stores and other common or shared spaces where individuals may interact, such as restrooms, hallways, elevators and meeting rooms, the city says.
Those at high risk of severe illness and death—namely, people over 65, the unvaccinated and children under 5-year-old who are not yet eligible for the vaccine—are urged to mask up even more urgently. These folks should avoid crowded settings and non-essential gatherings indoors, the health department notes in its official advisory.
"Regular home testing and wearing masks indoors, especially while cases rise, is the best way to keep yourself, those around you, and your community safe," Commissioner Dr. Vasan said. "I advise all New Yorkers to mask up indoors, even if you have a negative test and especially if you are unvaccinated, have not had your booster, or are in a high-risk category. Masks offer strong protection against getting and transmitting COVID-19. We don’t anticipate that this wave will last much longer, so hang in there, New York City. If we all do our part, we can bring case numbers down in the coming weeks and get ready for a wonderful summer."
To further help curb the increase in cases, the department and other city agencies will start distributing an additional 16.5 million at-home COVID-19 tests and one million high-quality masks over the next month to 1,600 New York City public schools and the over 1,000 community organizations, libraries, cultural institutions, houses of worship and elected offices participating in the city’s At-Home Test Distribution Program.
New Yorkers can find an at-home test distribution pick-up location at nyc.gov/covidtest and those who test positive at home can call 212-COVID19 to be connected to resources like free meal and care package delivery. Care packages contain personal protection equipment (PPE) for a household of three to quarantine and two rapid antigen at-home tests.
"As a city, we have the tools to blunt the impact of this wave, including distributing tests, masks and promoting treatments," the commissioner said. "Getting back to Low Risk depends on everyone doing their part and if we follow guidance, our forecasts anticipate this wave’s peak will not last long. What we do now can make all the difference."
UPDATE: The COVID-19 Alert Level in NYC is now 🟧high. There is high community spread of #COVID19 and pressure on the health care system is increasing.— nychealthy (@nycHealthy) May 17, 2022
Learn about additional precautions during this level: https://t.co/6bMY13hKWj pic.twitter.com/9TzqjB7ITt