Image courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
New York City on Tuesday officially hit a “high” Covid-19 alert level, meaning there’s increased community spread of the virus and significant pressure on the health care system. The new risk level comes a day after city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan issued an advisory recommending all New Yorkers wear masks in indoor public settings and that those at risk of severe illness avoid crowds. In response to rising cases, the city said it will distribute an additional 16.5 million at-home tests and one million high-quality masks to public schools, community organizations, cultural institutions, libraries, and houses of worship. Although hitting the “high” alert level comes with the recommendation of a mask mandate, the city is not requiring face coverings yet.
“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,” Vasan said.
According to benchmarks set by the city, a “high” level is reached once new virus cases reach 200 or more per 100,000 residents over seven days and new hospital admissions reach 10 or more per 100,000 residents in the past week. The “very high” level would be reached if the city’s hospitals reach 90 percent capacity.
As of May 13, new cases reached 291.55 per 100,000 residents with new hospitalizations per 100,000 over the last seven days hovering just below 10 at 9.8, according to NYC Health data.
The commissioner’s advisory goes as follows:
- Wear a mask in all indoor public settings, including at groceries, building lobbies, offices, stores, and other common or shared spaces.
- All masks should cover the nose and mouth. Higher-quality masks, such as the KN95 and KF94 masks and N95 respirators, can offer additional protection.
- If you are at high risk of severe illness, are over 65, or are unvaccinated, take additional precautions. Avoid crowded settings and non-essential get-togethers.
“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,” Vasan said in a tweet on Monday. “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.”
The commissioner added: “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.”
Mayor Eric Adams has not issued a mask mandate for indoor spaces, despite the current high community spread. “We are not at the point of mandating masks,” Adams said on Monday, according to the New York Times. “We are not at the point of doing anything other than urging New Yorkers, while you are indoors in large settings, social settings, wear your masks.
Earlier this month, the city moved to the ‘medium’ risk level as new cases reached 200 per 100,000 residents per week. The city did not deem it necessary to reinstate the mask mandate at that point but may reconsider it since the city has reached this new alert level.
You can find an at-home test distribution site near you at nyc.gov/covidtest.
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