The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued a health advisory recommending that residents wear masks at all times when they are at indoor public spaces regardless of their vaccination status, citing an increase in respiratory viral illnesses and the high levels of hospitalizations being reported.
Along with indoor public spaces, the department also advised that masks be worn when people are sick and unable to separate from others. Those who test positive for COVID-19 should wear a mask at all times when out in public, the department said.
This advisory does not apply when someone is engaged in an activity that cannot be done while wearing a mask, such as eating or drinking.
Individuals who have a high risk of developing a severe illness should also consider taking other precautions when out in public. People who are pregnant, older than 65, have weakened immune systems or are not up to date on their vaccines should consider avoiding large indoor gatherings and asking those around them to mask as well when gathering together.
“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely — even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a statement.
“It starts with protecting yourself. Vaccination and boosters are critical but so are common sense precautions like masking when indoors or among crowds and staying home if you don’t feel well,” he added. “Also, get tested before getting together, and get treated quickly if you test positive.”
The health advisory cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has said there is currently a high level of respiratory viruses across the country.
Earlier this week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said hospitalizations for flu are the highest for this time of year they have been in a decade, adding that levels of flu-like illness are considered to be high or very high in 47 jurisdictions.
Walensky also encouraged people to wear high-quality, well-fitted masks, particularly among the 5 percent of the country living in counties with high COVID-19 community levels.
“CDC continues to recommend masking for anyone choosing to travel by plane train, bus or other form of public transportation or for anyone who may be immunocompromised or the increased risk of severe disease,” Walensky said.
As New York once again urges its residents to wear masks indoors, other major municipalities are reportedly considering similarly action.
As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, Los Angeles County has already met one of the two criteria suggested by the CDC for a mask mandate to be issued. The county’s COVID-19 case rates are currently considered to be high.
If 10 percent of staffed hospital beds are filled with patients with COVID-19 and stays at or above this level for two weeks, then a mask mandate would be on the table for Los Angeles County.