New York City has moved from a "medium" COVID-19 alert level to a "high" alert level amid a rise in cases, the five boroughs' health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, announced Tuesday morning.
While officials have not imposed any new mandates, the city is urging New Yorkers to wear high-quality masks in public indoor settings and “crowded outdoor spaces,” the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a press release.
What You Need To Know
- The city has moved to a "high" COVID-19 alert level, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said Tuesday
- While officials have not imposed any new mandates, the city is urging New Yorkers to wear high-quality masks in public indoor settings and “crowded outdoor spaces"
- The city is also continuing to advise New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted
New Yorkers should “consider avoiding higher-risk activities (such as crowded indoor gatherings) and any gatherings should be limited to small numbers,” the release said.
The city is also continuing to advise New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted, the release added.
“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 in a statement. “As a city, we have the tools to blunt the impact of this wave, including distributing tests, masks and promoting treatments.”
“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,” he added. “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
In a letter sent out to parents and guardians on Tuesday, meanwhile, Vasan and Schools Chancellor David Banks said students ages two and up would be encouraged — but not required — to wear masks “while at school or [early childhood education] program[s] and when gathering with friends.”
The two also advised families to get kids ages five and up vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said it had authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages five to 11.
As of Tuesday, the five boroughs had a 9.09% seven-day average positivity rate, with hospitalizations and confirmed deaths at “stable” levels, city data shows.
Mayor Eric Adams on Monday said schools, libraries and other city sites would distribute an additional 16.5 million COVID-19 testing kits and 1 million masks in an effort to mitigate the recent rise in cases.
The mayor, however, added that officials were “not at the point of mandating masks.”
“If there comes a time that our hospitals are now in a state of emergency, or we’re trending that way, and my doctors that run the hospitals tell me, ‘Eric, this is what we need to do,' I’m going to listen to them,” he said. “Right now, they’re telling me, ‘No, we don’t need to do that. We have this under control. We don’t have this crisis in our hospitals that we had previously.’”
In an interview with NY1 on Tuesday, Dr. Denis Nash, a Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology at the CUNY School of Public Health, said several factors may have kept hospitalizations and fatalities relatively low, despite a “surge in transmission.”
“One of the main hypotheses is that at this time in New York City, protection against severe disease is very high because of the high levels of vaccination and booster coverage, and also because of the high levels of antibodies that come from infection,” Nash said. “For those that survived, for those that didn’t get long COVID, that’s going to provide some protection.”
Early treatment and antiviral access for the city’s vulnerable residents could have also played a role, he added.
Still, Nash said he hoped to see the city reinstate a mask requirement for public indoor settings, noting that the “stakes are huge.”
“I don’t think we can feel confident enough to just see how it goes,” he said. “Something needs to be done to protect New Yorkers during these massive surges.”
Nash also said the city should double down on its efforts to get New Yorkers vaccinated and boosted.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about the mixed messaging that people get from our political leaders, about how we’re returning to normal, and we need to learn to live with COVID,” he said. “When our leaders act like the pandemic is over, then people may not feel compelled to get a booster.”