On Monday, New York City’s Commissioner of Health and Human Hygiene, Ashwin Vasan, issued an advisory to residents that “All individuals, regardless of vaccination status or past Covid-19 infection, should wear a mask at all times when indoors and in a public setting.”
The announcement notes that “New York City is approaching ‘high’ level of Covid-19 alert which represents high community spread,” according to the CDC.
Today @NYCHealthCommr issued an advisory as the City approaches the high #COVID19 Alert Level. All New Yorkers should wear masks in all indoor public settings. Those at high risk of severe illness should avoid crowded settings and limit get-togethers: https://t.co/vgcrvAAAG4 pic.twitter.com/nZPEbbSMfX
— nychealthy (@nycHealthy) May 16, 2022
The advisory is simply that: advice. But should the region tip into the high level of community spread, the CDC recommends that all residents “wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings).” Such a federal recommendation in the past has led to local adoption in New York via a mandatory health officer order.
Early in the pandemic, New York City was the epicenter of Covid spread in the United States and, at moments, the world. Now the city of 8-plus million people again finds itself a hot zone of virus spread as the more transmissible BA.2.12.1 Omicron variant, which was first identified in the Northeast, has quickly overtaken BA.2 in the region.
On Friday, New York City’s number of new cases per 100,000 in the past 7 days was 291, which puts it in a more accelerated category of the CDC’s community level assessment. That assessment is meant to provide countermeasures should a community’s healthcare system near overwhelm.
The city’s number of Covid-related healthcare admissions per 100,000 people will likely be the tipping point should New York enter the high, or red, designation level. On Friday, such hospitalizations were 9.8 per 100,000 and rising, per the state’s dashboard. Once the metric reaches 10 or more per, 100,000, the region with be certified “red” and become subject to the more stringent CDC recommendations, including masking indoors.
It is unclear if New York City will move to adopt the CDC strictures, but if hospitals are truly nearing overwhelm, it may have no choice.
Also of note, today’s NYC heath advisory does make some provision for being maskless while eating, playing sports or performing:
The mask advisory does not apply in cases where an individual is actively performing an activity
that cannot be done while wearing a face mask such as actively eating or drinking; is practicing or playing a competitive sport in the New York City Public School Athletic League or on a professional level; or is performing, including but not limited to playing music, delivering a speech to an audience seated at least six feet away, and acting in a theater.
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