The City’s Department of Health announced the move Tuesday morning, with Health Commissioner Dr Ashwin Vasan announcing that it is the time to ‘double down’ on Covid prevention measures.
The change comes a day after city officials released a notice recommending all New Yorkers over the age of two mask in in-door public places – though they did not announce it would be mandated.
Covid cases in the Big Apple are rising, averaging 4,000 cases per day – a 50 percent increase over the past two weeks. Officials also report a 28 percent jump in hospitalizations and a 19 percent jump in deaths.
Around half of those hospitalizations are not even because of Covid, with data revealed last week finding that half of patients were actually receiving treatment for another ailment, and just tested positive while present.
Covid cases in New York City are beginning to trend upwards once again, though have not reached anywhere near the peak of the Omicron variant
NYC Covid hospitalizations have slightly increased in recent weeks after bottoming out in late April
Despite increasing cases and hospitalizations related to Covid – deaths in NYC have remained minimal
‘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 on Twitter.
Health officials recommend residents get vaccinated, wear masks in indoor public places and outdoor crowded places, limit get-together to small numbers, avoid high risk activities and also take precautions like staying home when they feel ill.
Ashwin Vasan (pictured) said that ‘now is the time to double down on protecting ourselves and each other’
On Monday, officials also announced they would distribute millions of Covid tests and masks in order to curb the spread of the virus as well.
‘As a city, we have the tools to blunt the impact of this wave, including distributing tests, masks and promoting treatments,’ Vasan continued on Twitter.
‘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.’
In the advisory notice issued Monday, officials said all residents over two years old should now wear face masks in indoor public spaces. It added that people over 65, immunocompromised, or unvaccinated should also consider donning the coverings outdoors and avoiding crowded settings.
It is at least the third Democrat-led city to recommend face masks are used again in all indoor settings, behind both Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
New York City has the fifth largest Covid outbreak in the country, with a rate of 363 cases per 100,000 people and is at the epicenter of the emergency of an even more transmissible version of Omicron — scientifically named BA.2.12.1.
Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Connecticut all have higher Covid rates than New York City. None have re-imposed masks in indoor spaces.
Less than half of ‘Covid’ patients in New York City were people admitted because of the virus, state data shows. This figure has remained below 50 percent since early February, statistics reveal
The above shows Covid case rates across states. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Connecticut all have higher infection rates than New York City but are not recommending a return of mask mandates at this stage
New York City moved to a ‘medium’ Covid alert level last week.
This did not change any rules — with masks still required on public transport — but officials warned that should they shift to a high alert level massk will again be mandated in all indoor spaces and limits on public gatherings will be put in place.
This will be triggered if it reaches 20 admissions per 100,000 people, or if more than 15 percent of hospital beds are taken up by Covid patients.
Currently the hospitalization rate stands at about 9.8, while the proportion of hospital beds taken up by Covid patients is 4.14. Both are rising.
Deaths from Covid in the city currently stand at about 0.4 per 100,000, below levels recorded in early March.
Dr Denis Nash, a public health expert at City University of New York, told DailyMail.com that it was ‘important’ to bring back masks now.
‘There’s been a pretty significant surge for quite some weeks now,’ he said.
‘There is no big increase in hospitalizations yet and deaths remain pretty level but given the magnitude of the surge that is going on right now if it did in fact trigger more hospitalizations, then we are going to wish we took steps much earlier.’
Asked whether face masks should be mandated at present, he added: ‘I think they should, but I think that is very politically fraught and politicians are afraid to go there because of the backlash they might get.’
Advising New Yorkers to start masking up again today, Vasan said on Twitter: ‘Today I’m issuing a Commissioner’s advisory urging all New Yorkers to wear a mask indoors.
‘NYC is approaching a “high” level of Covid alert, which represents high community spread [of the virus].’
But he 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’.
They also plan to distribute 16million at-home Covid tests for free from more than 100 centers across the city.
Other Democrat-led cities also recommending people to wear face masks in indoor settings were Los Angeles, which has had the rule in place since March, and Philadelphia.
Philadelphia became the first U.S. state to bring back face masks last month, but U-turned on the rule just four days after it was imposed citing ‘low hospitalizations’.
They switched to ‘strongly recommending’ the coverings.
Democrat-led states have flip-flopped between face mask rules recently, with varying approaches on when to impose them.
It comes as cases continue to rise nationwide, with states now recording about 87,000 cases a day on average — up 19 percent on the 73,000 seven days ago.
But Covid fatalities have fallen by about a third in a week, to around 374 being recorded every day — similar to levels last summer.
Data from New York City revealed today that of the 670 patients marked as being infected with the virus on Friday, just over two in five — or 43.7 percent — were admitted because of the disease.
The rest came onto wards for another condition such as a broken leg, but later being found to be infected.
It suggests the majority of ‘Covid’ patients in U.S. hospitals are no longer people primarily ill with the disease. Experts warned, however — including Dr Jessica Justman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University — that these cases were still putting strain on the hospital system.
The proportion of Covid patients admitted due to the virus has risen in recent weeks from a low of 35 percent in late April, but it has now been below half for more than three months. There have been less than 100 Covid patients in intensive care — the most seriously ill — since early March.
Omicron — which is behind every case in the U.S. — is much more mild than previous variants, making it less likely to trigger a severe illness.
About 40 percent of infections are also asymptomatic — or trigger no symptoms —, scientists have found including in a JAMA Network Open study.
Justman told DailyMail.com: ‘I don’t think the city should raise its threshold [for activating a high Covid alert level].
‘The CDC’s threshold of hospitalizations is to be considered along with other indicators to assess community transmission.’
She pointed to the CDC’s guide to Covid alert levels, which states that its current Covid hospitalizations figures represent the strain on hospitals “regardless of the reason for inpatient care”.’
Dr Denis Nash, a population health expert at City University of New York, agreed saying warnings from the city that it could reach a high Covid alert level were not overblown.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘NYC wants to be in a place where we can absorb major surges in SARS-CoV-2 transmission like the one we are experiencing right now without concomitant surges in hospitalizations and deaths.
‘The reality is, however, that we don’t know if we are in that place, and we may not know until it is too late.
‘So, I believe it is prudent for our health commissioner to consider these steps and others to help reduce the risk to New Yorkers.’