Is the Mask Mandate in New York Back? No, but there is a Mask Advisory
COVID-19. RSV. The flu. It’s a triple threat of viruses that are circulating across the country all at once. Many are wondering if the mask mandate in New York is back. While it is not back these viruses are the reason why NYC issued an advisory recommending people to mask up again.
While the advisory is not mandatory, officials are urging New Yorkers to wear masks as rates of COVID-19 and flu are increasing nationally and within the city. Specifically, the advisory recommends masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings.
City health commissioner Ashwin Vasan, M.D., is also advising New Yorkers to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so and get tested for respiratory illness before gathering with others for the holidays.
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“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely – even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” Vasan said. “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. Also, get tested before getting together, and get treated quickly if you test positive. We want everyone to have a happy and – most of all – healthy holiday.”
The advisory comes after a nationwide surge in RSV—respiratory syncytial virus infection—cases began in the fall.
Mask Advisory : Respiratory Illness by the Numbers
Here’s a look at some of the data:
Over the last seven days, COVID-19 cases in NYC average 3,650 each day. That number is increasing, though it’s important to note the daily average of hospitalizations is decreasing (at press time).
The week ending Nov. 26, the city reported flu activity as “elevated.” During the same week, the city’s RSV case count was around 3,300—down from the previous month, but up from the week of Oct. 22.
New York State School Districts: Will Masks Be Mandated?
The state issued a health advisory similar to NYC’s mask advisory, in November. And last week, state health officials sent a letter to school districts recommending masks be worn indoors, according to City & State.
“A host of respiratory viruses, including influenza, RSV and COVID-19, have taken hold in our state and in most of our communities,” the letter read. “These viruses, while often manageable, can cause serious outcomes, especially for children.”
As it stands, school districts across the state can decide whether or not to mandate masks in their schools. In NYC schools, masks are not required.
Protecting Your Family From Respiratory Viruses
The city health department said it is closely monitoring the COVID-19, influenza, RSV, hospital and syndromic surveillance data.
The city’s advisory urges people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu, even if they’ve been vaccinated previously. People ages 6 months or older should get their COVID-19 primary series if they haven’t already and receive the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster when eligible, the advisory says.
Annual flu shots are also recommended for everyone 6 months and older, according to the advisory. Many pharmacies and doctors’ offices offer both flu and COVID-19 shots.
Other ways to prevent respiratory illness include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.
- Not coughing or sneezing into your hands.
- Regularly washing hands and using good hygiene.
- Staying home when sick or symptomatic.
Here are some additional resources that provide more information about respiratory illness:
- Information about RSV.
- Information about the flu, including fact sheets and other downloadable materials.
The COVID-19 website has resources for the public, schools, adult care facilities and medical laboratories.