NY recommends indoor masking in 'high risk' counties

The New York State Department of Health announced Friday that people living in counties that are considered "high risk" for transmission of the coronavirus should return to wearing masks indoors as a surge of infections continues statewide.

"In accordance with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we recommend that all New Yorkers in high-risk COVID-19 counties and all New Yorkers at-risk of severe disease wear a mask in public indoor places, regardless of vaccination status," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. "These public health measures, as well as ensuring proper air ventilation when gathering, will help reduce COVID-19 transmission in communities and lower the risk of serious illness and hospitalization for individuals."

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The CDC has designated 45 counties in New York as high-risk, including Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, and Ulster counties.

Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island are all considered medium-risk counties, while Bronx County is the only county in the state considered low-risk.

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State health officials say the surge of cases is being driven by the BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus, which makes up for over 50% of new cases. 

On Thursday, President Joe Biden appealed to world leaders at a COVID-19 summit to reenergize a lagging international commitment to attacking the virus as he led the U.S. in marking the "tragic milestone" of 1 million deaths in America.