NYC raises COVID-19 alert level to high

New York City has entered a 'high alert' warning for COVID-19. The city's health department announced the move on Tuesday morning.

Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan, had issued an advisory on Monday urging all New Yorkers to wear a mask while indoors including in grocery stores, building lobbies, offices, stores, and other common or shared spaces.

In a statement, the department said: "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. What we do now can make all the difference."

Raising the alert level from medium to high indicates an increased and significant level of community spread. 

"Regular home testing and wearing masks indoors, especially while cases rise, is the best way to keep yourself and your community safe," Vasan tweeted. "I advise all New Yorkers to mask up indoors, especially if you're unvaccinated, have not had your booster, or are in a high-risk category."

The decision is based on the number of cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, new admissions with COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the last seven days, and the percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

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"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, including at groceries, building lobbies, offices, stores, and other common or shared spaces where individuals may interact such as restrooms, hallways, elevators, and meeting rooms," Vasan wrote in the advisory. "This is particularly important in settings with people who may not be vaccinated or consistently wear masks, or where ventilation is poor."

Residents at high risk of severe illness including those age 65 and older and those unvaccinated should avoid crowded settings and limit gatherings.

On Tuesday afternoon the New York Department of Education recommended that all students wear masks in schools or early childhood education programs.  The guidance did not make mask-wearing mandatory.

Commissioner: Wear Higher-Quality Masks

"All masks should cover the nose and the mouth and rest snugly above the nose, below the mouth, and on the sides of the face. Higher-quality masks, such as KN95 and KF94 masks and N95 respirators, can offer an additional layer of protection," Vasan wrote in the advisory. "Wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask and knotting the ear loops to tighten masks are additional techniques to improve fit and protection."

High-Risk Counties in New York

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."

RELATED: NY recommends indoor masking in 'high risk' counties

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.

U.S. COVID Deaths

As of Monday morning, Johns Hopkins University counted 999,607 COVID-related deaths in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,000,292 deaths.