NEW YORK - New York City's health commissioner has a message in response to a new rise in COVID cases: Get ready to start taking extra safety precautions — again.
The city created a four-tiered alert system to track the threat of COVID, using red, orange, yellow, and green to help explain what New Yorkers should do to stay safe. Right now, the city is still in green but won't be for long.
"We expect that due to the rising number of cases we are going to move into yellow, which is medium risk," Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the health commissioner, said on Monday.
Mayor Eric Adams, who is recovering from a COVID infection, said he wasn't ready yet to reinstate an indoor mask mandate.
"We have a standard before we move to the next color-coded system," Adams said. "We're not there yet and so we are advising New Yorkers to wear masks but we're not at the point of mandate right now."
The BA.2 variant is making up about 80% of COVID infections across New York, according to data from the state.
"The numbers are going up. So be smart, get your vaccination get boosted," Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Monday. "And when you need to be around a lot of people and you're more comfortable doing this then certainly wear a mask."
An overlap of the Passover, Easter and Ramadan holidays over the weekend definitely didn't help curb the spread, according to Dr. Vasan. He has this advice for all of us. Advice we have heard so many times before.
"We really encourage New Yorkers to go get tested frequently, to go get treated if they test positive, to get vaccinated if you haven't been vaccinated, to get boosted," Vasan said.
Health officials are urging anyone who spent time in larger groups over the holiday weekend to get tested for COVID-19, especially in areas like the Upper East Side because this is one of five neighborhoods across the city seeing particularly high transmission rates.
"As the two new and highly contagious variants continue to circulate, make sure you are getting tested and if you test positive please stay home and consult your doctor on available treatments," Hochul said in a statement. "Be smart, wear your mask if you're around vulnerable family members and think it's necessary, and make sure the friends and family you are spending time with are vaccinated and boosted if eligible."
The health commissioner is also urging New Yorkers to mask up in all indoor public settings to try and slow the spread.
Masks will also remain a requirement at all Broadway shows until at least the end of May but some theaters are now saying they're going to stop checking for vaccination status.
The CDC had decided to extend face-covering requirements on public transportation for at least another two weeks as the agency assesses BA.2 but a federal judge voided the mandate, saying the CDC overstepped its authority. The MTA, however, said it is keeping the mask mandate in place for subways, buses, and commuter trains.