Wear a mask in public indoor places, NYC health commissioner says

New Yorkers should continue to wear a mask when visiting indoor settings in public places, according to the city's top doctor, who cited rising COVID-19 cases.

"Cases are definitively rising — and it's gotten our attention. They will continue to rise over the next few weeks. And it's likely that over these weeks we will move into a different level of overall risk across the city," Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city's commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told reporters at a City Hall briefing on Friday. "Masking along with getting vaccinated, getting boosted if you're eligible, testing regularly, and getting treated are the best tools we have to take on this virus, whatever it throws at us."

Vasan kept a mask on while he spoke from the City Hall lectern.

"You'll notice today that I, myself, am wearing a mask. I'm doing that because it's what I'm recommending New Yorkers do in public indoor settings," he said. "Especially if you're not certain about the vaccination status of those around you, but also calibrating for your own individual sense of risk and comfort."

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The BA.2 subvariant of omicron is the dominant form of the virus in New York and the United States, according to the CDC. Vasan said this subvariant, which is more transmissible than prior variants, is driving the increase in infections. 

NYC school mask rule to remain for young kids

At the same briefing, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city will keep a mask mandate in place for children between the ages of 2 and 4 in school and childcare settings. Vasan explained that this decision was based on the rising cases and the lack of an approved vaccine for children under 5. 

But he reiterated that everyone should consider wearing a mask. 

"We're making the strong recommendation that all New Yorkers of every age choose to wear a mask in indoor settings — according to their level of risk, according to their level of comfort," Vasan said. "That's our strong recommendation. It's why I'm wearing a mask. It's why many of you are wearing a mask."

The commissioner acknowledged that New Yorkers have been living with the pandemic for more than two years and have been asked to have patience. He said the city is asking New Yorkers to be patient for a bit longer. 

"We've gotten as far as we have thanks to masks and thanks to a number of other tools, which include vaccines, testing, treatment, and, yes, patience and resilience," Vasan said. "We need to employ all of these tools together and extend each other a bit of forbearance and grace as we do so."

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