New York City’s public hospitals have reinstated a mask mandate as COVID-19 cases rise across the city and nation.
A spokesperson for NYC Health & Hospitals (H&H) confirmed to amNewYork Metro that a mask mandate had been reinstated at all of its clinical facilities, including 11 public hospitals, community-based clinics, and nursing homes, before the start of the new year.
“The policy went in effect just after Christmas,” said H&H spokesperson Chris Miller. “As we’ve seen an increase in COVID, flu, and RSV this is really to protect our patients, staff, and the community. It applies to clinical settings such as our hospitals, community health centers, and nursing homes.”
COVID cases have been on the rise for weeks in the five boroughs. On Dec. 31, 1,769 people were recorded as testing positive, according to state health data, a 235% increase over levels seen on Oct. 31 and an 85% increase over Nov. 30.
The numbers are likely a significant undercount as in-person testing has largely been supplanted by at-home testing.
COVID hospitalizations are also higher, rising from 460 on Nov. 29 to 1,140 on Dec. 29, a 148% increase.
More than 80,000 people have been killed by COVID in New York State since the virus first reared its head in 2020, but thankfully, the current surge does not appear to have led to an escalation of fatalities related to the virus. Vaccines and effective medical treatments have reduced the effects of COVID for many, though seniors and those with preexisting health conditions remain susceptible to serious illness if not treated early.
Cases have risen across the country over the past month as a new variant called JN.1 takes hold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just before Christmas that JN.1 comprised up to half of cases currently seen across the nation. Hospital systems in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and several other cities have also restored mask mandates in recent days.
COVID is not the only disease that has seen a surge in the Big Apple, either. Influenza and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, have been on the rise since November, according to the Health Department. The last time data was published was in mid-December, when the Health Department recorded 8,435 specimens positive for influenza and 3,879 positive for RSV.
New Yorkers have largely shunned their masks since the Big Apple tapered off its COVID-era mask mandates in 2022, though contingents of health activists have lobbied for health systems to keep them in place.