City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan made it official Tuesday: New York City finds itself on “high” alert due to an increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
“New York City has transitioned to a high COVID alert level, meaning now is the time to double down on protecting ourselves and each other by making choices that can keep our friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers from getting sick,” Vasan 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.”
The alert level change came a day after Mayor Eric Adams outlined an action plan to ensure that New Yorkers have access to free at-home tests and masks.
“The goal is to come up with a master plan and shift like COVID is shifting,” the mayor said during a May 16 press conference. “And our team of experts is taking in everything to make the determination on what the next steps are going to be with COVID.”
The high alert level, according to the city’s Health Department, means that there is “high community spread of COVID-19 and substantial pressure on the health care system.” That means more New Yorkers not only are contracting COVID-19, but they’re also seeking medical care for it at doctor’s offices, urgent care centers and hospitals.
The citywide 7-day positivity rate stood at 9.07% on May 17, a very high rate. As of May 14, the city’s transmission rate — another indicator used to track the spread of the virus — stood at a whopping 308.51 cases per 100,000 residents.
Meanwhile, the 7-day average number of daily COVID-19 cases stood at 3,674 as of May 14. A month earlier, on April 14, that average daily number was 2,360.
Hospitalizations are stable, according to the Health Department, though the numbers have increased in recent weeks. On May 12, 76 New Yorkers wound up in the hospital due to COVID-19 symptoms.
Blessedly, death rates are stable and low, based on the Health Department data — yet people are still dying from COVID-19, with two deaths reported on May 12.
So what does the high alert level mean for you?
For one, the city is strongly advising, not requiring, people to wear masks in indoor public settings and crowded outdoor spaces. The agency also suggests avoiding all high-risk activities, such as crowded indoor gatherings, and to keep gatherings small, at least for now.
You should also continue to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, get it; if you’ve been vaccinated, get a booster shot if you haven’t already done so.
Make sure you get tested if you come down with COVID-19 symptoms, or were exposed to an infected individual, or traveled or went to a large event.
Vaccines and boosters have proven the most effective at keeping the severity of COVID-19 at bay. Most individuals who’ve been vaccinated or boosted, and who have caught COVID-19, either remained asymptomatic, or experienced mild symptoms.
If you do get sick with COVID-19, or were recently exposed to the virus, stay home. Contact your physician or 212-COVID-19 if you test positive for the virus, and ask about antiviral treatments that are available via same day delivery.