Home U.S NYC health commissioner warns he's considering bringing back mask and vaccination mandates

NYC health commissioner warns he's considering bringing back mask and vaccination mandates

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New York City’s top health official says mask mandates and vaccine checks could make a comeback as the city battles a slight uptick in cases and hospitalizations from the omicron BA.2 subvariant. 

The city increased its COVID-19 alert from low to medium this week.

Commissioner Ashwin Vasan says restrictions will come back if things get worse.

‘It’s clear that if we moved into a high risk and high alert environment, we’d be seriously considering bringing those mandates back,’ he told CNBC. 

The city would go into high alert if 10 out of every 100,000 people were hospitalized with COVID, or if inpatient beds reached 10 percent occupancy across a seven-day average.

Hospitalization rates are currently at seven out of 100,000, which is close to the high alert benchmark. Hospital occupancy, however, remains at a low 3.12 percent, though it’s still increasing.

As of today, 87 percent of adults and 78 percent of all New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. 

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told DailyMail.com they’re ‘watching the data’ but still recommend that New Yorkers wear a mask indoors – which is currently only required on public transportation, at health facilities or during Broadway shows.

The return of stringent COVID restrictions would affect businesses like restaurants and movie theaters that just stopped checking customers’ vaccine cards in March. Customers who have largely gotten used to baring their faces in public establishments again would also have to adjust to the sudden shift.

New Yorkers may soon have to mask up and show proof of vaccination when entering certain businesses as COVID-19 cases show a slight uptick

New Yorkers may soon have to mask up and show proof of vaccination when entering certain businesses as COVID-19 cases show a slight uptick

Cases have trended upward in New York City due to the new BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 subvariants of Omicron

Cases have trended upward in New York City due to the new BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 subvariants of Omicron

The seven-day average of cases in New York City was 1,589 on April 1. On May 1, it was 2,715.

The seven-day average of cases in New York City was 1,589 on April 1. On May 1, it was 2,715.

NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said:'It's clear that if we moved into a high risk and high alert environment, we'd be seriously considering bringing those mandates back'

NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said: ‘It’s clear that if we moved into a high risk and high alert environment, we’d be seriously considering bringing those mandates back’

The Broadway League, a trade association of theaters, producers and managers, told DailyMail.com they will follow any ‘city, state and CDC guidelines’ if new rules are put in place.

But some New Yorkers may find the return of mandatory masking and vaccine checks difficult as the city slowly returns to normal. 

Cases in the city are currently at 200 per 100,000 people – or two percent. 

NYC Health spokesman Patrick Gallahue says the department is keeping an eye on rising cases and ‘working to bring our alert level back to low.’

‘At the moment that entails recommendations to New Yorkers to mask up in public indoor settings,’ he said.

Hospitalization rates are currently at seven out of 100,000 residents. At 10, the city would go into high alert.

‘We would need to see those levels rise to concerning benchmarks in order for us to move into a higher risk category,’ Commissioner Vasan told CNBC. ‘I think the choices we make now are going to be determinative.’

Vasan is a Harvard graduate who teaches clinical population and family health and medicine at Columbia University.

The primary care doctor and epidemiologist became health commissioner in March. 

Mayor Eric Adams lifted vaccine checks in early March. The mask mandate for students at public schools from K-12 have also ended, though toddlers are still required to wear masks as they’re ineligible for vaccines as of yet.

Infections and hospitalizations are down more than 90 percent from the peak of the Omicron wave in January but have been ticking upward because of the new subvariant.

New restrictions would have a significant impact on residents of the Big Apple who have gotten used to baring their faces in public. Masks are currently only required on public transportation, health facilities, Broadway shows and at schools for kids under 5

New restrictions would have a significant impact on residents of the Big Apple who have gotten used to baring their faces in public. Masks are currently only required on public transportation, health facilities, Broadway shows and at schools for kids under 5

The BA.2 variant is now behind 61.9 percent of cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control

The BA.2 variant is now behind 61.9 percent of cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control

The seven-day average of cases in New York City was 1,589 on April 1. On May 1, it was 2,715.  

Hospitalizations in the city have also gone up from a post-Omicron low of 20 on March 6 to 51 on Monday. 

‘Between the end of the omicron wave and the beginning of this current wave, we had maybe a month of relatively low transmission,’ Vasan said.

‘What I’d like to see is a prolonged period of low transmission.’

The BA.2 variant is behind 61.9 percent of cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The BA.2.12.1 variant is responsible for 36.5 percent of nationwide cases.

Both are subvariants of Omicron. 

Luckily for Americans, and people around the world, the most recent version of the virus that has taken over the world is more mild than others.

The Omicron variant, which rose to prominence in late 2021, causes hospitalization and death at much lower levels than its predecessor, the Delta variant.

It is also highly infectious, and entirely snuffed out the more-dangerous Indian-borne strain. According to most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the variant makes up every single sequenced cases in the US.

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