As New York City enters the holiday season, COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses are seeing unusually high concurrent spikes. To slow the transmission of these viruses, the New York City Health Commissioner issued a Health Advisory that urges New York City residents to use high-quality masks when indoors and in crowded outdoor settings.
“This is especially important for people who are – or are meeting – those who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, such as those age 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised,” the Health Department said in a statement.
COVID pandemic afflicted more than 3.5 million residents across New York state, which also reported 43,415 deaths since the pandemic started.
“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely – even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “It starts with protecting yourself. Vaccination and boosters are critical but so are common sense precautions like masking when indoors or among crowds and staying home if you don’t feel well. Also, get tested before getting together, and get treated quickly if you test positive. We want everyone to have a happy and – most of all – healthy holiday.”
The Commissioner’s Advisory also urges people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu, even if they have been vaccinated previously. Everyone ages six months or older should get their COVID-19 primary series if they haven’t already and receive the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster when eligible. An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Many pharmacies and doctors’ offices offer both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and it is safe to get them at the same time.
The City will continue to make vaccination and masking resources available to New Yorkers. For example, between Oct. 29 and Nov. 25, around 70 community partners, along with Health Department staff, carried out the following activities:
- Engaged 83,558 community members at 917 in-person street level outreach events.
- Engaged 4,109 community members at 122 in-person community conversations.
- Engaged 45,093 virtual community members* at 29 virtual community conversations.
- Made 24,367 vaccine referrals, 6,181 testing referrals and 38,778 referrals to other health and social services.
- Distributed 116,066 pieces of educational literature, 344,576 face masks and 80,526 Home Tests Kits.
This is part of the overall engagement effort since July 2021 to Nov. 25, 2022, including:
- Engaged 1,664,561 community members at 30,544 in-person street level outreach events.
- Made 1,011,454 vaccine referrals, 272,872 testing referrals and 546,377 referrals to other health and social services.
- Distributed 5,402,745 pieces of educational literature, 3,602,719 KN95 face masks and 614,023 Home Tests Kits.
This does not include the extensive resources provided by partners such as Test-and-Trace and others.
The city also continues to launch vaccination pop-ups and other efforts to promote vaccine access and equity.
“People who are at increased risk of severe illness from respiratory viruses, including people age 65 and older, infants, people with a weakened immune system, people with certain underlying medical conditions, people who are pregnant, and people who are not up to date on flu or COVID-19 vaccinations should consider additional precautions to avoid exposure to respiratory viruses, such as wearing a higher quality mask, such as KN95 and KF94 mask or N95 respirator, limiting attendance at large indoor gatherings, wearing a mask when gathering with others, and asking people to wear a mask and get a COVID-19 test prior to gathering,” added the Health Department in a statement.
It said as the holidays approach, New Yorkers can help protect their loved ones from COVID by getting tested before and after gatherings and wearing a mask around people who are at increased risk of severe respiratory illness. If you are sick, stay home, avoid close contact with others, and talk to your provider about what testing, care, and treatment is right for you. You can call your health care provider or 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319) to ask about treatment.
“With respiratory illnesses on the rise, the Health Department is closely monitoring the COVID-19, influenza, RSV, hospital, and syndromic surveillance data. The Health Department has noted high levels of cases and hospitalizations for COVID, flu, and RSV. The combined impact of these respiratory illnesses puts individuals at risk and risks straining our healthcare system,” the statement concluded.