New York City officials issue health advisory, urge mask use as flu, COVID-19 and RSV spread

New York City health officials are urging residents to wear masks indoors and in crowded settings due to the rise in RSV, flu, and COVID-19 cases.

“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.”  

State health and education officials recently sent a letter to school districts with recommendations, including wearing masks indoors, in response to the area’s growing number of flu, COVID-19 and RSV cases. 

“A host of respiratory viruses, including influenza, RSV and COVID-19, have taken hold in our state and in most of our communities. These viruses, while often manageable, can cause serious outcomes, especially for children,” said the letter signed by Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and Education Commissioner Betty Rosa. 

The medical director for primary care at Columbia University Medical Center welcomes the new recommendations, mostly to help stop the spread of flu. 

“Flu is going crazy,” Dr. David Buchholz said. “It’s wearing masks, washing hands, covering the mouth with the elbow when you cough, maybe some social distancing. All back to basics to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses.”

The CDC’s latest COVID Data Tracker report recommended masks indoors in five New York counties, encompassing Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and all of Long Island.

But while COVID is up in the Tri-State Area, the flu has led the way in hospitalizations. 

“The number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases has nearly tripled over the past three weeks and flu hospitalizations have more than doubled,” the letter to school districts continued. “In response, we are urging a community-wide approach, inclusive of schools, to again take precautions this holiday season and winter that can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses and protect young children, older individuals, and those with underlying health conditions.”

Outside P.S. 84 on the Upper West Side, it’s not just COVID concerns that have parents masking up their kids again. It’s the so-called “tripledemic.”   

“It can’t hurt. I’d rather my kid not get sick and protect her friends,” said Joanne Shea. 

“It’s great they’re recommending. We should take guidance from them,” said Karen Pham Van. 

“We’ve gotten vaccinated, so I think you should have the choice, I’m choosing to mask. I think if others don’t want to, they shouldn’t have to,” said Shenae Osborn. 

“They can recommend whatever they want. And I think the parents have the last say in terms of what their kids do regarding their health,” said Yiatin Chu. 

“I guess it’s a good idea, because it’s coming again, the virus. COVID is coming back,” said Rosendo Martinez. 

Written by John Dias for CBS Broadcasting Inc. Click here for the link to the full story


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