The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for masks in 54 of New York’s 62 counties due to high Covid-19 levels.
More than 75% of the U.S. is still in the green but 297 counties nationwide are at a high risk, more than double from last week; masks are urged in areas with high Covid levels.
Forty-five New York state counties were considered high-risk last week, but Cayuga, Cortland, Hamilton, Madison and Sullivan counties were downgraded to medium Covid levels this week and Orange County moved down to low-risk, becoming the only county in the Empire State in the green. Another 15 counties, however, moved up to high Covid levels.
Currently just seven NYS counties are at medium risk including Cayuga County, Cortland County, Hamilton County, Madison County, Rockland County, St. Lawrence County and Sullivan County. It’s the first time since early April that Cayuga County has been below high Covid levels.
Only three counties in New York were considered high risk six weeks ago: Onondaga, Oswego and Cayuga counties. The list quickly grew as cases spread from Central New York; areas with high Covid levels now include counties in nearby states Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Masks are recommended, not mandated, indoors in areas with high Covid community levels under new CDC guidelines released in February. Masking recommendations are now based on three factors — Covid hospitalizations, hospital capacity and new Covid cases — focusing more on preventing hospitals from getting overwhelmed and less on positive tests, which spiked during the omicron wave in December and January.
Masks are not recommended indoors, including in schools, in areas with medium or low community levels, though immunocompromised people and others at high risk for severe illness may still want to wear face coverings indoors and avoid large crowds.
The CDC also says anyone with Covid-19 symptoms or who test positive should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status or the risk level where they live.