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City Health Officials “Strongly Recommend” Indoor Mask Use for All New Yorkers

City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Aug. 2, 2021 By Allie Griffin

Mayor Bill de Blasio and city health officials are “strongly recommending” New Yorkers to mask up indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

De Blasio issued the recommendation Monday, but stopped short of calling for mandatory mask use—unlike what officials in some other big U.S. cities have done.

The announcement follows new guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week based on the prevalence of the highly contagious delta variant that has spread across the country.

The federal agency recommended that residents in more than 2,100 counties—where COVID-19 cases are rising—wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of their vaccination status. Queens and the rest of the city are included in the list of counties.

City officials waited until this week to weigh in on the new guidance.

“Today, I’m making a strong recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in public indoor settings,” City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. “This is based on our review of the latest scientific evidence showing that the delta variant of the coronavirus can spread even more easily than was previously thought.”

New Yorkers are already required to wear masks in certain indoor public settings, such as schools, buses and subways, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and congregate places. Unvaccinated New Yorkers, meanwhile, must wear masks any time they leave their home — both indoors and outdoors.

“Most vital… is for people who are not yet fully vaccinated to wear face coverings, any time they’re outside of their own home,” Chokshi said.

New evidence shows that even people who are fully vaccinated can contract COVID-19 and spread it to others, given the contagiousness of the delta variant.

De Blasio said vaccinated New Yorkers should especially wear masks indoors if they’re around people who are unvaccinated, including children under age 12 who aren’t currently eligible for the vaccine.

“If you might be around anyone unvaccinated [or] if you don’t know the people you’re around — if you’re not sure if they’re vaccinated or not … [it’s] absolutely crucial to wear a mask even if you are vaccinated,” he said.

The CDC said the new recommendation applies to counties that it has determined to be areas of “substantial community transmission” or areas of “high community transmission.”

The CDC has left it up to local municipalities to decide whether to follow its recommendation or not.

Counties, such as Queens, are deemed to have “substantial community transmission” when there are between 50 and 99 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

Counties with “high community transmission” have had more than 100 new cases of the virus per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

All five boroughs meet either of these classifications, with Queens and the Bronx deemed areas of substantial community transmission. Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan, meanwhile, each have high community transmission, according to the CDC.

While New York City is only “strongly recommending” universal mask use indoors regardless of vaccination status, other cities like Los Angeles, St. Louis, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Kansas City have reintroduced indoor mask mandates for all — including those fully vaccinated.

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