NEW YORK (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) -- New York City raised its COVID-19 alert level to “medium,” or yellow, on Monday as COVID-19 cases rose in the five boroughs amid a growing wave of omicron subvariants that have fueled cases elsewhere in the state, which now has the largest share of "high" risk counties in the U.S.
The Health Department said New Yorkers should exercise greater caution, especially if they’re more at risk because they're unvaccinated, or because of their age or an underlying health condition. People should also consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings where the vaccination status of others is unknown, the department said.
No new protocols will be implemented under the raised alert level, but if the city reaches a “high” level, officials could reconsider safety measures like the return of mask requirements indoors.
The city's health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, tweeted Monday that health officials "strongly recommend" that all New Yorkers wear a mask in public indoor settings, get tested before and after any gatherings, and get vaccinated and boosted.
“Cases have now surpassed a rate of 200 per 100,000 people. As a practical matter, what this means for New Yorkers is that they must exercise even greater caution than they have the last few weeks,” Vasan wrote.
“Vaccination and boosters are as critical as ever,” Vasan continued. “If you’re eligible for your booster, please, get the dose now. The coming weeks will be critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and getting back to a Low risk level so we can more safely enjoy our spring.”
The new COVID-19 alert system was debuted by the city in March as long-term approach for dealing with the coronavirus threat.
Manhattan borough president Mark Levine said the spike in cases in the city reflected a "growing wave" of omicron subvariants like BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 that have been fueling cases in Upstate New York in recent weeks.
In its latest community spread report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are currently 54 counties in the U.S. reporting high levels of COVID-19 transmission—and 37 of those counties are in New York, mostly Upstate.