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New York City raises COVID alert level to "medium," recommends masks indoors

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What does elevated COVID alert level mean for New Yorkers? 02:59

NEW YORK -- The city's COVID alert level was advanced from "low" to "medium" on Monday, meaning there is a greater risk of catching the disease right now across all five boroughs.

Could this mean a change in mandates again?

CBS2's Lisa Rozner spoke with the Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan and the short answer is "No."

No mask mandates are being reinstated or vaccine requirements, but there are several precautions he is urging New Yorkers to take.

Vasan said a growing wave of Omicron subvariants and people getting back to their lives has pushed New York City to a "medium" alert level. That means we're at the yellow band in the illustration from the city.

"On hospitalizations, we see a slight increase. On bed occupancy, we're relatively stable. Both of those would have to jump up to a significantly higher level in order for us to move into a higher-risk category," Vasan said.

The higher-risk category would mean reinstating the vaccine mandate at indoor venues. The Department of Health says COVID cases have now surpassed a rate of 200 per 100,000 people in the five boroughs.

"So our message to New Yorkers is go about your lives. Take additional precautions as you do so. Wear a mask indoors. Get vaccinated and boosted if you're eligible. Get tested frequently, especially when going to gatherings," Vasan said. "If you are high risk, if you are elderly, if you have a pre-existing condition, if you're on active treatment for any other medical conditions, please take additional precautions."

Vasan and Mayor Eric Adams said there are no plans to reinstitute any mandates, or expand testing, but the coming weeks will be critical to slowing the spread.

The mayor said his experience with COVID last month proves that, "Vaccines and boosters work. I just had a tickle in throat, was able to exercise in the morning."

He added, "We can't close down the city again. We make the right decisions, we're not going to have to worry about doing that."


What to do if you test positive

If you do contract COVID, the Department of Health advises you tell people you have been within six feet of for at least 15 minutes in the last two days.

Encourage them to get tested and wear a high-grade mask around others at least five to 10 days after symptoms first appear or after the first test date.

What does elevated COVID alert level mean for New Yorkers? 02:59

"I'm going to be wearing my mask forever. This is the new style now," Manhattan resident Kevin Barnard told CBS2's Elijah Westbrook earlier Monday.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, but worried that we're not prepared for the next wave," added Manhattan resident Tim Hipwell.

Treatment is available by calling 212-COVID-19.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said there was a blip in testing during the Easter and Passover holidays. Around 80,000 tests were not done due to people leaving town and schools not being in session, so the city will keep a close eye on the testing the next few weeks.

By Lisa Rozner

What does "medium" alert mean?

The city says a "medium" alert means people should get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks in public indoor settings, get tested, stay home if they're feeling symptoms and wash their hands. 

If the risk level raises to "high," officials will consider making indoor masks a requirement again.

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By CBS New York Team

Health commissioner: "Exercise even greater caution"

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vassan released the following statement Monday: 

"With COVID-19 cases rising, NYC has entered the Medium risk alert level. Cases have now surpassed a rate of 200 per 100,000 people in the five boroughs. 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. If you are at a higher risk for severe disease due to age, underlying health conditions or because you are unvaccinated, consider additional precautions such as avoiding crowded indoor gatherings. We continue to strongly recommend all New Yorkers wear a mask in public indoor settings. Get tested before and after any gatherings, and if you test positive, call your doctor or 212-COVID19 to get evaluated for treatment. Vaccination and boosters are as critical as ever. 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. And remember, the steps you take to protect yourself also protect others, especially those most vulnerable. As a city, we have the tools we need to beat back this virus. As New Yorkers, we are in this together. By incorporating these steps into our daily lives, we can continue to look out for one another and ourselves."

By CBS New York Team

New York State now a hot spot

New York State now considered a COVID hot spot 02:10

New York state is now a hot spot for rising COVID-19 cases from a variant called BA.2.12.1.

The state is home to 37 out of the 54 U.S. counties the Centers for Disease Control says have high levels of community transmission.

On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office said central New York's seven-day average case rate was the highest it has been in the state for several weeks.

This is compared to New York City, which saw a more than 12% decrease during that same time.   

By Elijah Westbrook
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