New York City public hospitals bring back mask mandates in certain areas


(NEW YORK) — Indoor mask requirements have been reinstated at all New York City public hospitals amid a rise in respiratory viruses including COVID-19 and flu.

The mandate extends to the 11 hospitals, 30 health centers and five long-term care facilities run by NYC Health + Hospitals.

The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said Wednesday masks will only be required in areas where patients are being treated, according to local ABC News affiliate ABC 7 NY.

Vasan said hospitals have been handling the recent rise in patients well and none are currently overwhelmed, but that the mandate will help protect staff from getting sick.

Data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows the seven-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations has declined from 106 on Dec. 20 to 50 on Dec. 25, although this may be due to reporting delays over the holidays.

Meanwhile, weekly flu hospitalizations in the city have been steadily increasing since early October. For the week ending Dec. 23, hospitalizations rose from 653 to 696, according to the New York State Department of Health.

NYC Health + Hospitals did not immediately reply to ABC News’ request for comment.

It comes as hospitals in at least six states — California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin — have put masking guidelines in place, according to an ABC News count.

During the week ending Dec. 23, there were 29,059 new weekly hospital admissions due to COVID-19 across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It marks the seventh consecutive week of increases and the highest figure reported since late January 2023.

Additionally, there were 14,732 new hospital admissions nationwide linked to influenza for the week ending Dec. 23 compared to 9,930 the previous week, CDC data shows.

Other respiratory tract infections have also been on the rise. In Suffolk County, located on New York’s Long Island, cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, have been increasing.

In 2023, there were 108 cases of pertussis reported or suspected in Suffolk County with 100 reported since Nov. 28, a spokesperson for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services told ABC News on Tuesday.

Officials say there have been no known hospitalizations to date, and this outbreak has been mostly among vaccinated children and their parents, according to a press release.

ABC News’ Dr. Jade Cobern contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.