The "high transmission levels of COVID-19" in every New York City borough means that face masks should once again be worn in all public indoor settings, as well as crowded outdoor settings, the city's health department said.
All five boroughs — in addition to Nassau County — are at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "high" community level, at which the agency advises mask wearing.
Suffolk County was recently moved to a "medium" level, under which "People may choose to mask at any time."
The masking advice from the city and federal governments comes as the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant of omicron — which can evade the COVID-19 vaccines, immunity from a prior coronavirus infection, or both — earlier this month became the dominant strain in the United States and in a CDC region that includes New York State.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in the city was 9.48% as of Thursday, according to figures released Friday by Gov. Kathy Hochul's office. It was 9.33% on Wednesday and 9.12% on Tuesday. Long Island has the state's highest positivity rate — 10.58% Thursday, up from 10.13% Wednesday and 10.15% on Tuesday. The state average is 9.2%.
Despite the greater rate of positivity, death and hospitalization rates have not risen.
Asked whether Nassau would once again recommend masking, Christopher Boyle, a spokesman for County Executive Bruce Blakeman, said by email: “We are not.”
The state had an indoor mask mandate, beginning in April 2020, for most public settings. That mandate ended in June 2021 for vaccinated people but was reimposed for all in December as omicron surged. The mandate ended in February and hasn't been resuscitated.
Americans’ tolerance for wearing masks has waned.
A poll in April by Axios/Ipsos found that fewer than half of Americans — 44% — were regularly masking and wanted the government to mandate face coverings. That's the lowest share since the topic was polled starting in August 2021. When cases were surging in January, the rate was 67%.
Still, a Reuters/Ipsos poll, released in April, found that 64% of American adults — including 83% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans — said that the state and local governments should mandate masking for indoor public spaces upon a resurgence of the virus. At the same time, 44% of respondents said Americans needed to get on with their lives.