The New York City Health Department is urging New Yorkers to use “high quality masks” when indoors and in crowds outdoors due to a rise in the number of cases of COVID-19, RSV and influenza, described nationwide as a “tripledemic.”
The country has seen rising levels of hospitalizations for the viruses in recent weeks 80 percent of hospital beds nationwide filled, most of them with people suffering respiratory ailments, according to federal data published Wednesday.
“Hospitalizations for flu continue to be the highest we have seen at this time of year in a decade,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing Tuesday. One day earlier, she told NPR News, “There has already been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu.”
Thirty-one jurisdictions in the United States, which includes states, major cities and territories, reported a “very high” level of flu activity, and 16 report “high” levels in the last week of November, according to the CDC.
Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan issued an advisory this weekend urging city residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu, even if they have previously received inoculations.
Those at increased risk of catching the viruses include people ages 65 and older, infants, those with weakened immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions, pregnant women and those who are not up to date on their vaccinations.
All were urged to wear KN95 and KF94 masks or even an N95 respirator and to limit attendance at large gatherings.
“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely – even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” Vasan said in a statement.
“It starts with protecting yourself. Vaccination and boosters are critical but so are common sense precautions like masking when indoors or among crowds and staying home if you don’t feel well. Also, get tested before getting together, and get treated quickly if you test positive. We want everyone to have a happy and – most of all – healthy holiday.”