COVID-19 community levels continue to remain low across most of upstate New York while New York City and the downstate area are monitoring a new increase in cases, according to new data released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Friday, seven of the state's 62 counties are now classified by the CDC as having "high" COVID-19 levels. They include all New York City boroughs and Westchester and Nassau counties.
Health officials in New York City said Thursday they are monitoring the increase in COVID-19 cases, where some neighborhoods have a positivity rate as high as 23%.
"The question is whether we are reaching a new plateau and this is just where we will be for some time, or whether this is the beginning of a more prolonged increase," Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Thursday.
The CDC uses a "high," "medium" and "low" classification, which is determined by the number of new cases in the county per 100,000 people in the past seven days; the number of new hospital admissions with COVID-19 in the past seven days per 100,000 people; and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with COVID-19 within a seven-day average.
With a "high" level, the CDC recommends wearing masks in indoor public areas and on public transportation. There are currently no local mask requirements in the affected areas, outside of the statewide requirement for them in bus and train stations, prisons, state-regulated care settings and homeless shelters.
The New York City Department of Health on Friday recommended the use of "high-quality masks" in indoor public settings and in crowded outdoor places. The agency said this will help reduce the spread of the virus.
The number of "high" counties in the state gradually increased earlier this spring and peaked in mid-May.
A number of counties in the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and Rochester and Finger Lakes region are now classified as having “medium” levels of COVID-19.
Nationwide, there are 667 counties the CDC said have “high” levels, up from 627 a week ago. Where once the vast majority of "high" counties was in the Northeast, now they are more scattered throughout the country.
This all comes as CDC data this week showed BA.5, an omicron subvariant, now accounts for an estimated 54% of cases in the U.S.
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According to state data released Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, the state’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people stood at 28.30. In recent months, New York health officials and those in other states have started using cases per 100,000 residents, and not the more traditional percentage of positive results of those who have been tested, as a more accurate way of measuring infection rates.