New York City expected to elevate to ‘high’ coronavirus alert level in coming days, indoor masks urged

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — New York City is expected to enter the high COVID-19 alert level in the coming days, and health officials are strongly recommending wearing masks in public indoor settings.

The city is currently in the medium alert level, but that is expected to change as cases increase.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is expected to issue an advisory that urges all residents to use high-quality masks – such as KN95 and KF94 masks and N95 respirators – when indoors and in a public setting, including at grocery stores, building lobbies, offices, stores, and other common or shared spaces where individuals may interact, such as restrooms, hallways, elevators, and meeting rooms.

The advisory notes particular importance for people who are at high risk of severe illness and death, namely those who are over 65 or who are unvaccinated.

Map: 7-day rolling positivity rates by Zip code:

The health department advises people at high risk of severe illness due to an underlying medical condition, older adults and people who are unvaccinated, including children under the age of five who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, to avoid crowded settings and non-essential gatherings, particularly indoors.

In addition, the advisory notes that the impact of COVID-19 transmission is higher in settings with a high number of unvaccinated people.

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Mayor Eric Adams recently took action to bolster the city’s COVID-19 preparedness and prepare New Yorkers for any future waves, announcing the distribution of an additional 16.5 million at-home COVID-19 tests and 1 million high-quality masks over the next month to 1,600 public schools and more than 1,000 community organizations, libraries, cultural institutions, houses of worship, and elected offices participating in the city’s At-Home Test Distribution Program.

The distribution effort joins other measures to blunt the worst impacts of the current wave, including the distribution of 35,000 COVID-19 courses of treatment to date.

The city has also distributed 20 million at-home tests to schools and participating community organizations to date, meaning this additional surge of tests will bring the total distributed at-home tests to over 36 million. Additionally, eligible New Yorkers are encouraged to take advantage of free, at-home delivery of COVID-19 treatments.

“It’s never been easier for New Yorkers to get a free at-home test, a high-quality mask, or access COVID-19 treatments in New York City,” Adams said. “At-home tests and masks provide reliable and convenient ways for New Yorkers to confidently and safely protect themselves and others and allow them to enjoy our city. I encourage all New Yorkers to go out and pick up a free at-home test as soon as they can to remain prepared, to mask up in indoor public settings, and to take advantage of the life-saving treatments we now have readily available to fight this virus. These combined tools not only are a blessing that we previously did not have access to, but also will allow us to combat this disease in the future, instead of in the past.”

Through community partnerships, Test & Trace has distributed 2.3 million tests and currently maintains a stockpile of tens of millions of tests that can be rapidly distributed if needed.

At-home test distribution through Test & Trace’s network of 192 prominent cultural sites and library branches brings critical self-testing resources to areas of need at familiar locations in all five boroughs. Test & Trace makes weekly deliveries of at-home tests to participating cultural sites and libraries, where they are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Additionally, over 850 community and faith-based organizations – including 243 houses of worship – have signed up to regularly distribute at-home tests. Any New York City-based community organization that would like to participate as an at-home test distribution partner is encouraged to sign up online.

New Yorkers can find an at-home test distribution pick up location most convenient to them and their hours of operation by visiting the city’s COVID-19 testing page. New Yorkers with a disability who need assistance or have questions regarding at home test kits should call 311. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing and use American Sign Language can call via video phone at 646-396-5830.

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New Yorkers who test positive using an at-home test can call 212-COVID19 to be connected to resources like free meal and care package delivery. Care packages contain personal protection equipment (PPE) for a household of three to quarantine, two rapid antigen at-home tests, and other necessities to help New Yorkers safely isolate.

Multiple COVID-19 treatments are available for people ages 12 and older, and can be delivered to New Yorkers’ homes for free. For more information on COVID-19 treatments, please call 212-COVID19 and press 9 or visit

Calling 212-COVID19 provides New Yorkers an immediate connection to a clinician who can refer them to monoclonal antibody treatment or prescribe antiviral medications, like Paxlovid, and arrange to have it delivered to their home that same day for free.

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