Masks no longer recommended in Central New York as Covid levels decline

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is no longer recommending masks in Central New York as Covid-19 levels have declined.

The CDC updated its Covid Community Levels map on Thursday, showing areas where Covid is at a “high” (orange), “medium” (yellow) or “low” (green) risk. Face coverings are recommended in areas with high Covid levels, including seven counties in New York state.

Oswego County has been downgraded to medium risk after more than a month of high Covid levels. Total cases have gone down 27% over the past week and new hospital admissions of county residents with confirmed Covid-19 decreased 18%.

Onondaga County remained at medium levels for the second week in a row, but saw high Covid levels earlier this fall. New Syracuse-area hospitalizations with Covid went down 18% this week, according to the CDC.

Here are the New York state counties with “high” Covid levels where masks are currently recommended:

  • Albany County
  • Broome County
  • Clinton County
  • Essex County
  • Franklin County
  • Rensselaer County
  • Tioga County

All 62 of New York’s counties were considered low risk for most of the summer, but the majority are now at medium or high risk, according to the CDC. Counties that were high risk last week and were downgraded this week include Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Warren.

Masks are recommended, not mandated, indoors in areas with high Covid community levels under current CDC guidelines. Masking recommendations are now based on three factors — Covid hospitalizations, hospital capacity and new Covid cases — focusing more on preventing hospitals from getting overwhelmed and less on positive tests, which spiked during the omicron wave in December and January.

The CDC is recommending Americans get modified booster shots that target omicron variants to prevent another large spike this winter and during the upcoming holidays.

Masks are not recommended indoors, including in schools, in areas with medium or low community levels, though immunocompromised people and others at high risk for severe illness may still want to wear face coverings indoors and avoid large crowds.

Covid community levels were low enough at the beginning of March that masks weren’t recommended in any New York state county, but cases and hospitalizations increased in Syracuse and the surrounding area during the spring due to the rise of highly contagious BA.2 variants, the end of widespread mask-wearing, and the waning of vaccines. The state health department said CNY was the first in the U.S. to see “significant community spread” of more contagious omicron strains BA.2.12 and the related BA.2.12.1, spread rapidly through the Northeast in April and May.

The CDC updates its Community Levels map every Thursday. The map provides recommendations for mask-wearing, but does not indicate where face coverings are mandated.

New York state recently ended its Covid state of emergency and dropped its mask requirement on public transportation, but face coverings are still required in health care settings including hospitals and nursing homes.

The CDC also says anyone with Covid-19 symptoms or who test positive should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status or the risk level where they live.

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