City urges New Yorkers to mask-up indoors and outdoors as COVID-19 and flu are increasing

As New York City enters the holiday season, COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses are seeing unusually high concurrent spikes. To slow the transmission of these viruses, the New York City Health Commissioner issued a Health Advisory that urges New York City residents to use high-quality masks when indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. This is especially important for people who are – or are meeting – those who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, such as those age 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised.

“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely – even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “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.” 

The Commissioner’s Advisory also urges people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu, even if they have been vaccinated previously. Everyone ages six months or older should get their COVID-19 primary series if they haven’t already and receive the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster when eligible. An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Many pharmacies and doctors’ offices offer both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and it is safe to get them at the same time.

The city also continues to launch vaccination pop-ups and other efforts to promote vaccine access and equity.

People who are at increased risk of severe illness from respiratory viruses, including people age 65 and older, infants, people with a weakened immune system, people with certain underlying medical conditions, people who are pregnant, and people who are not up to date on flu or COVID-19 vaccinations should consider additional precautions to avoid exposure to respiratory viruses, such as wearing a higher quality mask, such as KN95 and KF94 mask or N95 respirator, limiting attendance at large indoor gatherings, wearing a mask when gathering with others, and asking people to wear a mask and get a COVID-19 test prior to gathering.

As the holidays approach, New Yorkers can help protect their loved ones from COVID by getting tested before and after gatherings and wearing a mask around people who are at increased risk of severe respiratory illness. If you are sick, stay home, avoid close contact with others, and talk to your provider about what testing, care, and treatment is right for you. You can call your health care provider or 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319) to ask about treatment.

With respiratory illnesses on the rise, the Health Department is closely monitoring the COVID-19, influenza, RSV, hospital, and syndromic surveillance data. The Health Department has noted high levels of cases and hospitalizations for COVIDflu, and RSV. The combined impact of these respiratory illnesses puts individuals at risk and risks straining our healthcare system.

To find a nearby COVID-19 and flu vaccination provider, visit NYC Vaccine Finder or call 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692) to schedule an appointment at certain sites, and for other vaccination assistance.