Residents in most counties in upstate New York are now being recommended to wear masks due to high case-counts of COVID-19, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Friday, 36 counties across the region are now classified by the CDC as having "high" community levels of the coronavirus.
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 these areas, outside of the statewide requirement for them in bus and train stations, prisons, state-regulated care settings and homeless shelters. Last week, Albany County's health department again recommended masks in indoor public places.
Also last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul said no return of a statewide mask requirement is being considered at this time.
The number of “high” counties has risen steadily since mid-April, starting with ones in Central New York — the region which was the first in New York to have confirmed cases caused a new BA.2 omicron subvariant known as BA.2.12, state officials said at the time.
There are only three counties in the state the CDC classifies as “low” — Chautauqua, Allegany and Orange — as well as the Bronx in New York City.
Nationwide, there are 79 counties the CDC said have “high” levels of COVID-19, the vast majority of them in the Northeast.
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 39.74. In recent weeks, 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.
Hochul’s office added Thursday that Central New York, the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier continue to have a downward trend in case counts, and hospitalizations are also declining in those areas.