Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan warned the city will likely move into the "medium risk" category for COVID as cases tick up, especially after many returned to in-person religious gatherings for the first time since the pandemic began more than two years ago.
The city handed out free test kits at locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island over the weekend, and Mayor Eric Adams returned to in-person meetings Monday after emerging from isolation following his positive COVID test.
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Even with the city infection rate up to 4.68%, and with infection rates in general on the rise across the country, White House officials say they do not believe there is another surge on the way.
"The good news is that infection numbers are so low and, obviously, hospitalizations right now are the lowest level of the pandemic," White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said. "BA.2 is causing an increase in cases in many parts of the country, and I think what we need to be doing right now is monitoring this very carefully, I don't expect a surge at all like what we saw in January. I think that is extremely unlikely. But we've got to take these things seriously, monitor it closely and see where it goes."
The federal mask mandate for mass transit was set to expire Monday but was extended for another 15 days as the CDC watches what happens with this subvariant. A Florida judge on Monday voided that mask mandate, adding to confusion, but the decision will likely be appealed.
"This is obviously a disappointing decision," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. "(The administration is) continuing to recommend people continue to wear masks."
Despite the ruling, the MTA mask mandates will remain in place.
"We are continuing to follow CDC guidelines and will review the Florida court order," MTA Communications Director Tim Minton said.
In another COVID-related development Monday, the Supreme Court again declined to take a lawsuit filed by four public school employees over New York City's vaccination policy.
As is typical in these cases, the justices made no comment in rejecting the case, which challenged the constitutionality of the city's vaccine mandate for its 148,000 employees.
Lower courts previously allowed the policy to go into effect while litigation continued.
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Justice Sonia Sotomayor previously rejected an emergency request that the policy be put on hold.
The city began requiring public school employees to be vaccinated in the fall of 2021.
Courts had declined to bar the city from enforcing their policy, which applies to some 150,000 employees and has religious and medical exemptions.
Three of the teachers involved in the case have been fired, while the fourth has taken extended leave.
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