What does the new CDC mask guidance mean for the Hudson Valley?
With COVID-19 cases surging in some parts of the Hudson Valley, lawmakers and health officials in each county, as well as the state, are grappling with the question of whether to follow the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations regarding the use of face masks.
The CDC issued updated mask guidance Tuesday, recommending that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with "substantial" and "high" transmission of COVID-19.
It is also recommending that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.
CDC officials safety strategies remain critical to protect people from the virus, especially in areas of moderate-to-high transmission levels, and they say they're seeing that in areas with low vaccination rates. The CDC defines "substantial transmission" as counties that have 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period and "high transmission" is more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over seven days.
It comes as New York state positivity rate climbs back up to 2.6%.
CDC officials say they are worried about the highly contagious delta variant, which they say is behaving differently than past variants.
"Unlike the alpha variant we had back in May, the delta is different, you can transmit the virus," says Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It's up to the state to decide whether to issue a mask mandate, but in the Hudson Valley, there isn't that level of transmission that would fall under the updated CDC recommendation at this time.
The Mid-Hudson region's seven-day average of positive test results does show an uptick in cases. But according to the CDC's website, counties in the region do not fall into the high or substantial rates of transmission of COVID-19 spread, although the Bronx currently does.
Westchester County officials say they are closely monitoring cases.
"We've had a rise in infections in the past four weeks. But by now, three to four weeks into this we have not seen no rise in hospitalizations. And we've actually seen a near flat rate of hospitalizations," says Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
Latimer says the county is already looking into imposing capacity restrictions, requirements for masks and social distancing at county owned properties like beaches, parks and playland.
He says they expect to publicly announce a decision by Wednesday.
Some people getting their COVID shots at the mass vaccination site at the Westchester County Center tell News 12 they were ready to mask up again if it's called for. "I'm OK with wearing a mask even being vaccinated, I understand that there will be breakthroughs, but I want to do what's going to take care of everybody and be in the best interest in public health," says Andrew Visconti, of Eastchester.