Cities and health agencies across the country are stepping up their recommendations for measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, but stopping short of imposing sweeping mandates.
The measures come as the omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 continues to spread in the country, almost overtaking BA.2, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending on May 14.
The New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene issued an advisory Monday calling on people to mask up in indoor places, including stores and offices, irrespective of vaccination status, as cases have been steadily rising and “increasing pressure on the health system.”
Still, Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor, is not mandating the wearing of face masks.
“We are not at the point of doing anything other than urging New Yorkers, while you are indoors in large settings, social settings, wear your masks,” Adams said, according to The New York Times.
“If there comes a time that our hospitals are in a state of emergency, or we’re trending that way, and my doctors that run the hospitals tell me this is what we need to do, I’m going to listen to them,” he continued.
Los Angeles is also facing similar pressures, as COVID-positive hospitalizations are trending upward in Los Angeles County, rising by 29% compared to last week, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Monday, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, also called on people to wear masks in closed spaces to limit the “spread while we continue to increase the numbers of residents and workers up to date with their vaccinations,” in a statement reported in the LA Times.
The CDC is also now recommending testing before domestic travel, no more than three days before the date of the trip, without citing different guidance for fully vaccinated passengers.
The Biden administration is also doubling the COVID tests households are allowed to order at home for free. Households will now be able to order up to eight at-home rapid tests.
The White House’s announcement on testing also took a jab at Congress for failing to pass COVID funding, warning this may compromise the nation’s preparedness to deal with the pandemic.
“Due to Congress’s failure to provide additional funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response, the Administration cannot continue making the types of federal investments needed to sustain domestic testing manufacturing capacity, and this may jeopardize the federal government’s ability to provide free tests moving forward,” the statement read.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, acknowledged the rise in infections and encouraged people to take a rapid COVID test before attending parties and before visiting vulnerable family members.
“We’ve worked hard to get these tests and with cases rising, it’s a good time to get more out to Americans,” he tweeted Tuesday.
The White House COVID-19 response team and public health officials, including Dr. Jha, the president’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, will hold a press briefing Wednesday to provide updates on the country’s response to the pandemic.
President Joe Biden marked the grim milestone of 1 million COVID deaths last week.
“We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible,” Biden said.