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NYC health department says masking up is 'good idea' over Labor Day weekend

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Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

People in New York are being encouraged to mask up this Labor Day weekend as the number of COVID-19 cases rise, including two new variants.

New York City's health department spokesman said wearing a mask could be a "good idea" when in crowded places this holiday weekend, as many will be in large groups.

The Daily Mail reported that nothing about the "guidance has changed" in New York. None of the official protocols concerning COVID-19 have changed, and there are apparently no plans to make mask-wearing compulsory.

As of August 29, the city's infection rate is around 18 per 100,000 people. However, this number could be a significant underestimate, as people are not testing themselves for the virus as frequently as they did in the past.

While hospitalizations have been on the rise, with 502 patients who contracted the illness admitted to the city's hospitals on August 31, it has also been reported that many COVID patients have been admitted due to other health issues.

This does mark a 5% increase from the week prior.

There are two new variants that could be responsible for the sudden rise in cases. The first is an easily transmissible variant called EG.5, or Eris, which is thought to be the primary culprit behind the increase in illnesses. However, there is a second, Pirola, or BA.2.86, which was apparently spotted in New York City's wastewater this week, per the report.

"As cases rise, precautions become increasingly important, especially for our most vulnerable New Yorkers who are older, disabled, or have underlying health conditions," Dr. Ashwin Vasan said, commissioner of NYC's health department.

"Staying up to date with Covid vaccines, along with other proven prevention tools — like masking, testing, and staying home when sick — continues to be our best defense against Covid and other respiratory viruses."

"Antibodies from vaccination and prior infection will continue to provide some protection, as will available antiviral treatments like Paxlovid, which is still effective against all circulating strains of Covid."

The Pirola variant has been identified in Virginia, Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. It has a number of different variants that make it easier to evade immunity and vaccinations.

While COVID-19 cases have continually increased over the past few weeks, they still remain well below the peak of 44,000 recorder earlier this year. It is uncertain if there are other states planning to institute a compulsory mask policy as the cooler months approach.

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