The New York state Department of Health is now recommending Long Islanders wear masks indoors again.
The news come as both Nassau and Suffolk counties were classified as high-risk communities for COVID transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated Long Island to its highest risk level as COVID-19 cases have steadily risen in both Nassau and Suffolk counties due to the Omicron variant.
Health officials add that the COVID spike on Long Island has been fueled by the end of mask mandates in crowded indoor buildings and other factors.
“Our primary vaccination rates on Long Island aren’t great. We haven’t done particularly well with boosters,” says Dr. David Battinelli, of Northwell Health. “Long Island is a very densely populated place. So you take a highly dense population with a highly infectious disease and you’re going to have spread.”
Health experts say the numbers are likely even higher because people are doing at-home testing.
On Wednesday, the COVID-19 positivity rate on Long Island was 10.5%. One month ago, it was 5.2% and two months ago it was 1.6%. The numbers have been steadily increasing.
The CDC mask recommendation is not mandatory, but encouraged. Its recommendation is also for all Long Islanders, regardless of vaccination status.
Josephine Martino, 92 of Smithtown, is one resident who is not happy with the recommendation.
“I’m living my life,” Martino says. “I do what I want, and nobody can tell me what to do.”
Other Long Islanders say they have never stopped wearing their masks.
The CDC says people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 should take further precautions, which includes avoiding crowded indoor spaces.
The CDC looks at different things to determine risk levels including the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and staff levels at hospitals.
The state Health Department’s guidance includes staying home if you’re not feeling well, getting tested following possible exposure and getting vaccinated or boosted.