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Masks are making a comeback in Central New York

CENTRAL NEW YORK (WSYR-TV) — A health alert has been issued as we enter year four since the start of COVID-19, and another spike in Central New York cases.

The Onondaga County Health Department is strongly recommending individuals wear masks again, especially in crowded spaces. St. Joseph’s Health is now requiring masks in all patient care areas, joining Crouse and Upstate hospitals’ mask policies.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Katie Anderson told NewsChannel 9, “The challenge is how do we break through a sense that we have moved on from COVID? People are ready to move on from COVID-19 at a time when we really can not. Last year in 2023 covid caused two times as many deaths as prostate cancer in the United States and none of us would say we can stop thinking about prostate cancer, it is no longer a threat.”

Hospitals are now feeling the strain, with admissions up by 23% in the county.

Dr. Anderson explained, “When we talk about hospital capacity and hospitals being strained it’s not that there is a surge of respiratory illness that we’ve never seen before, it could be strained that we’re not as staffed as we used to be or the bed availability is not what it used to be. So it is two competing challenges: winter respiratory virus season and what hospital staffing will be and capacity and will those align going forward.”

The JN.1 COVID variant is more transmittable, creating an even bigger urgency to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Dr. Anderson.

“It appears to be something old and familiar. It is an omicron strain and doesn’t cause more severe disease, but it clearly causes an uptick in cases, but not a cause for alarm but yet another reason to encourage people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Anderson.

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