NYS Health Commissioner Declares Influenza No Longer Prevalent In the State

Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers No Longer Required to Wear Masks

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 20, 2016) - New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard A. Zucker today declared influenza is no longer prevalent in New York State. This declaration means that New York State healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against influenza are no longer required by State regulation to wear masks in areas where patients are typically present.

Regulations enacted in 2013 require healthcare personnel who have not been vaccinated against influenza and work in certain facilities and agencies regulated by the State Department of Health to wear masks while influenza is prevalent in the New York state. Commissioner Zucker had declared influenza prevalent in the state on February 11, 2016.

The "Prevention of Influenza Transmission by Healthcare and Residential Facility and Agency Personnel" regulation, which was adopted by the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council, was enacted in order to reduce the incidence influenza transmission from health care personnel to patients.

Health care personnel are at increased risk of acquiring influenza because of their contact with ill patients, and workers who are ill can also transmit influenza to their patients. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend that healthcare workers be vaccinated for influenza, vaccination rates are usually far below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 goal of 90 percent. As an alternative for persons who cannot be vaccinated or who refuse vaccination, mask wear is expected to reduce transmission.

For more information about influenza, please visit the DOH website at http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/