New York State Commissioner of Health Declares Influenza No Longer Prevalent In New York State

Declaration Lifts Requirement that Unvaccinated Health Care Workers Wear Masks

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 17, 2018) – New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker today announced that influenza is no longer prevalent in New York State. This means that healthcare workers in New York who are not vaccinated against influenza are no longer required to wear masks in areas where patients are typically present.

"Even though the flu is no longer prevalent in New York State, the season is not over yet," said Dr. Zucker. "It is critical that New Yorkers continue to protect themselves and their loved ones against the flu by getting vaccinated and taking appropriate precautions such as staying home from work or school if they are sick."

The Regulation for Prevention of Influenza Transmission first went into effect during the 2013-14 influenza season. The regulation requires unvaccinated health care workers in certain facilities regulated by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to wear surgical or procedure masks while influenza is prevalent in New York. Amendments to the regulations allow health care workers to remove masks when they are accompanying patients in the community, providing speech therapy services or communicating with people who lip read. Dr. Zucker previously declared influenza prevalent in the state on December 13, 2017.

Flu activity in the state peaked during the week ending February 17, 2018, when there were more than 18,252 laboratory-confirmed cases in one week. Those numbers have since fallen to 457 in the week ending May 12, 2018. The number of flu cases has decreased across the state for 11 out of the last 12 weeks. As of May 12, 2018, 128,020 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported and 23,317 people have been reported as hospitalized with influenza in New York this season. There have been six pediatric influenza-associated deaths this flu season. 20,704 children under the age of five have been diagnosed with lab confirmed influenza and 1,543 have been reported as hospitalized.

For information on how individuals can protect themselves, their co-workers and their families from the flu, please visit:

Transmitting flu from health care personnel to patients is a serious patient safety issue. Because health care workers are at increased risk of acquiring influenza from their contact with ill patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends that health care workers be vaccinated for influenza. Wearing a mask can reduce transmission and is an alternative for individuals who cannot be vaccinated or who refuse vaccination.

In New York State, 86% of health care personnel in surveyed facilities were vaccinated during the 2016-2017 flu season. Information on state vaccination rates by health care facility can be found here:

For more information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, please visit: