New York State Department of Health Declares Flu Is Prevalent

Declaration Requires Health Care Workers Unvaccinated For Flu to Wear Masks in Certain Health Care Settings

Department Recognizes National Influenza Vaccination Week, Urges Vaccination Ahead of Upcoming Holidays

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ALBANY, N.Y. (December 6, 2023) – New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald today declared that influenza is now prevalent in New York State. The declaration requires that health care workers who have not received this year's flu vaccine wear masks in certain health care settings.

With National Influenza Vaccination Week recognized on December 4 -8, the Department urges the public to get their flu vaccine as holiday gatherings approach.

"We have now declared that flu is prevalent in New York State, which means health care personnel who are not vaccinated against the flu this season need to take extra precautions and wear a mask in health care facilities, as they are exposed to sick patients and come into close contact with those most vulnerable to the flu," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu shot as it is the best way to protect yourself and will lessen the symptoms if you do get sick. It's not too late; get your flu shot today."

The declaration requires unvaccinated health care workers in health care and residential facilities and agencies regulated by the Department to wear surgical or procedure masks during those times when the Commissioner declares that influenza is prevalent in New York State. These facilities include but are not limited to: hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, certified home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, AIDS home care programs, licensed home care service agencies, limited licensed home care service agencies, and hospices.

Amendments to the regulations allow for the removal of masks when health care workers are accompanying patients in the community, providing speech therapy services, or communicating with persons who lip read.

The Regulation for Prevention of Influenza Transmission first went into effect during the 2013-14 flu season. Today's announcement puts into effect a provision of the regulation that was made annually from 2014 to 2019. The last time the declaration was made was in late 2019 and was then left in place throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency. On May 18, 2023, after the public health emergency ended, the declaration was removed and will return on an annual basis, if needed as designated by the State Health Commissioner.

The Department also continues to recommend to all who are eligible to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine and RSV vaccine.

The Department's Influenza Surveillance Report, with data through November 25, shows a total of 14,227 positive flu cases across all 62 counties in New York have been reported this season to date.

Outside of New York City, week-over-week lab-confirmed flu cases are up 34 percent, rising from 1,487 cases in the previous week to 1,993. In New York City, cases are up 21 percent, rising from 1,713 cases in the previous week to 2,068.

This information is also available on the Department's Flu Tracker, which provides timely information about local, regional, and statewide influenza activity.

There have been two pediatric flu-associated deaths in the state; one in Erie County and one in New York City. These deaths will be reported in the influenza report that will be issued later this week.

The flu shot is available to those 6 months and older. Those aged 65 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, young children, and pregnant women are most in jeopardy of developing serious complications, which could require hospitalization and result in death.

To treat the flu, there are antiviral medications that can be prescribed by health care providers, such as Tamiflu, which can reduce the length and severity of the illness.

Avoiding illness by getting the flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent infection and reduce the risk of severe illness for children and adults. According to research gathered by the CDC, vaccination has significant health advantages, particularly for people at risk of getting very sick, including:

  • It prevents people from getting sick with the flu, cutting the risk of having to go to the doctor by 40 to 60 percent.
  • In children, the vaccine reduces the risk of severe, life-threatening flu by 75 percent; decreases flu-related hospitalizations by 41 percent; and cuts the risk of emergency department visits in half.
  • Flu vaccination during pregnancy reduces the risk of being hospitalized by an average of 40 percent and helps protect the baby from influenza for several months after birth, when babies are too young to get vaccinated.
  • For older adults, the vaccine reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalization by about 40 percent.
  • Among those with chronic health conditions, the flu shot is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events, as well as reducing the risk of hospitalization from flu-related worsening of lung diseases and diabetes.

The Department utilizes a number of tools to increase public knowledge about rising flu rates and the importance of vaccinations as a critical prevention step, including public education campaigns and information on social media platforms Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The flu shot is widely available, found at pharmacies, health clinics and physician's offices across the state. To locate a flu shot location near you, visit

In addition to getting the flu vaccine, simple preventative actions can help stop the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For more information about influenza in New York, visit the Department's flu website.