Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako is recommending that people wear masks around others and limit activity in crowded spaces as the number of new COVID-19 cases rises in the county and New Jersey.

The announcement late Friday comes as people gather indoors for the holidays, many of them coming from across the country to see loved ones. Nwako said the recent cold snap will also make people more inclined to stay inside.

“Based on the amount of virus in the community and several other respiratory viruses including the flu, everyone should consider wearing a well-fitting mask indoors, especially in crowded places, regardless of vaccination status,” Nwako said.

The county health officer said hospitalizations from COVID-19, flu, and RSV have been rising. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Camden County is seeing high community levels of COVID-19.

Nwako recommended that indoor spaces should be well-ventilated when possible and that people should follow CDC recommendations for isolation if they test positive for the virus. He further gave recommendations for those who may be immunocompromised including:

— Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection.
— 
Consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed.
— 
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take other precautions (e.g., testing).
— 
Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing).
— 
If you get COVID-19 talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies. 

Mask mandate in Camden County?

While Nwako is recommending masks, his guidance is not a mandate.

However, schools in Camden County will be requiring masks for two weeks upon return from winter break. Passaic County schools have also implemented a mask mandate until levels of spread are no longer considered "high."

READ MORE: Masks are required in Camden, NJ schools for the start of 2023

Gov. Phil Murphy recently stated that he does not foresee a statewide mask mandate for the public or schools. He said last week that the public would not likely support such measures.

"We don't want to mandate things we can't enforce," Murphy said. "I don't think the market is going to bear that."

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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