NEW YORK (PIX11) — This weekend, the New York City Health Department is suggesting people mask up indoors, again. The new guidance comes amid a suspected sixth wave of a new highly contagious omicron variant.

“This virus can spread very easily within 6 feet, and it also lingers in the air for long periods of time,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a public health expert.

Currently, the COVID-19 positivity rate in the city has reached 15%; however, it’s higher in many neighborhoods. In northern Queens, that rate opping topped out at 20%, the highest rate in over six months.

“The chances of somebody isn’t showing symptoms but is infected and can spread this virus is great, and indoors, you are rebreathing everybody’s air,” Swartzberg said.

Medical experts said the BA.5 variant now makes up more than half of the COVID-19 cases in the country, but it’s not the only reason infection rates are rising. Pre-pandemic life has largely returned and more people have ditched the masks. 

Public advocate Jumaane Williams said it’s a mistake for employers to refuse hybrid work. He also is urged city officials to not abandon pandemic prevention measures. 

“We’re going to be living with COVID for a very long time; we don’t want to see a shutdown,” Williams said. “We need to have a way to communicate with New Yorkers who are scared when they see numbers rising.”