Philadelphia resident tests positive for COVID-19 Omicron variant

The health department recommends residents seriously reconsider plans for indoor holiday gatherings and activities.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia resident has tested positive for the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the city's health department announced Friday.

That person is a man in his 30s from Northwest Philadelphia, officials said. He has mild symptoms, Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole told Action News. It is not yet known where the man contracted the virus.

The man tested positive outside the city, Bettigole said, and the city was notified by the state.

The department said it is coordinating with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health department officials said they are "issuing a warning to all Philadelphians to take precautions, given the possibility that this new strain may be more transmissible."

Recommendations include seriously reconsidering plans for indoor holiday gatherings and activities.

"Since the discovery of this new variant, we have been preparing for the likelihood of an Omicron case in Philadelphia," said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. "A new variant, especially one that may be more transmissible, means that we have to stay vigilant about taking steps to protect ourselves and everyone around us. I know that this news is especially discouraging as we enter the holiday season, but we can get through this together. Now is the time to get your vaccine or booster, mask up, and take extra precautions when you are going out in public or getting together with other households."

"It is not unexpected that we would see Omicron here in Philadelphia," said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. "Just because there is a case of this new variant here does not mean it's too late to take precautions. There are things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. This is not like when we first saw COVID cases. We know what works, and we've been doing a great job doing those things."

"First and foremost, get vaccinated. If you have not gotten your COVID vaccine yet, get it today. If you need a second dose, get it today. If it's been two months since your Johnson & Johnson shot or six months since your Pfizer or Moderna shot, get your booster today. Every child five and older is eligible to be vaccinated and should start their two-dose series as soon as possible. There are clinics with plenty of vaccine right in your neighborhood. Visit vaccines.gov or phila.gov/vaccine for locations and times," Bettigole continued.

Much remains unknown about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether it makes people as sick as the original strain.

People in at least five other states have tested positive for omicron, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York.

Pennsylvania reported 10,127 new COVID-19 infections on Friday - the first time since early January that daily cases exceeded 10,000 - while hospitalizations are up by more than a third since mid-November.
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