Philadelphia officials urge residents to avoid holiday gatherings with people from other households

Officials say the daily average of new COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia has doubled in just two weeks.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia health officials say new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are now approaching the dangerous levels seen last winter, prompting an urgent message from the city's health commissioner.

"Please do not get together with other households for Christmas, or if you do, keep those gatherings small. Have everyone do a test before they come, and ask everyone to stay home even if they feel a little bit unwell," said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

Bettigole says past data shows that holiday gatherings lead to COVID-19 surges, and officials suspect Thanksgiving gatherings contributed to the current spike.

Javier Morales of Kensington said he's not getting together with his family this Christmas.

"I'm not in any way, shape, or form trying to expose my family," said Morales.

Adam Martin of Rittenhouse said, "I think it should just be up to everybody what they want to do. Whatever they feel safe with. Whoever they choose to gather with, they can make that call themselves."

The daily average of new cases in Philadelphia has doubled in just two weeks, raising concerns that hospitals may stretch to their limits with COVID-19 patients.

So far, the City of Philadelphia has detected three cases of the omicron variant, but officials expect that number to rise quickly.

Officials say most of the people currently hospitalized are unvaccinated.

RELATED: Philadelphia rolls out COVID-19 vaccination requirements for indoor dining establishments

They are urging everyone who can-- get vaccinated and get their boosters in an effort to slow the spread.

Officials also stated that more guidance for restaurants on vaccination enforcement and optional religious exemption forms will be released in the coming days.

In New Jersey, on the first anniversary of the first vaccine administered in the state, Wednesday was declared 'NJ Boost Day.'

Health officials say just 37% of eligible people in New Jersey have received a booster.

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