Dr. Cheryl Bettigole (copy)

Dr. Cheryl Bettigole

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced Friday that a Philadelphia resident has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

This person is a man in his 30s from Northwest Philadelphia. The Heath Department is working to get more information on the case. The Health Department is coordinating with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This announcement is in addition to cases identified in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York. Some basic information on these cases has been published and thus far all have reported mild symptoms.

At this time, the Health Department is issuing a warning to all Philadelphians to take precautions, given the possibility that this new strain may be more transmissible. This includes 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. “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.”

She also recommended that residents visit vaccines.gov or phila.gov/vaccine for locations and times.

Word of Philadelphia’s omicron case came as Pennsylvania reports sharp increases in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

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.

“We know that masks, being outdoors and social distancing are protective from all COVID variants. That means that we need to remember to always wear masks when around others indoors,” Bettigole said. “If possible, avoid crowded indoor spaces and if you do need to go, consider wearing two masks or wearing an N95. If you get together indoors with others, limit your socializing to only vaccinated people and only get together with one or two other households. If you are going to see someone elderly or someone with chronic health conditions and can’t do your visiting outside, take a rapid test before you go and reschedule if you have any symptoms of illness. Don’t assume that staying 6 feet from others indoors or wearing a cloth mask alone will be enough to protect you against omicron.

“Omicron is not something we wanted to have to deal with, but Philadelphia has shown that, by continuing to do these simple acts, we protect each other,” she said. “Now is the time to start thinking about how our actions can affect those we love around us.”

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