A man in his 30s from Northwest Philadelphia tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 this Friday, marking the first case in the city.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced the news on Friday. The Omicron variant, which was first identified in Botswana and South Africa, could be more contagious than other variants and less susceptible to vaccines. At the moment, at least 16 states have reported cases of the Omicron variant. Health experts still do not know how effective vaccines will be against Omicron, and drug companies are currently trying to create a new vaccine to target the variant, according to WHYY.
Philadelphia's Health Department has issued a warning to all Philadelphia residents to take extra precautions, including reconsidering plans for indoor holiday gatherings and activities and receiving a COVID-19 booster shot.
“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,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a news release. “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.”
City Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said on Wednesday that it was inevitable that the variant would arrive in Philadelphia, WHYY reported. She encouraged all adults and children above the age of five to get vaccinated, and for all eligible people to get the booster shot as soon as possible.
“Just because there is a case of this new variant here does not mean it’s too late to take precautions. … 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,” Bettigole said in a Dec. 3 press briefing. “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.”
Penn strongly recommends that community members receive a COVID-19 booster shot and will be holding a booster shot clinic in the upcoming weeks. Penn has also urged members of the community to limit social gatherings, specifically those that are large, indoors, and unmasked.