Dec 3, 2021 - COVID

Omicron variant found in Philadelphia man

A technician handles tubes containing swab samples for Covid-19. Photo: Ahmad Salem/Getty Images
A technician handles tubes containing swab samples for COVID-19. Photo: Ahmad Salem/Getty Images

A Northwest Philadelphia resident has tested positive for the Omicron variant, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced Friday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case of the new coronavirus variant involves a man in his 30s, the department said.

What they're saying: "It is not unexpected that we would see Omicron here in Philadelphia," city Health commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said in a statement Friday.

  • Mayor Jim Kenney added, "I know that this news is especially discouraging as we enter the holiday season, but we can get through this together."

The big picture: Additional cases of the new variant have been confirmed in New York, Minnesota, California, Hawaii and Colorado this week.

State of play: City health officials aren't planning any new COVID-19 restrictions at this time, Public Health Department spokesperson James Garrow told Axios Friday.

Between the lines: Bettigole said on Wednesday it's unknown how the Omicron variant will affect people who are vaccinated but she expects some decrease in vaccine efficacy.

  • The current vaccines could be 80-85% effective or lower, she said.
  • E. John Wherry, an immunologist at University of Pennsylvania, told Axios Omicron would likely lead to an increase of infections, even among those who are vaccinated, due to the high number of mutations.

What you can do: Philadelphia's Public Health Department is warning residents to take precautions and wear masks.

  • The agency is continuing to urge that people get vaccinated or get a booster shot. Vaccination clinics are listed on the city's website.
  • Bettigole also said to limit indoor socializing to only vaccinated people and to just one or two households.

Of note: Philadelphia district schools will operate normally on Monday, district spokesperson Monica Lewis told Axios. 

  • Safety measures remain in place throughout the district to prevent the spread of the virus, including a face mask mandate, district-provided hand sanitizer, and the use of social distancing where possible, Lewis said. 
  • "We encourage everyone to have safe practices in terms of keeping themselves and their families safe."
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