Dec 16, 2021 - COVID

Philadelphia's health commissioner urges against holiday gatherings

Illustration of an open door with a virus on the other side of it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Philadelphia's top doctor is urging people to not hold in-person gatherings with other households during the holidays as the city's COVID-19 cases spike.

What she's saying: Indoor gatherings are "just too dangerous," Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole warned during the city's COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

  • Even fully vaccinated residents and those who have received booster shots need to practice caution, she said, due to risks of breakthrough cases.
  • For those who are still planning on holding holiday gatherings, Bettigole advised keeping them small and having everyone take a rapid test before arriving.

State of play: Philadelphia could be entering "the most dangerous time since last winter" for the virus due to a rise in cases, hospitalizations, the new Omicron variant and holiday gatherings, Bettigole said.

  • Average daily positive cases have reached 544, a significant increase in recent weeks.
  • The positivity rate is slightly above 5%.

Between the lines: Family gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday "likely contributed" to the recent uptick in positive cases, Bettigole said.

What to watch: The city is tracking toward weekly case counts as high as last winter, when it put in place virus restrictions that limited indoor dining and banned certain activities, like going to gyms, museums and libraries.

  • As case volumes are up at hospitals throughout the region, Bettigole is worried the combination of flu season and a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations "may put our hospitals over the edge."
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