PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia health officials are warning residents against hosting holiday gatherings involving multiple households due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia and across the rest of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Cheryl Bettigole issued the plea during a Wednesday COVID-19 response briefing.
"Our contact tracing tells us that these gatherings, when we get together with friends and family, are when we infect each other with COVID," Bettigole said. "We saw it with Thanksgiving, and I worry that people who were getting together then likely contributed to the cases we're seeing now."
On Monday, health officials stated that the city has seen COVID-19 infections rate double in the past few weeks, and hospitalizations increase by about 50%. The city announced a new vaccine mandate impacting indoor dining establishments would be implemented on Jan. 3 in response to the rising case counts.
- Philadelphia vaccine mandate: Shots required for indoor dining starting Jan. 3
- Vaccines required to attend Sixers, Flyers games under new Philadelphia mandate
- Omicron variant now makes up about 3% of US COVID-19 cases, CDC says
They followed up Monday's mandate announcement with new guidance for holiday gatherings.
"Please do not get together with other households for Christmas," Bettigole urged on Wednesday.
She added that if people elect to gather with members of other households, the parties should be kept small and those attending should take rapid tests before they come. Anyone who feels even a little unwell should stay home. "It's hard and it feels impossible and it feels unfair, but I know, and our contract tracing tells us, that these gatherings, when we get together with friends and family, are when we infect each other with COVID."
Residents were also urged to avoid attending or holding holiday parties indoors.
"Instead, profess your brotherly love and sisterly affection by wearing your mask, by avoiding crowded indoor spaces, by staying home if you're sick, and by getting every dose of COVID vaccine that you're eligible for," Bettigole added. "Please do not hold or attend holiday parties indoors. It's just too dangerous."