PHILADELPHIA - A Northwest Philadelphia man in his 30s has tested positive for the COVID-19 omicron variant, according to the health department.
The health department is issuing a warning to all Philadelphians to take precautions given the possibility that this new strain may be more transmissible, including seriously reconsidering plans for indoor holiday gatherings and activities.
"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."
The omicron variant of COVID-19, which had been undetected in the U.S. before the middle of this week, had been discovered in at least five states by the end of Thursday, showing yet again how mutations of the virus can circumnavigate the globe with speed and ease.
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Just a day after the first known U.S. case was found in California, tests showed the omicron variant had infected at least five people in the New York City metropolitan area, plus a man from Minnesota who had attended an anime convention in Manhattan in late November.
A Colorado woman who had recently traveled to southern Africa, a Hawaii resident with no recent travel history, and another California resident who traveled to South Africa last month also were infected by the variant, officials said.
Much remains unknown about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether it makes people as sick as the original strain.
Health officials in each state said there was no cause for undue alarm. But the spread of the cases, some involving people who hadn’t been away from home recently, meant the variant was likely already circulating domestically in some parts of the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.