A Philadelphia man has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, making him the first case in the city and all of Pennsylvania to have what medical experts are examining as a potentially more transmissible version of the coronavirus, officials said Friday.
A New Jersey woman who lives Georgia was identified as the Garden State's first positive test confirmation late on Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. She had recently traveled to South Africa, state officials said.
The Philadelphia man is in his 30s and from the northwestern section of the city, Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Friday afternoon. It is unknown when he tested positive or where he had recently traveled.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey became the seventh and eighth states to have positive tests confirmed for the Omicron variant, which in the last week has rattled the global economy, caused numerous countries to shut down borders to international travelers, and forced tighter testing requirements for returning citizens.
“The Omicron variant is among us and we need to take steps to stop its spread. It is vital that residents remain as vigilant as possible as we await more information about the variant,” Murphy said. “Vaccinations and mask wearing have proven to be an effective tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and I urge everyone ages 18 and over to receive a booster.”
The other states with Omicron cases are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York.
Medical experts say they believe the variant is all around, despite the low current confirmations.
“It is not unexpected that we would see Omicron here in Philadelphia,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said in the statement. “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.”
Earlier this week, Bettigole said residents should "be very careful" in the days and weeks ahead as cold weather is already ushering in a "sharp uptick" in coronavirus cases in Philadelphia.
"In the past two weeks, Philadelphia and the surrounding counties continue to see a sharp uptick in cases of COVID-19," Bettigole said Wednesday. "It'll be another week or so before we see the full effects of the Thanksgiving holiday on these numbers, but with the colder weather and the recent spikes with a new variant on the horizon, this is a time to be very careful."