December 31, 2021
Philadelphia set another record this week, averaging 1,972 new COVID-19 cases per day for two weeks, prompting city officials to advise people reconsider their New Year's Eve plans.
Thursday's record topped the mark set Monday, when the city had been averaging 1,462 daily cases for the previous rolling two-week period. The rise in COVID-19 infections is due to the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Earlier this month, Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole advised residents to avoid indoor gatherings on Christmas. Mayor's Office and the Department of Public Health on Thursday reminded the public that this recommendation also applies to indoor New Year's Eve gatherings.
For those who will be going to New Year's Eve parties taking place indoors, the Health Department said increasing the ventilation of the space where an event is taking place and having guests get tested beforehand decreases the risk of the virus's transmission.
" ... (P)ay attention to the number of people at your gathering, and who they are," the city said. "If there's lot of people there, or you're worried about the vaccine status of those people, it's okay to leave early."
Though the city recommend testing ahead before gatherings, finding a COVID-19 test amid the omicron surge has not been easy for many residents. On Monday, FEMA responded to Gov. Tom Wolf's request for federal support, agreeing to send strike teams to impacted hospitals. It is still unclear if the governor's request for an additional 1 million at-home COVID-19 tests has been met, as companies like Walgreens and Amazon limit the sale of test kits.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention change their quarantine guidelines, reducing the recommended time in isolation from 10 days to five for people who are asymptomatic but have tested positive. Asymptomatic people should continue to wear masks in public for five days after quarantining.
"The worst part of this surge will be over in a few weeks and we should soon have more tests available to let us test to ensure safety before gathering. But now is time for extreme caution," Bettigole said Sunday.
Philadelphia is the most vaccinated of America's 10 largest cities, according to data from Philly Counts, the city-run program that has been encouraging residents to get COVID-19 shots since the early 2021.
As the omicron surge continues, Philadelphia's colleges and universities are updating their plans to reopen, Temple University is among the school that has opted to hold classes virtually for the first few weeks of its spring semester.
City health officials advise those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. but who cannot access testing due to supply issues, to assume they are positive and wear masks around others for a 10-day period, isolating for the first five.