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First Confirmed Cases Of COVID-19 Omicron Variant Reported In Philadelphia, New Jersey

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The COVID-19 omicron variant is now present in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Health officials say omicron is more transmissible than the delta variant, which was more transmissible than earlier variants.

Philadelphia health officials say the first confirmed case of the new COVID-19 omicron variant has been identified in the city on Friday. Officials, who are now doing contact tracing, say a male resident in his 30's from Northwest Philadelphia has tested positive for the omicron variant.

The health department is working to get more information regarding the case and is working with the state health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The city says they were first notified of this through the state and the health commissioner says they believe there may be more cases out there.

"It is not unexpected that we would see omicron here in Philadelphia," Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said. "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."

"Scared, honestly. I try to be as careful as I can. The whole COVID thing has just been rough to deal with," one man said.

The health department is now issuing a warning to take precautions. This includes seriously reconsidering plans for indoor holiday gatherings and activities.

"I don't want people to panic and I don't want to end all social interaction, but we can do that safely," Bettigole said.

"You can't say to people 'avoid indoor gatherings, stay away from people' and not have a little bit of that boil up and come up as panic," Jane Lipton said.

Lipton started her Manayunk small business, Fat Lady Brewing, after her previous tenants were forced to close due to the pandemic.

"It's really disappointing to me that variant is here. It's not unexpected, but it's truly disappointing," she said.

Officials in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania are urging people to get vaccinated, get the booster if possible, and stay masked.

"I'm hoping it's what I'm hearing that being vaccinated and boosterized, that if I do get it, it will be mild," one woman said.

The omicron variant is said to be a more transmissible variant of the virus.

Health officials say it was first detected in South Africa.

"Omicron is not something we wanted to have to deal with, but Philadelphia has shown that, by continuing to do these simple acts, we protect each other," Bettigole said. "Now is the time to start thinking about how our actions can affect those we love around us."

"Since the discovery of this new variant, we have been preparing for the likelihood of an omicron case in Philadelphia," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "A new variant, especially one that may be more transmissible, means that we have to stay vigilant about taking steps to protect ourselves and everyone around us. I know that this news is especially discouraging as we enter the holiday season, but we can get through this together."

The omicron variant has also been confirmed in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy says a fully vaccinated woman from Georgia has tested positive.

Murphy says the woman recently traveled to South Africa.

She is currently in isolation and experienced moderate symptoms.

CBS3's Jasmine Payoute and Howard Monroe contributed to this report.

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