The gist: A new, concerning COVID-19 variant, omicron, is beginning to spread across the globe just in time to disrupt holiday parties and family gatherings. On Wednesday, a person in California became the first in the United States to have an identified case of the emerging variant.

Although Philadelphia still has no known cases of omicron, Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole warned residents that cases are rising and Philadelphia hospitals are already full of non-COVID-19 patients. ”This is a time to be very careful,” she said. “We’re not in crisis mode in Philly but we’re trying to stay out of crisis mode.”

— Kelly O’Shea (@kelloshea,

‘Do not get hysterical’ about omicron variant, Philly-area officials say as they wait to learn more

With the public’s attention captured by omicron, officials in the region urged renewed vigilance in mask-wearing and doubled down on their calls to get vaccinated. But with so much unknown, they said the public should expect a period of uncertainty for the next few weeks. “Do not get hysterical. That is not warranted. We just don’t know enough,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said.

What you need to know:

🤳 Philadelphians isolated by long COVID have turned to social media sites, like Instagram and TikTok, as a source of information and camaraderie as they struggle with a set of syndromes that medical science is still working to understand.

🏬 The pandemic claimed scores of small-business casualties around the region but these two small businesses survived. Here’s how they did it.

🦠 Some states know a lot about vaccinated people who have gotten COVID-19. Pennsylvania doesn’t.

🎥 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia enlisted experts in the TV and film industry to create COVID vaccine-education videos that have now been seen and shared by millions. But will the special-effects wizardry be enough to persuade the hesitant?

👶 A staffing crisis at Pennsylvania childcare centers is upending family routines and slowing the economic recovery.

💉 The CDC has acknowledged it misreported Pennsylvania’s coronavirus vaccination rates, an error that caused it to wrongly rank the state as first in the nation for adults with at least one dose. The agency is updating its data.

Local coronavirus numbers:

📈 The positivity rate of coronavirus tests in Philadelphia has increased to 4.8% in recent weeks. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources:

What you’re saying:

Two weeks ago, we asked what virus precautions you are taking at holiday gatherings this year. Here’s what you told us:

⛔ “We will be having no holiday gatherings of any type. It’s too dangerous.”

🧪 “I am requiring everyone to get a PCR test. I don’t want to take any risks.”

🤒 “We are not hosting family this year. We are all vaccinated and boosted, but season flu is our concern.”

A dose of diversion: Making spirits bright

The holiday season has arrived, and if you’re looking for some festive outdoor fun, a drive- or walk-through outdoor holiday light show could be a good option. From neighborhood blocks to offerings from corporate entities, we’ve rounded up a list of local holiday light shows that you can see without spending a cent.

🎉 Need to feed a crowd? Check out these 15 places to get party trays and platters in the Philly area.

❤️ Mindfulness tips to practice gratitude for a happier, healthier holiday season.

🍽️ Great new restaurants to take your out-of-town friends who haven’t been to Philly for a while.

A good thing: Award-winning

The Franklin Institute is honoring 13 people in its annual awards in science and business leadership, including two University of Pennsylvania scientists whose work with messenger RNA paved the way for the first COVID-19 vaccines.

Enjoy getting our journalism through email? You can also sign up for The Inquirer Morning Newsletter to get the latest news, features, investigations and more sent straight to your inbox each morning Sunday-Friday. Sign up here.