What to know about the omicron subvariant


The gist: A subvariant of omicron is spreading in the United States, but some expects say its surge may not be as severe as what we’ve seen in the past. Meanwhile, Philly’s so-called “COVID hotel” in Center City is closing, and coronavirus testing providers can no longer be reimbursed for giving tests to uninsured people. And as the demand for coronavirus vaccinations continues to decline with millions of people still having not gotten the shot, some folks are only now getting vaxxed due to work or school requirements.

📥 Tell us: How worried are you about the omicron subvariant? Send us a note, and we’ll share some responses in next week’s newsletter. Please keep it to 35 words.

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— Nick Vadala (@njvadala, health@inquirer.com)

A new-ish subvariant of omicron officially known as BA.2 has gained a foothold in the United States, now accounting for a third of new cases of COVID-19 nationwide. Some infectious disease experts, however, think that it could have less of an impact here than it did in Europe — but the coronavirus has behaved unpredictably in the past.

⛔ Philadelphia’s “COVID hotel,” a series of rooms located at a Center City Holiday Inn reserved for people with the virus who had nowhere else to quarantine, is closing after nearly two years.

🏥 A group of Philly hospitals and key insurers collectively known as Accelerate Health Equity have teamed up to improve racial equity in health care in the city.

💸 Coronavirus testing providers have lost the ability to be reimbursed for tests given to uninsured people due to Congress’ refusal to authorize new federal COVID-19 funding.

🤒 Due to staffing issues related to the virus, Crozer’s Delaware County Memorial Hospital will lose a number of services by the end of May.

💉 As the demand for COVID shots continues to decline, millions of people still aren’t vaccinated. So, what does that mean for the future of the vaccination effort?

😷 Some people are only now just getting vaccinated, with motivations ranging from employer or school requirements to future travel plans.

💊 Med students at Thomas Jefferson University learned their future in person at the first in-person “Match Day” since the pandemic started.

🚆 As SEPTA looks to find ways to rebuild ridership levels impacted by the pandemic, Penn Medicine, Drexel, and Wawa will be giving free transit passes to employees.

🍽️ Local restaurateurs are pushing city officials to relax the streetery regulations that they say would kill the outdoor dining that has been necessitated by the pandemic.

👶 Moderna will soon ask regulators in the United States and Europe to authorize two small-dose shots for kids under 6.

📉 Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are declining in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Track the latest data here.

Last week, we asked what you think about the possibility of another booster shot. Here’s what you told us:

🔬 “I would absolutely get a second booster. I believe in science and reason, not conspiracies and hocus pocus. Vaccines are saving lives.”

❌ “Please no more! We don’t know the long term side effects from this vaccine!”

✅ “Three words: Count me in.”

🤔 “I’m concerned about getting another booster. It can’t be safe in the long run.”

💉 “If it is going to keep me and my family safe. I am all in.”

🙅 “I’ll take my chances and decline a 4th shot.”

🏥 “I would consent to a 4th dose. My wife is immunocompromised, I’d never want to take COVID home to her.”

💪 “Tell me when and where, and I am there with my sleeves rolled up for my fourth shot!”

In Philly, we call them hoagies — not subs, heroes, or grinders. And around here, the Italian hoagie is a local staple with a long history — but who makes the best one? Help us decide in our Italian Hoagie Bracket, which features 16 Philly favorites picked with help from Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan. NCAA, eat your heart out.

🌻 The Philadelphia Flower Show will return for its 193rd year, and here is everything you need to know about its second consecutive outdoor run.

🎭 Theater fans, rejoice — Philly Theatre Week is coming to you in April for 10 days packed with hundreds of performances and dozens of other events.

🏀 We’re still wild over the newest Sixer, James Harden. So, here’s how “The Beard” went from “nothing special” to one of the biggest talents in the NBA.

After a series of misfortunes that run the gamut for the coronavirus pandemic to a cancer diagnosis, Philly chef Janine Bruno is officially opening her own shop, Homemade by Bruno, this month in South Philly. On the menu: Private pasta-making classes, cooking demonstrations, and occasional gelato sales, all of which are helping Bruno reconnect with her Italian heritage.

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