By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Gov. Tom Wolf issued a desperate plea to Pennsylvanians to try and do more to stop the spread of COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth are on a steep climb and now jeopardizing hospitals.

Wolf said Monday hospitals and the health care system are on the verge of not being able to take care of people who need help.

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The governor says people need to do a better job of staying home as much as possible and take precautions more seriously.

“If the worst happens, hospitals will not be able to treat all sick Pennsylvanians and will be forced to turn away people who need treatment,” Wolf warned. “That means more Pennsylvanians will die.”

Wolf painted a dire picture of a health care system in Pennsylvania on the brink, overwhelmed by a growing number of COVID patients.

“Crowded conditions and dwindling resources are a reality in hospitals all across the commonwealth and so are staffing shortages due to increased patient needs and medical workers who are falling ill themselves,” Wolf said.

Joining the governor’s briefing was Maureen Casey, a nurse from Hershey Health Center, who described an endless stream of patients.

“Like waves on a shore, it just keeps coming. Nurses go home, cry in the shower, cry in their car alone because of the desperation and exhaustion they feel,” Casey said. “As a nurse, we just have one simple ask, please wear a mask. It’s a simple thing but it gets the job done.”

Officials say COVID is spreading in all communities. According to contact tracing, these are the locations visited by people recently infected.

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  • 48% restaurants
  •  29% other businesses
  • 16% bars
  • 13% salons/barbershops
  • 12% gym/fitness center

“We all need to take a hard look at our choices and our actions,” Wolf said.

State officials say they were hoping stepped up mitigation efforts of reducing gathering sizes would slow the spread. However, it hasn’t, and the governor is now pleading with citizens to be more careful so he isn’t forced to issue new restrictions.

“We are continuing to look at the numbers and if we have to do more, we will,” Wolf said. “We have to commit to protect one another until the vaccine becomes widely available.”

Wolf wouldn’t specify what additional measures were being considered if the numbers don’t stabilize but he said they would be announced “very shortly.”

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Stephanie Stahl