PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the school mask mandate across the state on Friday. Meanwhile, the New Jersey health department has announced a second case of the omicron variant.
The new case comes as COVID cases are increasing locally and nationally.READ MORE: Sharon Hill Police Officers Charged With Manslaughter In Fatal Shooting Of 8-Year-Old Fanta Bility
On Friday, New Jersey recorded its highest one-day number of positive cases since January. Pennsylvania and Delaware are also seeing a dramatic increase.
Officials say cases and hospitalizations are surging at the worst time.
Across the United States, new cases are averaging around 121,000 a day. Here in the northeast, where vaccination rates are among the highest in the nation, cases have ballooned more than 50% in the last week.
Pennsylvania is experiencing a 35% increase.
“When you have a lot of community transmission going on and there’s lots and lots of opportunities for people to be intermingling, you run the risk of these numbers just continuing to grow,” public health specialist Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.
Hospital cases are also increasing.
“My oxygen numbers were down in the upper 60s, lower 70s,” COVID patient Clive Ellis said.
Ellis is not vaccinated and battling COVID for a second time.READ MORE: Website To Order Free COVID-19 Tests Up And Running
“It’s terrible. You don’t want it,” he said.
In Wilkes-Barre, Geisinger Medical Center is beyond overflow, operating at about 120% capacity.
Doctors say many of the unvaccinated patients make a request they can’t fulfill.
“The saddest thing is when they’re asking when they can get the vaccine,” Wyoming Valley Medical Center emergency medicine physician Dr. Essie Reed said.
With almost 200 million Americans now fully vaccinated, demand is increasing.
“I think the omicron variant is driving some of that and I think everyone knows they need a booster, ideally before the holidays so they can be safe,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham with Kedren Health.
Officials say getting boosted is the best defense against omicron, but the variant is showing troubling signs.
Of 64 identified cases, more than 75% occurred in vaccinated people and one-third had received a booster. But those cases have been mild.MORE NEWS: NBA At 75: Former 76er Dr. J Says Players From Many Eras Built League
Because of the increasing cases, Philadelphia officials are considering new restrictions, including proof of vaccination for indoor dining.