By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Gov. Tom Wolf is asking the feds for help as COVID-19 cases rise in Pennsylvania. This comes as Philadelphia’s health commissioner issues a warning about the holidays and urges residents to stay home instead of getting together with family.

Wolf says Pennsylvania hospitals overwhelmed with COVID patients and staff shortages need help from FEMA.

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Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s top health official says holiday parties are a bad idea.

“Please do not hold or attend holiday parties indoors. It’s just too dangerous,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

It’s not the kind of holiday message the health commissioner wanted to give but Dr. Bettigole says COVID is again playing grinch.

“It’s hard and it feels impossible and it feels unfair,” she said.

COVID cases in Philadelphia have doubled in the past few weeks. There are now an average of 544 new cases a day.

Most are from the delta variant but there are now three confirmed cases of the more contagious omicron variant and more are expected.

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“We’re now entering what could be the most dangerous time since last winter. With flu season just around the corner, I’m very concerned that a spike in people being hospitalized for COVID may put our hospitals over the edge,” Bettigole said.

Bettigole says the post-Thanksgiving surge came primarily from people gathering in homes, where the virus spreads easily. That’s why she’s advising against Christmas and New Year’s gatherings.

“Or if you do, keep those gatherings small, have everyone do a rapid test before they come, and ask everyone to stay home if they feel even a little bit unwell,” Bettigole said.

The most critical safety measure is vaccinations and boosters. While 76% of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated, about 220,000 residents aren’t and that’s mainly primarily who’s spreading the virus.

“As has been the case for the last month, we continue to see a sharp rise in cases of COVID-19,” Bettigole said.

Wolf is now asking for federal help from FEMA.

For the strained health care system in Pennsylvania, the governor is asking for strike teams to assist hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and with ambulance services.

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And for help with the state’s pandemic response, Wolf is asking the feds for one million more rapid at-home COVID test kits and more monoclonal antibodies.

Stephanie Stahl