By Stephanie Stahl

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — The United States is hitting record levels of COVID-19, now averaging about 400,000 new cases per day. Locally, hospitals are postponing elective surgeries and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says the Garden State needs federal help.

The new year is off to a bad start with COVID levels worse than they were a year ago, before vaccines were widely available. The omicron variant is spreading like wildfire and now even striking Gov. Murphy’s family.

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“This omicron tsunami has changed the game yet again,” Murphy said.

Murphy is sounding the alarm as COVID-19 cases in New Jersey increased 324% in the past 14 days and hospitalizations are up 112%.

“We’re seeing new case counts that dwarf what we were seeing even in the earliest days,” Murphy said. “The fight is not over, but we can shorten it if we all take this seriously, mask up, get boosted, and again, take this seriously.”

New Jersey officials are asking for emergency help from FEMA for overwhelmed hospitals and with pediatric cases reaching record levels and the governor wants to extend the state’s school mask mandate.

“Don’t underestimate how easily you can get infected from this thing,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s wife has tested positive. So far, he and the rest of the family are negative.

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“She had no clue that she had it, zero symptoms, she still has zero symptoms. To me, that’s the bigger headline,” Murphy said.

Because of surging COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages, many hospitals are limiting elective procedures. Dr. John Stallkamp with Main Line Health says that the system is putting a two-week pause on non-essential surgeries.

“We do expect probably to go past our record number of COVID cases and have more COVID patients in house than we ever did before. Our ICU beds are fine, we’re finding that this population because of vaccination and because of omicron is still sick, but not quite ICU and ventilator sick,” Stallkamp said.

Pennsylvania has had a 134% increase in cases with hospitalizations up 12%.

The City of Philadelphia has experienced a dramatic increase of positive cases, now averaging about 2,600 a day.

In Delaware, there’s been a 192% spike, with 28% increase in hospitalizations. Delaware now has a renewed state of emergency with the National Guard now activated to help support hospitals.

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Health officials say the virus is expected to spread even more widely in the next couple of weeks with a post-holiday surge.

Stephanie Stahl