PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Federal help is on the way to Philadelphia to make finding a COVID-19 test easier, but the post-holiday surge is continuing to break more records in and around the city.

It was another all-time high from New Jersey on Wednesday, where there were 31,000 new daily confirmed cases, and in Philadelphia, much-needed help is on the way.

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“Over the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Philadelphia have skyrocketed,” Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

The health commissioner says nearly 30,000 people have been infected in Philadelphia since Christmas, with 40% of COVID-19 tests now positive. The actual number of cases is much higher.

Because of the flood of COVID-19 patients, many hospitals, which are also dealing with staffing shortages, have postponed nonemergency surgeries.

“We are getting close to the kind of dire situation we all dread, in which treatable conditions can be fatal because our hospitals simply don’t have room or staff to take care of those who need help,” Bettigole said.

Bettigole says the critical testing shortage will be helped with a FEMA site that’s expected to open Friday at the Cibotti Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia.

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People with symptoms who can’t get tested are advised to assume they have COVID-19 and everyone should be wearing a surgical-grade mask in crowded public locations.

On schools, the health commissioner maintains they should stay open if there’s enough staff.

“When we do see cases in schools, the majority of those cases are not coming from in-school transmission,” Bettigole said. “They’re coming from the home, from activities outside of school.”

In neighboring Montgomery County, there are now an average of 1,400 cases a day, marking a
240% increase over two weeks.

“We have the highest numbers of cases that we have seen to date during this pandemic. Yet thankfully, at least at this point, hospitalizations are not keeping pace with that,” Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of Montgomery County Commissioners, said.

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Officials in Montgomery County say testing remains a big challenge. They are planning to add 1,500 more weekly appointments for testing and they’re also working to get more at-home tests for at-risk groups.

Stephanie Stahl