By Stephanie Stahl

DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — COVID cases in Delaware County have suddenly exploded in just the last week, and overwhelmed hospitals there are advising people to stay away unless there’s a true emergency.

All six Delaware County hospitals are at capacity and diverting non-urgent patients. The crisis is caused by surging COVID patients and staff shortages.

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“It’s a function of post-holiday visits and gatherings so I think it’s sort of the perfect storm of a very contagious variant and a lot of gatherings in the past couple of weeks,” Delaware County interim Medical Director Dr. Lisa O’Mahony said.

Crozer Health’s four hospitals are so overwhelmed that the emergency room at Springfield Hospital will temporarily close starting Friday.

So what happens if someone has a heart attack right now in Delaware County?

“They will get a trip to the ambulance. They’re trying to get the patient to the closest hospital in general, but at this point what we know is that it just takes a little bit longer,” O’Mahony said.

O’Mahony says delays could be dangerous, even deadly, for patients.

“This is definitely a critical juncture,” she said.

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Delaware County has some of the highest COVID numbers in the state.

In just the last week, cases are up 53% and hospitalizations have increased 85%.

“Our percent positivity is now 40.1%, which is a huge increase even from the past seven days, was 29.2%,” O’Mahony said.

We had been hearing that omicron was supposed to be a milder disease, why are we seeing such a dramatic increase in hospitalizations?

“I think it is a function of just the absolute numbers of people being infected,” O’Mahony said.

And, there’s this reminder from doctors. It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Most people who are hospitalized are not.

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Also, people are being told not to go to emergency rooms unless there’s a real emergency.

Stephanie Stahl