On Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called up 500 members of the state's National Guard to help staff hospitals amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.

As many as 300 guard members are undergoing training to provide what officials described as nonclinical support at 55 acute care hospitals and 12 ambulance providers in the state. They are scheduled to be deployed Dec. 27, with reinforcements in the pipeline.

Baker, who is not running for reelection in 2022, called the decision a necessary one to cope with what is expected to be a challenging winter due to the emerging Omicron variant and colder weather sending residents indoors.

“There’s no question the next few weeks will be enormously difficult for our health care community,” Baker said at a news conference.

The National Guard members manning the state's hospitals will be providing support in five areas: non-emergency transportation between health care facilities; observing patients at risk for harming themselves; moving patients within hospitals; delivering meals to patients; and helping to maintain a safe and secure workplace.

States across the Northeast are anticipating a surge in COVID-19 cases as the arrival of winter and the emergence of the Omicron variant have fueled fears that hospitals will be inundated with patients.

By calling up the state’s National Guard, Massachusetts is joining three other neighboring states that have done the same. New York, Maine and New Hampshire have each called up the National Guard to assist in the staffing of hospitals in their states.