Several states across the U.S. are seeing their healthcare systems squeezed to capacity as a record number of COVID patients are admitted due to the highly infectious Omicron variant.

As many as 19 states have less than 15% intensive care units remaining in their hospitals, including Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Of these 19 states, four - Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana, and New Hampshire - have less than 10% capacity in their ICUs, the HHS indicated.

Hospitalizations have reached record levels with the rise of the Omicron variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that the COVID strain now accounts for 98% of all COVID cases.

Hospitalizations as of Wednesday surpassed the 151,000 threshold and were further compounded by healthcare labor shortages among medical workers, who are also testing positive for COVID-19 after being exposed to the virus, CNN reported.

To help alleviate some of the strain, the Biden administration is expected to announce Thursday that federal medical teams will be deployed to the states of Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island to help hospitals treat COVID patients.

While symptoms of the Omicron have been described as “mild,” Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN the majority of patients coming into the hospital with COVID infections are unvaccinated.

“Right now, we're still seeing sick people that need oxygen, the overwhelming majority of which are unvaccinated. But a lot of the patients that we're seeing right now have underlying chronic conditions that are being exacerbated,” Spencer told CNN.

The CDC has said that the best defense against the Omicron variant is to be fully vaccinated and to have a booster shot.

A patient infected with Covid-19 lays in a bed in the intensive care unit of the Saint-Camille hospital, in Bry-Sur-Marne, east of Paris
Representational image of a patient infected with COVID-19. AFP / Anne-Christine POUJOULAT
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