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Health officials advise the best things to do to help are mask up, social distance and get fully vaccinated.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - A COVID-19 patient in an ICU.Oregon health care professionals are begging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, warning that hospitals are already near full capacity.

Hospitals both locally and nationally are short on nurses and medical staff. After two years of battling the pandemic, many are saying they are burned out.

That is putting a limit on the number of patients a hospital can receive.

"We have beds and we don't necessarily have the staff with the current models to adequately care for patients that are in those beds," said Dr. Seth Podolsky from Legacy Health. "And this is not just Legacy Health, but it's health systems in the region and nationally."

Experts say hospitals are seeing a higher number of nurses who are getting sick.

Health officials advise the best things to do to help are to mask up, social distance and get fully vaccinated.

"We do recommend for everyone who can do it, to up your mask game," said Dr. Kristen Dillon, a senior advisor for Oregon's COVID-19 response. "Go to wearing an N95 or a KN95 or a surgical mask with a cloth mask over it — because it's not just coughing or sneezing that can cause spread, it's the air that we breathe in and out that can spread this from person to person."

Dillon said in many ways, Oregonians need to go back to the playbook from mid-2020, when they were told to keep social gatherings small, which is tough to hear as many want to get together with larger groups for the holidays.

As the omicron variant continues to spread, demand for vaccines has also remained high, filling up most major retailers' appointments across the metro area.

Health experts also said getting a booster could mean the difference between getting really sick from the omicron variant or just mildly ill.

They encouraged those unable to find appointments to consider county and state clinics as they often have openings.

The Oregon Health Authority is also holding multiple mass vaccination clinics across the state — announcing on Thursday, Dec. 23, an addition of three more sites.

OHA's clinics are set up to administer around 1,000 vaccines per day, although they will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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