GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – A record number of patients are hospitalized and being treated for COVID-19 at the Hospital Sisters Health System.

HSHS called it an “unfortunate milestone.” They’re treating 303 patients, up from the previous high of 293 patients in November 2020, before the vaccination was available.

HSHS says 230 of those patients in the hospital are not vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s 76 percent of patients.

“These patients range from very young to elderly,” reads a statement from HSHS officials.

The spike is attributed to the highly contagious omicron variant. The hospital system stresses the importance of vaccination for reducing the stress on the system.

“We know that this current COVID spike has many people questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine, but let’s not go there. For several weeks now, the number of hospitalized patients who have been unvaccinated is 80 percent. Only 20 percent of the patients being hospitalized with severe illness have been vaccinated or partially vaccinated,” said Dr. Marc Shelton, chief physician officer.

HSHS has hospitals in Wisconsin and Illinois.

Dr. Shelton says testing remains very important. He acknowledges it has been difficult for vendors to keep the rapid tests in stock.

“They’re working to build more capacity of testing. It’s still very important for people who have symptoms right now, in all or of communities, to get tested so we can identify who is actually infected with omicron and request that they isolate and reduce the spread to others who may be at higher risk of getting ill due to immuno-compromised and those kinds of situations,” Shelton says.

“We are asking those seeking COVID-19 testing due to exposure with a known positive COVID-19 case to please avoid emergency rooms for testing unless you need to be seen critically for an emergent medical evaluation,” reads a statement from hospital officials. “When presenting to the emergency room for COVID-19 testing, valuable resources are being used to care for those having a medical emergency.”

Dr. Shelton says boosters will help with protection against omicron.

“Boosting does give incremental protection for those people against omicron, but there have been some breakthrough cases of COVID with omicron following people who have been boosted, primarily in those who have relative or severe auto-immune disorders,” Shelton says.

Dr. Shelton hopes the peak will come this month.

“My prediction on when the peak is, I’m hoping. I’m hoping less than two weeks. But the timing of this could not have been worse because it follows two long holidays. Lots of gathering,” said Shelton.

On Friday Wisconsin marked a record number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Department of Health Services on Friday reported 12,293 new cases of the virus. That’s up from 11,547 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The seven-day average of new confirmed cases is 7,637. That’s another pandemic high and twice the number it was two weeks ago. The percent positive by test is 26.8 percent over a seven-day average.

“Our communities need your help immediately,” says Allison Paul, interim CEO and chief nursing officer at HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, IL. “Please, please reconsider getting vaccinated if you haven’t already received it. It will literally save lives; maybe your own or maybe someone you love.”