Even as the United States reached the staggering milestone this week of 800,000 COVID-19 deaths, health care workers are still urging people to continue to take COVID-19 seriously.
Over the weekend, the executives of nine health care systems in Minnesota took out a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and in regional outlets urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, to wear masks, socially distance and to get tested for the virus.
Describing health care workers as "overwhelmed" and "heartbroken," the executives noted how difficult it is to provide everyday health care amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"Care in our hospitals is safe but our ability to provide it is threatened," they wrote. "At any time, you or a loved one might need our support. Heart attacks. Car accidents. Cancer. Stroke. Appendicitis."
"Now, an ominous question looms: Will you be able to get care from your local community hospital without delay? Today, that's uncertain," they wrote.
Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, told ABC News that he has "run out of words" to describe the crisis in the state.
"ICUs are full, emergency departments are full, medical-surgical units are full, hallways are full, and surgeries are being canceled," he said. "Hospitals and health systems are working together hourly to meet this challenge and coordinate resources, essentially now functioning as one giant system of care to support our joint mission of serving all Minnesotans."
Across the country, since the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered last December, an additional 500,000 Americans have died of the virus.
Over 200 million Americans, or 61% of the population, are now fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The ongoing call for more people to get vaccinated and to get booster shots comes as the omicron variant continues to spread across the U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Tuesday that omicron will "for sure" become the dominant strain in the U.S. given how rapidly it is spreading.
And in addition to the strain the pandemic is putting on the health care system, it is also putting pressure on health care workers who have worked nonstop for almost two years.
In the U.S., the health care sector has lost nearly half a million workers since February 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Koranne described health care workers in Minnesota as having run a "relentless ultramarathon."
"There were thousands of open health care jobs before the pandemic, and this situation has escalated into a true workforce crisis due to resignations, retirements, burnout and challenges with temporary staffing services," he said. "Our health care heroes are exhausted, heartbroken and overwhelmed after running this relentless ultramarathon for 22 months each day, evening and night. We need everyone to do their part to address this ongoing pandemic as it adds even more stress to our already exhausted system.”
A spokesperson for the Mayo Clinic, one of the nine health care systems represented in the ad, said it wants to protect its patients as well as its "heroic workers."
"Mayo Clinic is working to ensure the safety of its heroic workers and supports COVID-19 vaccinations and safe behaviors because protecting patients and staff is the right thing to do," the spokesperson said.
Dr. Marc Gorelick, President and CEO of Children's Minnesota, noted the impact the pandemic is having on children as well as adults.
In the state, nearly all of the pediatric ICU beds are also full, according to the COVID response website.
"As the kid experts in the region, at Children's Minnesota, we have seen first-hand COVID-19’s direct and indirect effect on kids—not only can kids get seriously sick, but they’ve also had to deal with isolation and time away from loved ones," Gorelick told ABC News. "More than 20 months into the pandemic, our statewide health system is undergoing another stress test, and we need everyone to partner with us as we continue this battle against COVID-19."
ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.