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The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has issued an urgent plea to state residents to take extra precautions to prevent increased hospitalizations and deaths from the omicron variant.

The DHS posted a statement Monday in which it said it is anticipating that the variant will "cause a rapid increase activity in the coming weeks," which will in turn have a dangerous impact on state hospital systems.

"There is a serious risk that continued, increased numbers of COVID-19 cases will overwhelm an already strained health care system, leading to dangerous situations where patients experiencing medical emergencies may not be able to receive immediate, adequate, life-saving attention and care due to lack of hospital capacity," the DHS said.

The plea comes just a few days before Christmas, when many residents are expected to gather in groups to celebrate the holiday.

Among the steps that residents are being urged to take is getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing a well-fitting mask indoors when around those you don't live with, and keeping holiday gatherings "small," and getting tested before visiting others.

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Those with symptoms of COVID, or who have tested positive, should stay home.

“I urge every Wisconsinite to take immediate action and get the COVID-19 vaccine and your booster dose if you haven’t received it already – this is critically important for mitigating surges in hospitalizations and deaths across our state," said Gov. Tony Evers.

"Please get the vaccine, continue following public health best practices, and do your part to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant."

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