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Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States reached a record high on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, as a surge in infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant strains health systems in several states.

There were 132,646 people hospitalized with Covid, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year.

Hospitalizations have increased steadily since late December, doubling in the last three weeks, as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant version of the virus in the United States.

Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin have reported record levels of hospitalized COVID-19 patients recently, according to the Reuters analysis.

While potentially less severe, health officials have warned that the sheer number of infections caused by the Omicron variant could strain the hospital systems, some of which have already suspended elective procedures as they struggle to handle the surge of patients amid staff shortages.

The seven-day average for new cases has doubled in the last 10 days to 704,000. The United States has averaged over a half a million cases for the last six consecutive days, according to a Reuters tally.

Hospitals around the U.S. are increasingly taking the extraordinary step of allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all.

The move is a reaction to the severe hospital staffing shortages and crushing caseloads that the omicron variant is causing.

California health authorities announced over the weekend that hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have likewise told employees they can stay on the job if they have no symptoms or just mild ones.

With inputs from agencies

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