ST. LOUIS (AP) — The current surge in virus cases in Missouri driven by the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant is straining hospital capacity and making it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals.

Kellie Meehan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she can hear the desperation in doctors’ and nurses’ voices when they call the Mercy transfer center that she oversees. But increasingly she has to turn down their transfer requests.

Virus hospitalizations have risen sharply across Missouri in recent weeks to hit 3,526 on Thursday, which is the most recent data available. That’s more than 700 higher than last year’s peak.