WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's chief nursing officer said the province is in 'unchartered territory' as COVID-19 hospitalizations top 300, and intensive care units have been pushed far beyond their normal capacity.

On Wednesday, the province reported 303 Manitobans were in hospital with COVID-19, 50 of those people were in intensive care. She said of the 79 patients in Manitoba who are ventilated, 42 of them have COVID-19.

Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer with Shared Health, said Manitoba's ICUs are operating at 146 per cent above the normal pre-COVID capacity.

She said more space is being added to the Health Sciences Centre to allow for more capacity for Critical Care COVID-19 patients. HSC also opened an eight-bed observation unit for the patients who are waiting for COVID-19 test results before being admitted to the inpatient units.

Siragusa said the surging cases are straining the health-care system and are overwhelming health-care workers.

This comes as the province reported 349 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with nine more deaths.

READ MORE: COVID-19 deaths surpass 250 in Manitoba on Wednesday

Siragusa said the province has seen a surge in hospitalizations recently. In early November, there were 153 people hospitalized with COVID-19, but in a manner of 20 days, those hospitalizations doubled. During that same time, the number of people in intensive care more than tripled.

Now, she said health-care workers are preparing for another expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

"We are in unchartered territory now, and our goal is to stay one step ahead of this virus and ensure that patient care is not compromised," she said, adding the strain is wearing on the frontline workers.

"Staff are very tired. They're emotionally tired, they're physically tired. And they're scared of what these continual high numbers are going to bring in the future."

She said frontline workers appreciate the kind words and gifts Manitobans are sending them.

"The biggest gift you can give to our health-care workers right now is to stay at home. Limit your contacts, wear a mask, wash your hands and help us to try and get these numbers down."