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With 970 new cases and 22 new COVID-19 associated deaths reported in West Virginia on Wednesday — including some reconciliation deaths — state officials are again begging residents to get their vaccines before winter holidays exacerbate the spread.

As of Wednesday, there were 6,462 active COVID-19 cases in the state — 262 more than Tuesday — and 4,698 total COVID-19 associated deaths, per the Department of Health and Human Resources coronavirus dashboard.

During Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, which aired nearly 40 minutes late, state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh said more new cases nationwide — nearly a quarter of them — have been detected in children.

Those ages 5 and up are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As of Wednesday, 5,006 vaccine doses have been administered to children ages 5 to 11, according to the dashboard.

Over the last four weeks, children in that same age group have accounted for nearly 11% — about 2,500 — of COVID-19 cases in the state. That’s more than most other age groups in West Virginia, per numbers from the dashboard.

Over the same time last year, there were only about 500 cases in children ages 5 to 11, accounting for just 3.2% of all cases in that time frame.

Marsh said while childhood vaccinations are still on the rise, infections in that population can be harder to spot.

Children spread and carry the virus the same as adults but can often be asymptomatic, making early detection difficult and disease spread rampant.

Marsh said this is especially concerning as holidays approach and different households travel and gather indoors. Last year, West Virginia experienced a surge tied to such travel. This year, officials have said, metrics and data show another surge could hit, especially if vaccination rates don’t increase.

As of Wednesday, 49.6% of eligible West Virginians — 842,341 individuals — are fully vaccinated against the virus, per the dashboard. Another 137,098 residents — 8.1% of eligible individuals — are partially vaccinated.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 totaled 519 Wednesday, with 171 of those patients in an intensive care unit and 91 people receiving care on a ventilator.

Nearly 28% of people hospitalized with the virus report being vaccinated, which Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday is proof that more booster shots need to be administered to protect people whose immunity has waned.

About 83% of people in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated, and that increases to 86% for those on ventilators.

Of residents who are fully vaccinated, only 6.2% — 52,761 individuals — have received a booster shot, according to the dashboard.

While there has been some confusion between federal directives and local directives for who qualifies for the booster, Justice said Wednesday he believed anybody in the state, “if you’re breathing,” is eligible.

This is due to the state’s health outcomes, where a majority of people would be eligible due to common comorbidities and underlying conditions or practices.

Justice said there were 46 outbreaks at long term care facilities in the state — 10 more than were reported last week — and two outbreaks at churches in Nicholas and Webster counties.

Caity Coyne covers health. She can be reached at 304-348-7939 or Follow @CaityCoyne on Twitter.

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