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The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on Monday announced the first case of the omicron variant has been detected in Kanawha County.

The case is a male who tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials said in a news release that contact tracing is ongoing, with stricter protocols in place for anyone deemed a close contact.

“It is not surprising that an Omicron variant case has been detected in Kanawha County,” Dr. Sherri Young, interim health officer for the health department, said in the release. “We know it is highly transmissible and it has been rapidly spreading throughout the United States. Our state has been affected as well.”

While at least three cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant were confirmed in West Virginia last week, the state dashboard is yet to report variant data outside of the delta strain. Early studies from other countries and regions show omicron could cause less severe illness, though it also could spread at three-times the rate of previous variants.

According to data released Monday from the Department of Health and Human Resources, a total of 3,450 new COVID-19 cases were reported over the holiday weekend, bringing the state’s total to 322,485 cases since the pandemic began last year.

Of those cases, 8,746 — 539 fewer than Thursday, the last day the state dashboard was updated — are active. Nine additional COVID-related deaths were reported Thursday, bringing the cumulative total to 5,260.

As of Monday, 593 West Virginians were hospitalized with the virus — 13 more than Thursday — with 181 patients in intensive care units and 103 receiving care on a ventilator. Nearly 80% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Health officials say those who are unvaccinated still have the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying from the virus. About 53% of eligible residents in the state — 916,537 individuals — are fully vaccinated. Another 11% — 182,077 residents — are partially vaccinated.

Of those who are fully vaccinated, 34% have received a booster dose of the vaccine. Booster doses are recommended for anyone 16 and older who previously received their full round of mRNA vaccines six months ago, or the Johnson & Johnson one-shot two months ago.

— Staff reports

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