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Active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia rose above 11,000 Thursday for the first time since Oct. 9, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ coronavirus dashboard.

Of the 11,017 active cases in the state — 1,539 more than Wednesday — 2,647 were reported overnight. That’s the highest number of cases reported in one day since the pandemic began, according to the DHHR.

Although Gov. Jim Justice voiced concern for the consistent increases in COVID-19 across the state, he said the “best course of business” moving forward is for the state to continue “the way we’ve been.”

He urged people to get vaccinated and boosted, if they haven’t already, but announced no other initiatives to curb virus spread. Mandates and other policies that could increase vaccinations while mitigating the effects of the pandemic would only “divide” residents, Justice said.

While the governor fears potential division in response to preventative action, James Hoyer, head of the state interagency taskforce, said 180 people have been admitted to West Virginia hospitals in the past two days for COVID-19 complications. Hoyer said there’s a challenge any time daily admissions exceed 60. There were 75 people admitted Monday and 95 admitted Tuesday.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said residents who test positive for COVID-19 should call their primary care providers if they start exhibiting symptoms.

“They are in the best position to give precise advice about whether or not you should go to the emergency room or hospital,” Marsh said.

As of Thursday, 646 West Virginians were hospitalized with COVID-19 — 12 more than Wednesday — with 197 of those patients in an intensive care unit and 108 receiving care on a ventilator.

More than 77% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. That increased to 84% for those in an ICU and 89% for people on a ventilator.

Justice said that, despite there being just 18 cases of the omicron variant confirmed in West Virginia, the new strain is “absolutely moving across our state.”

Those who are not vaccinated and who have not yet received a booster dose of the vaccine are at highest risk for severe illness or potential death from the omicron variant.

According to the DHHR, almost 54% of eligible West Virginians — 919,042 people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those who are fully vaccinated, nearly 35% — 317,638 people — have received a booster dose.

Booster doses are recommended for anyone age 16 and older who previously received their full round of mRNA vaccines six months ago, or the Johnson & Johnson one-shot two months ago.

On Thursday, Kanawha County also saw the highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported in one day, with 241 cases, per a news release. Wednesday saw 222 new cases reported there.

The COVID-19 increases locally and nationally are occurring before winter holiday celebrations conclude. In previous years, COVID-19 surges have consistently hit in the two to three weeks after holidays.

“This is two days in a row that we have had over 200 positive COVID cases reported. The current COVID variant is highly transmissible. I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing masks and keeping gatherings to small numbers, and with only those vaccinated during the New Year holiday,” said Dr. Sherri Young, interim health officer at the Kanawha- Charleston health department. “We will continue to offer testing at the Health Department and other testing events, but most importantly, we will continue to offer vaccines, which will help reduce the number of cases. We must do what we can to alleviate the number of cases and the increase in hospitalizations.”

The KCHD will hold a drive-thru vaccination and testing clinic on Friday, Jan. 7, at the Shawnee Sports Complex, in Dunbar. Because of state holidays for New Year’s, the health department will be closed until 8 a.m. Tuesday.

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

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