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The number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia topped 15,000 Monday, nearly double the number reported one week ago.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ COVID-19 dashboard, 15,015 cases were reported Monday. On Dec. 27, 8,604 active cases were reported.

An additional 9,164 cases have been reported since the dashboard was last updated on Thursday. A total of 337,326 cases have been reported since the pandemic began.

Deaths tied to COVID-19 totaled 5,356 Monday, with 20 of those reported over the holiday weekend. The number of cases linked to the omicron variant more than quadrupled since Thursday, with 75 reported Monday.

Hospitalizations also are on the rise, with 721 residents hospitalized — an increase of 75 since Thursday. Of those patients, 189 are in intensive care units and 114 are on ventilators.

Since the pandemic began, virus rates have increased in the weeks following holidays. The 2020-21 winter surge saw many more active cases than are currently reported — about 27,000 in the week after New Years, when vaccines were not widely available.

This year, state officials have warned that the omicron variant — which reports indicate could spread at up to three times the rate of the delta variant — could further strain the state’s hospital system.

People who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are at the highest risk for death or hospitalization from a COVID-19 infection. The best way to avoid illness is by being fully vaccinated and boosted, health officials say. About 54% of eligible residents — 920,985 people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those, 35% — 325,730 people — have received a booster dose.

Vaccination rates remain lowest among children ages 5 to 11, with only 14.62% fully vaccinated, according to the DHHR. The second-lowest group is children ages 12 to 15, where 43.7% are fully vaccinated.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Pfizer booster in children 12 to 15 years old, and shortened the time for a booster dose to be administered from six months to five months. The agency also approved a third, additional COVID-19 vaccine dose for children ages 11 to 15 who are immunocompromised.

The changes will not be enacted until approved by an advisory panel from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is to meet Wednesday.

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