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More than 90 people were admitted to hospitals Tuesday for COVID-19 as West Virginia health officials again warned of a potential surge following the holidays.

“We hit 95 new admissions [today]. That’s up from 75 [Monday], and it’s up from 45 on the 19th of December,” said James Hoyer, head of the state interagency task force.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ COVID-19 dashboard, 635 people were in a hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Of those hospitalized, 194 are in intensive care units and 101 are receiving care on ventilators. Eighty percent of those patients are unvaccinated. A total of 8,604 active COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday, down 142 from Monday. According to the dashboard, 1,053 new cases were reported overnight.

Eighteen omicron variant cases have now been confirmed in the state. Nine of those are in Berkeley County, five in Monongalia County and one each in Kanawha, Harrison, Fayette and Marion counties. During Tuesday’s COVID-19 news briefing, Gov. Jim Justice said omicron cases in West Virginia “will surely skyrocket” in coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile, West Virginia is reporting one of the highest death rates tied to COVID-19 in the nation since vaccines became available, according to data analysis from Johns Hopkins University. To date, 5,288 West Virginians have died from the virus, including an additional 28 reported overnight.

About 53% of eligible residents — 917,204 people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those, about 34% — 312,649 people — have received a booster dose.

With vaccination rates still lowest among children ages 5-16, state and local health officials are urging parents and grandparents to get their children vaccinated, especially as schools prepare to reconvene after the holiday break.

“This is immediately the time to decide to fully vaccinate our children to help protect them from the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in West Virginia,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 czar and vice president of health sciences at West Virginia University.

In Kanawha County, where the first case of omicron was detected Monday, health officials are echoing that sentiment.

“Kanawha County is seeing a spike in cases similar to what was seen after the Thanksgiving Holiday, and it is important that people be tested as the Christmas Holiday has just ended and the New Year Holiday is approaching,” read a Tuesday news release. “Students will be returning to school soon and we need to capture new positive cases before anyone returns to work or school and continues the spread of COVID.”

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will hold a testing and vaccination clinic at its office from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday. Vaccine doses and booster shots will be available, and everyone is encouraged to get tested — especially if they are displaying symptoms.

“This is an opportunity to get free testing. I also encourage anyone who has not received a vaccine to do so now. We must do what we can to stop the spread of this virus that continues to be deadly and cause a rise in hospitalizations,” said Kanawha-Charleston interim health officer Dr. Sherri Young. “Too many people have not taken the opportunity to get their booster vaccine, and there is no reason to delay, when they are available and free.”

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

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