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The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is recommending that people who might have been exposed to COVID-19 during the holidays get tested five to seven days after exposure, unless they’re symptomatic.

If an exposure does lead to symptoms, get tested as soon as possible, health department spokeswoman Lori Kersey said Monday.

The health department does not have any drive-thru COVID-19 testing events scheduled this week or next week, but anyone who wants a test may call the department, at 304-348-8080, to make an appointment.

More than 84 million Americans are expected to travel for the holidays, according to AAA Travel, with Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve both falling on Fridays this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that celebrating the holidays with people outside of the people you already live with raises the chance of infection.

COVID-19 cases in West Virginia and across the United States have risen as temperatures have dropped, with health experts fearing that infections, ICU stays and deaths will continue to tally up as a result of the holiday season.

On Halloween, there were less than 25,000 COVID-19 cases throughout the entire pandemic in West Virginia. On Thanksgiving Day, there were just over 45,000 cumulative cases. On Sunday, the Mountain State reported 73,337 cases, according to the Department of Health and Human Resource’s coronavirus dashboard.

With 22,877 active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia on Monday, one in every nearly 79 West Virginians currently has the virus.

“We typically see a significant spike in cases about two weeks after holidays related to gatherings,” Kersey said, “and Thanksgiving was no exemption.”

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said Monday during the governor’s COVID-19 briefing that colder weather and an increase in indoor gatherings have created a very risky time in the state and country.

Marsh said West Virginians should be “particularly focused on reducing their individual risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading COVID-19” by avoiding crowds and indoor spaces.

Even with positive vaccine news, Marsh said, COVID-19 spread likely won’t start to let up until spring. It will be at least mid-March until the general population in West Virginia can expect to be vaccinated.

Kanawha County is seeing its worst COVID-19 numbers since the pandemic began, with more than 1,600 active cases and 10 deaths in the past seven days.

With flu season starting to peak, flu vaccines also are available with an appointment at the health department, Kersey said.

Reach Joe Severino at joe.severino@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jj_severino on Twitter.