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After nearly two years of dealing with a global pandemic, it’s getting harder to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.

Active cases in West Virginia shot up again this week, with the state Department of Health and Human Resources reporting 11,017 active cases Thursday morning. Active cases haven’t been that high since early October, when the numbers were steadily dropping from a surge that peaked at nearly 30,000 active cases in September. Meanwhile, public health officials have confirmed that the omicron variant of the virus is present in West Virginia.

Perhaps the winter surge public health officials warned of is beginning. It’s also likely that active cases were underreported at times over the past seven to 10 days because of the Christmas holiday,

The state has now reported 5,336 COVID-19 deaths since it began tracking them in the spring of 2020. Hospitalizations remain above 600, with nearly a third of those patients in intensive care and another 105 on ventilators. The vast majority of those dying from the virus or needing serious medical treatment have not gotten vaccines available to the public since March.

With state vaccination rates shifting from somewhere around 49% in late spring to just above 51% as 2021 draws to a close, it looks like West Virginia will take a couple of years to hit the 80% mark public health officials have said is necessary to stave off more surges.

There’s certainly been no urgency from the governor or Legislature, except attempting to undercut employer testing and vaccination policies, as this situation continues to go through predictable cycles.

Vaccine hesitancy has likely assured that West Virginia, and the rest of the nation, will never be rid of COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean the situation will always be so dire. Some good news is that the latest variant doesn’t seem to be as lethal as its predecessors, although, again, the best way to ensure that is to get vaccinated. The hypothesis of omicron being less severe also is based on what preliminary information medical experts have to study, and could change.

A new year brings no guarantees, as rolling the calendar from 2020 to 2021 showed. Just as COVID-19 does not recognize state or national borders, the virus has no regard for what year it is. So, all must hope that this scourge that has killed more than 800,000 Americans and over 5 million worldwide eventually runs its course, at least in its more deadly forms.

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