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Numbers down but omicron is on the horizon

ELKINS — Even though active COVID-19 cases have declined in Randolph County since last week, health officials continue to be concerned with what may be on the horizon.

Not only are experts projecting a case surge stemming from last week’s Thanksgiving gatherings, but the threat of the omicron variant is putting most of the nation on high alert. New York issued an advisory on Monday that strongly recommends everyone wear masks indoors in public places at all times regardless of vaccination status.

“We took off a bunch of people from last week who were off quarantine, but we haven’t received all of our numbers from over the weekend, mostly because our testing sites were closed,” Bonnie Woodrum, the Randolph-Elkins Health Department’s infectious disease specialist, told The Inter-Mountain Monday. “We expect more cases to start coming in (later in the week).”

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, there were 135 active cases in Randolph County. This Monday there were 101 active cases in the county.

Numbers in West Virginia have also declined since last week, when there were 6,733 active cases. On Tuesday the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 5,800 active cases in the Mountain State.

There were 31 new deaths in the report, however, running the total in the state to 4,868 since the pandemic began. The death of an 88-year-old woman from Randolph County was among those reported.

Woodrum said even though the omicron variant has not made its way to the United States, the threat of it coming here is something that needs to be taken seriously.

“The closest cases we know about right now are in Canada,” said Woodrum. “But it’s just a matter of time before we get some in the United States. So the chief message now is for people to start protecting themselves and others. And the best way to do that is to get vaccinated or boosted.”

Woodrum said while it’s not known how the vaccine will fare against the new variant, health experts are confident it will provide some degree of protection.

“It might be a little reduced in the protection, but they really don’t know yet,” she said. “It will be a couple of weeks before they know for sure. The vaccine companies are researching whether or not they will need an altered kind of a dose of the same vaccine, or a specific vaccine. They are gearing up to get right into that and manufacture what is needed.”

The Randolph-Elkins Health Department continues to offer vaccinations and boost doses by appointment only. Call 304-636-0396 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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