As COVID-19 numbers continue to head in the wrong direction in West Virginia, health officials warn the public to stay home for the holidays.

More than 30 counties are now in red on the West Virginia DHHR map with 38 deaths reported Sunday.

"It's hard for me to sit here and tell you that well that's better than what it was on Friday, because Friday we read 60 deaths. But 38 deaths is unbelievable," Governor Jim Justice said.

Health officials said the recent surge in cases and deaths is directly linked to large gatherings and travel over Thanksgiving.

"We've seen a record number of cases since the holiday," Dr. Sherri Young said. "What we're really afraid of now is going into the Christmas holiday and New Year's, and people traveling, that it's going to create a new surge."

That new surge is expected to hit in January, just a couple weeks or so after the holidays.

"I have a fear that people are going to think the ball's going to drop, it's going to be January 1, and we're going to be done with this," Young said. "Unfortunately, no. We're still going to see disease. What we can do right now is decrease the impact."

Instead of celebrating Christmas with older or extended family and friends, Young urges people to continue following COVID-19 precautions and stay home.

"Everybody's ready to be finished with 2020, and it's been a hard year for everyone," Young said. "But this is where we really need to dig in our heels, make our families safe, stay with your family unit, and just keep everyone safe by staying at home."