By Jessica Mathews /

Michigan hit another COVID-19 milestone Wednesday - the highest daily average since the start of the pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 27,346 new cases over a two-day period – marking an average of 13,673 cases per day.

277 additional coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Wednesday, bringing the state's overall COVID-19 death toll to 27,563. In Livingston County, there have been 344 overall COVID deaths amid 28.388 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

The highly contagious omicron variant is one factor according to officials. Omicron is more likely to infect people, even if it doesn't make them very sick, and its surge coincided with the holiday travel season in many places.

Health officials encourage people to get vaccinated and boosted, mask up, avoid crowds, and practice good hygiene and general prevention measures such as regular hand washing.

Medical Director Dr. Juan Marquez with the Livingston County Health Department told WHMI the best tool to prevent becoming seriously ill is vaccination and boosters. He also recommends people wear a bit more of a sturdier mask. Marquez said cloth masks are ok but if at all possible, he recommends at minimum a surgical-type mask, which can be purchased at most stores now.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is strengthening its COVID-19 booster campaign, endorsing an extra shot for everyone age 12 and older.

Boosters already were permitted at age 16 and urged for most adults as the nation battles the omicron surge. Earlier this week, regulators authorized an extra Pfizer shot for kids ages 12 to 15. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has agreed, recommending that younger teens — and those 16 and 17 — should get a Pfizer booster five months after their last shot.