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A new variant of COVID-19 has put Halifax County and several others back into an orange category which indicates a high level of community spread, according to the Halifax County Health Department.

“The latest variant is highly infectious and therefore easily spread,” Health Director Bruce Robistow said. “As we get new variants the vaccines become less effective.”

Although less effective, Robistow said it remain successful in mitigating the effects.

Because of the increase, the health department will resume weekly reports, with the next one scheduled to be released August 17.

Since March of 2020 there have been 15,838 total positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the county, the health department said.

There have been 987 new positive cases reported since July 5. The number of deaths related to the virus stands at 190, with two additional related deaths reported since July 5.

The health department said the percentage of positive cases is no longer a reliable data point for measuring overall progression of the virus due to a high volume of home testing and the discontinuation of mass testing sites, making it so only symptomatic patients are being tested by PCR. “Therefore, we will rely on two more accurate reference points — the number of COVID hospitalizations, as well as wastewater reports in Roanoke Rapids … In short, a notable increase in COVID-19 cases were noted in July but are now slightly declining in the last week.”

There has been a decrease in COVID-19 hospital admissions at ECU North Hospital over the past week as well as a decrease in the detection of COVID-19 in the wastewater in Roanoke Rapids.

The health department continues to encourage the public to get vaccinated and boosted. It offers all three vaccinations and is also offering N95 masks.

Call the health department at 252-583-5021 for more information.