The delta variant of COVID is sweeping through the Twin Counties at a record pace and local health officials are beefing up their testing services in response to the growing need.

Nash County saw 490 new confirmed cases of COVID this week, a significant surge over the already high numbers of 331 last week and 325 the week before, Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said Tuesday. This brings the total number of confirmed cases of COVID in the county to 13,501.

“Right now, more than 90 percent of the cases are of the delta strain of the virus,” Hill said.

Hill also noted that the state is seeing an increase in breakthrough cases of COVID among previously vaccinated people with an increase in the percentage of the delta variant.

Edgecombe County is seeing a similar surge in cases. Roughly 281 new COVID cases were reported over the past week in the county, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services website. That brings the cumulative number of cases of COVID in that county to 6,982.

The delta strain of the virus is continuing to affect children and young adults at a much higher rate than the original strain of COVID. According to data presented Tuesday by Hill, more than one-third of the new cases were in Nash County residents under the age of 20. Among the over-60 population, just 42 cases were reported.

Hill said that the numbers do not include people who tested positive through home tests or those who have not been tested at all.

The surge in cases is overwhelming current testing outlets in the area, Hill said. As a result, the Nash County Health Department, which had dropped testing services in order to focus on vaccinations, is now resuming testing services.

“We have needed to get into testing for a couple of weeks to identify positives as quickly as possible and get these people and their family members under quarantine,” Hill said.

The Nash County Health Department will offer testing from 9-11 a.m. and from 1-3:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“Next week, we will offer testing three days a week due to the demand,” Hill said.

Testing with the health department is by appointment only at this time, but health officials are trying to get those appointments in as soon as possible, Hill said.

“We are conducting the drive-though testing by appointment only because it causes short wait times for people who are already potentially ill with COVID and not feeling well,” Hill said. “But if someone drives up during the testing times and we have the ability to test at that time, we won’t turn them away.”

People should call 252-462-2079 to schedule either testing or vaccinations with the Nash County Health Department.

Edgecombe County interim Health Director Michelle Etheridge said that county’s health department has been offering testing services through a contracted vendor since October but is also now adding additional drive-through testing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Edgecombe County Health Department office in Rocky Mount.

“The state contracted with OPTUMServe on our behalf to offer drive-through COVID-19 testing,” she said. “Testing continues to be available with OPTUMServe in Princeville at Heritage Park and in Pinetops in the parking lot next to the Town Hall.”

The tests are offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays and from 1-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Etheridge said.

COVID deaths also are on the rise in the Twin Counties. In Nash County, one new death was reported in a man in his 70s this week from COVID-related complications. That brings the total number of deaths in Nash County to 208.

Etheridge updated the death toll in Edgecombe County to 123 with two recent COVID-related deaths in the county. The latest number reported from that county roughly a month ago was 118.

Etheridge, who is serving as the interim health director in the wake of the retirement earlier this month of former Health Director Karen LaChapelle, also released demographic information about the COVID deaths that have taken place so far among Edgecombe County residents.

According to that data, no Edgecombe County resident under the age of 24 has died from COVID. More than half of the deaths — roughly 53 percent — have occurred in residents 75 years of age and older. Another 22 percent of deaths were among 65- to 74-year-old residents and 20 percent were among residents between the ages of 50 and 64. Only 5 percent of the deaths were among residents between the ages of 25 and 49.

Hospitalizations at Nash UNC Health Care remain high but stable with 33 patients admitted for COVID. Three of the patients are under intensive care and two are on ventilators, Hill said.

“It is important to note that 32 of those 33 patients were unvaccinated,” Hill said. “Though getting vaccinated does not guarantee you won’t get COVID, it clearly helps prevent the more serious and harmful consequences of the virus.”