Two more Brunswick County residents are dead after contracting COVID-19, the county reported early this week.

One of the people was between ages 25-49 and was hospitalized and the other was over age 65. Both had pre-existing health conditions.

Despite these deaths raising the local toll to 24, Brunswick County’s reporting shows the spread of the coronavirus in the area is slowing.

The number of active cases is trending downward as fewer people test positive and more patients recover. In Mid-July, the county knew of nearly 500 active cases. On Tuesday, there were just 124.

“We would like to thank all of those who have been proactively using protective measures like using face coverings and social distancing,” Health Director Cris Harrelson said. “It seems to be making a difference in preventing the spread of the virus.”

While the county identified 513 new cases in the first 25 days of July, it only reported 198 in the first 25 days of August.

More than 1,370 people have tested positive in Brunswick County since the first case was identified on March 14. On Tuesday, 89% of cases were recovered and 9% were considered active, including 119 people who were isolated in homes and five in hospitals.

Two congregate living facilities contributed four new cases to the count this past week.

Autumn Care of Shallotte identified a seventh and eighth positive resident. The nursing home has also identified cases among 16 employees since the start of the outbreak, and one resident has died from the virus.

Since August 18, a 20th employee and fifth resident tested positive at Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health in Leland.

However, in at least two weeks there has been no increase in cases at Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehab of Southport, Brunswick Health and Rehab Center in Ash, or Arbor Landing of Ocean Isle Beach, according to the August 25 North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) report. The state will consider the outbreaks ended after 28 days without evidence of continued transmission.

Harrelson attributes the slowing of the outbreaks partly to infection control efforts, as well as the effective management by the facilities.

As Labor Day weekend approaches, health officials are reminding people to continue taking protective measures so improvements may continue.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the downward trends in new cases will continue,” Harrelson said. “However, it is vitally important for all of us to continue practicing the three Ws in the weeks to come.”

The state is also seeing positive signs in its trends, but Secretary of NCDHHS Mandy Cohen notes that progress is fragile. In a briefing held Tuesday, Cohen particularly stressed the importance of wearing masks, even while with friends or extended family, and avoiding crowds.

“Whether it’s associated with a university off-campus party or somewhere else,” Cohen said. “I think large gatherings show us that this virus can spread quickly.”

Speaking on whether the state will allow additional businesses such as gyms to reopen next month, Cohen indicated it would depend on progress in trends, adding that there was a slight increase in cases recently, largely driven by college campus reopenings. However, she suggested there’s still an opportunity to return to stable and declining cases by practicing the three Ws.

As of August 25, North Carolina has counted 157,741 cases, including 2,570 deaths and an estimated 136,630 recoveries.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 5.7 million cases and 176,617 deaths, according to Tuesday data.