HENDERSON — A COVID-19 cluster at the Vance County Courthouse is forcing officials to cancel all sessions of court that were scheduled to occur there on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Clerk of Court Henry Gupton said the decision followed consultations with Granville-Vance Public Health, Chief District Judge John Davis and District Attorney Mike Waters.

The cancellation is meant to “protect our staff as well as the citizens of Vance County,” Gupton said. “Please keep us all in your prayers as we continue to serve the citizens of Vance County.”

The COVID-19 cluster — cases involving at least five people who work at the Vance courthouse — had already triggered the cancellation of court sessions scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The courthouse itself remains open and the clerk’s office as of Friday morning was “open with limited staffing for filings that are required by” state law, Gupton said.

Gupton had previously confirmed that there were “some positive cases in my office.”

State officials said this week that Vance County is one of 43 counties in North Carolina they judge are seeing “substantial community spread” of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and that thus should consider taking additional steps to control it.

“The numbers we see indicate that we have a lot of community spread,” Granville-Vance Public Health Director Lisa Harrison said in her Thursday evening report on infections. “We anticipate community spread will continue to get worse before it gets better given how many more people are testing positive recently.”

Warren County was also among the 43 counties the state listed as having substantial spread.

As of Thursday evening the death toll from the virus in Vance County stood at 54 people, a number that jumped by six in two days because of a new outbreak of COVID-19 at the Senior Citizens Home on Ruin Creek Road.

A Friday report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said 24 staff members and 47 patients at the nursing home have tested positive since the start of the pandemic’s second outbreak there. The first, in the summer, claimed the lives of two residents before running its course.

Eight residents of Warren County have lost their lives to the virus. DHHS and the county health department are continuing to monitor a small outbreak at the Warren Hills Nursing Center that’s seen two of that nursing home’s staff members test positive for COVID-19.

In Granville County, DHHS said there remain active outbreaks at the state’s Murdoch Developmental Center and at the Granville House assisted living facility. The outbreak at Murdoch has killed two residents, and at Granville House the virus has contributed to the death of one resident.

At Murdoch 85 staff members and 62 residents have tested positive for the infection. At Granville House, 12 staff and 23 residents have had confirmed infections.

The largest COVID-19 outbreak in the region remains the one at the Butner federal prison, where the virus has claimed the lives of 26 inmates and a prison guard. As of Friday, 95 inmates and 14 staff members had “active cases” of COVID-19. The case count there had dropped off in the late summer before surging again in October.

Two state prisons in the region, the Polk Correctional Institution in Butner and the Warren Correctional Institution in Warren County, each reported having one active case among their inmates.

In Franklin County, officials continue watching an outbreak at the Franklin Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center that’s infected five members of that nursing home’s staff, and another at the Franklin County Jail that involves 33 inmates and six staff members.

The COVID-19 case counts in Vance County indicate that a sustained increase in the doubling speed of the virus there ended sometime around Nov. 12, suggesting that it’s begun spreading more rapidly than had been the case since the third full week of October.

Epidemiologists keep an eye on how quickly the number of cases doubles because the rate tells them how well infection-prevention measures are working.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.