Because fewer people are testing positive for COVID-19 and fewer people are getting tested, Caldwell UNC Health Care is closing one of its testing clinics.

The respiratory diagnostic clinic near the Granite Falls Walmart will close this week, said Laura Easton, chief executive officer. The one in Lenoir will remain open.

Far fewer people are getting tested each day at the clinics — as few as 30 patients some days.

Caldwell County’s rate of positive cases per 100,000 people for the last 14 days is 380, a drop from 668.1, the rate for Jan. 17-Jan. 30, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Those drops mirror a steep drop in the number of county residents requiring hospital treatment for the virus. Caldwell Memorial Hospital had between eight and 12 patients with COVID-19 over the past week, a significant drop from late December, when the hospital was nearing its capacity to handle COVID-19 patients. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that the hospital’s average number of COVID-19 patients hit its peak of 38.4 a day during the last week of December and the first week of January.

Easton attributed the drop to the fact that thousands of people have now been vaccinated, and more than 8,000 people have already contracted the virus and have some form of immunity.

“We probably have more community immunity than we’ve had the whole time,” she said.

Still, she cautioned, the virus remains dangerous to some people, “so the people who are sick are very, very sick,” she said.

Starting Wednesday, the Caldwell County Health Department will begin vaccinating teachers. Caldwell UNC Health Care’s vaccine clinic will support the health department by continuing to vaccinate people over the age of 65, along with day care workers.

On March 10, Caldwell UNC will begin vaccinating frontline essential workers, Easton said.

“We’re starting to get deep into the population and get more and more protection,” she said.

Still, she said, the pandemic is not over. She said it’s important to be cautious, but “there’s a lot of hope.”

“But I can assure you we won’t be holding our usual Easter family reunion that I have every year yet. We’ll be holding off until next year. We just need to make sure that everyone has protection or the opportunity to get protection with vaccination,” she said.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.