RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s a big drop in the number of North Carolina counties in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s orange zone with the highest community levels of COVID-19.

A total of 44 counties were colored orange Thursday, down from 62 last week on the map from the CDC that state leaders use as part of their COVID-19 response.

There had been at least 60 counties in the orange zone in each of the previous three weeks, with the total peaking at 67 on the map released Aug. 4.

(Credit: CDC)

Orange counties still make up the largest share, with 35 counties yellow with medium COVID-19 levels and another 21 green with low levels.

The central North Carolina map also took on more of a yellow color, with six counties that color — up from four last week.

Sampson and Warren counties had been orange, but joined the four counties that had consistently been yellow in recent weeks: Wake, Franklin, Johnston and Wilson.

Moreover, the CDC advises people in orange counties to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, including in K-12 schools and other community settings.

A county moves into the orange, high-level zone if it has more than 200 new cases per week for every 100,000 people who live there, and has either more than ten COVID-19 hospital admissions that week for every 100,000 people, or if 10 percent or more of the people in hospitals have COVID-19.

CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.