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PUBLISHED ONLINE JULY 28, 2022   •   VOL. 4, NO. 29

Stories and photos by WINGATE LASSITER unless credited otherwise
(Click on highlighted link to e-mail the editor)

COVID uptick: How's it looking here?

What's the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Johnston County?

We haven't had a direct report from the county's Health Department since late March, so we asked this week for an update on the local situation from Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the county's director of public health. Here's what she had to say:

"Our cases have increased significantly over the past two months (just as they have for N.C. and the U.S.). With the new and more widely circulating Omicron variants, we are seeing more re-infections and breakthrough infections (positives after vaccination).

"The vaccines continue to decrease the risk for severe illness as most of the cases are not requiring hospitalization. This is particularly good news for our older population as we have seen an increase in the number of outbreaks in our congregate living settings (nursing homes and assisted-living settings).

"We know that we have many more cases than are included in this report [see table below] because the cases noted are only electronically reported by labs and do not include at-home positive tests...."


Total cases
since 3-2020

(# on 5-25-22)
since 3-2020

(# on 5-25-22)
Fully vaccinated *
[got boosters]
114,293: 55%**
[59,519: 28%]
6,050,379: 62%**
UNITED STATES 90,842,142
WORLDWIDE 573,165,079
total doses
* 2 doses Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or 1 dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
** Percentage of total population (all ages)

Data from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services at 12:20 p.m. July 27
and Johns Hopkins University at 1:21 p.m. July 27
(no data provided by County of Johnston since March 24)

"Our community transmission level is HIGH (based on case rate and positivity rate) and our community level is MEDIUM (based on case rate and hospital capacity)," Dr. Pearson reported. As a result, the health director emphasized two precautions for the public to take at this point:

• Vaccinations – "We are here Monday-Friday [at the Johnston County Health Department] and have all brands of vaccine available. Most of our medical providers and many pharmacies also offer vaccinations," Dr. Pearson noted.
VIEW the Health Department's current vaccination schedule>

• Testing – "Stay home if symptomatic and get tested," she urged. "Utilize at-home test kits. We have them available here at the Health Department and you can also access free tests through your insurance. You can utilize our county testing site on Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday during testing hours. If you test positive, follow the CDC guidance for isolation and quarantine." Here's the link to that:

"For treatment, contact your medical provider or utilize the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services 'how to get treatment' link to find a treatment site. Wear a mask if symptomatic or exposed and in high-risk settings and take precautions to protect yourself and others," Dr. Pearson concluded.

Johnston teams with Campbell to lure more teachers

The target group of the new joint venture are teacher assistants presently working for Johnston County Public Schools. Under an agreement approved Wednesday by Johnston's Board of Education, Campbell University and Johnston's school system will provide up to $5,250 per academic year for tuition and fees to TAs who agree to work in Johnston's schools at least three years once they earn the college degree required for licensing as full-fledged public-school teachers in North Carolina.

Brian Vetrano, the school system's chief of human resources, told the board Wednesday that Johnston currently has 145 teacher vacancies as the 2022-23 school year approaches (the fall term begins August 29).

He said the intent of the new program is to enable teacher assistants to pursue the Campbell degree while they continue to work here. With two-year college degrees already in hand, the TAs would likely complete their work for four-year degrees in one-and-a-half to two years, Mr. Vetrano said.

State funds "Smart Bus" pilot for Johnston's schools

The county's Board of Education on Wednesday awarded a contract to Edulog (Education Logistics, Inc.) to provide school-bus routing software paid for by state funding totaling $1,425,000 over the next three school years.

The service includes GPS tracking of school buses and real-time ridership information for parents and students. Assistant Superintendent David Pearce told the board Johnston was one of 24 N.C. school systems chosen for this pilot program.

Edulog claims on its website to be "the original school-bus routing software company," in business across North America since 1977.


More than 200 children get "Paws for Reading"

Z’aya Bryant (in front in photo) and Aubrey Clemente were among 264 children this summer who got a "Reading Pet" to keep for signing a certificate promising to read to their adopted stuffed dogs 20 minutes daily.

It was a project set up by Read to Grow Johnston County as part of National Summer Learning Week. The local group hosted 10 "Paws for Children" events across the county where "celebrity" readers chose books to share with the children who participated.

A total of 363 free books were given to the youngsters to read to their "pets."

Families attending the events received information about the importance of summer learning, including tips on how to support their children's promise to read to their stuffed dogs daily.

Read to Grow Johnston County is a collaborative group that joined the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading in June 2021. It's made up of business and faith-community leaders as well as representatives of local organizations including the Partnership for Children, My Kid's Club, and Johnston County Public Schools.
To get involved, contact Heather Machia at 919-975-2511.

(Photo and facts for this story from Partnership for Children of Johnston County)



County Commissioners twice Monday with short agendas

Having met twice on Monday of last week, Johnston's Board of County Commissioners faces shorter-than-usual agendas for both of its regularly scheduled first-Monday-of-the-month sessions next week (August 1).
VIEW the agenda for the 10 a.m. session>
VIEW the agenda for the 6 p.m. session>

Town Council hearings Tuesday on W. Smithfield projects

The August session of the Smithfield Town Council will open at 7 p.m. at Town Hall with public hearings on two requests related to projects in West Smithfield:

• Floyd Landing Holdings is requesting annexation to town of 96.82 acres the firm plans to develop as a large residential subdivision across from the Amazon distribution center under construction on US 70 Business West.

• Blueline Aviation is requesting rezoning of 14.43 acres across Swift Creek Road from Johnston Regional Airport to allow a mix of uses including "residential dormitory, classroom/office, hotel, and flex/industrial office" the company wants annexed to the town. Blueline operates a pilot-training center at the airport.

The council will be asked to adopt a new schedule of fees for the Fire Department – covering inspections, permits, and citations for false alarms and posted occupancy rules – and for the Police Department: authorizing increased fines for parking violations, most of them rising from $10 to $25.

VIEW the complete agenda for Tuesday's meeting on the town's website>


National Night Out at JCCollege Tuesday evening

The Town of Smithfield will partner with communities across the nation and beyond for another National Night Out celebration Tuesday (August 2) from 5 to 8 p.m. at Johnston Community College. It's an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Local sponsors include police departments of Selma, Four Oaks, and Wilson’s Mills in addition to Smithfield's, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, the N.C. Highway Patrol, Walmart, Stevens Sausage, Ram Rentals, and Country Superstars 102.3. Activities will include bounce houses, K9 demonstrations, giveaways, police-vehicle displays, booths highlighting crime prevention and safety, plus free food. To learn more about National Night Out, visit>

River Rat Regatta returning for a third time on August 13

This year's race among homemade cardboard boats is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, August 13 at the Town Commons boat ramp on the Neuse River at the north end of Front Street. The finish line is beneath the Market Street bridge a few hundred yards downstream. For contest rules, an entry form, and a schedule of activities associated with the event, here's a printable PDF provided by the town's Parks and Recreation Department, the event's organizer>

"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 •


Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

AGNES HARRIET DeCECCHIS, 73 – died July 25

JANICE JOAN THOMPSON, 87 – died July 25



For every smooth one, there are many rough spots

It's good see the Town of Smithfield repairing and repaving our beaten-up streets. Trouble is, there are far more of them in need of fixing than state Powell Bill money will cover in one year's time, and the list is growing longer each and every year as the streets are wearing out faster than the funding that's trickling down from Raleigh.

Besides resurfacing of several streets that got under way this week here and there, a contractor is rebuilding drainage gutters at a couple of intersections along Stevens Street (shown above), but not far away are others in need of repair like this example (right) at the intersection of Holding Street and Chestnut Drive.

The N.C. General Assembly recently revised the state's budget to divert a portion of sales-tax proceeds to supplement funds for road maintenance beyond revenues from the state's tax on gasoline sales. But that's still not likely to produce the money that's needed statewide for new construction as well as maintenance, so there's a study under way on taxing motorists based on annual mileage driven.

Something's got to give or else our rides will get even bumpier.

One of Downtown Smithfield's best-known eateries got a nice spread in the current edition of Our State magazine: "Livin' on a Prayer at Gotham's Deli" is the main headline, with this subhead: "In Smithfield, a family has blessed North Carolina's Coastal Plain with a welcoming New York-syle deli."

Of course, the star of the piece is Gotham's Scott Gandolph and his "all in" family with genuine NYC roots. Supporting roles come from Smithfield fixtures Ruffin and Connie Johnson, seated at their regular table in "Ava's Corner" where portraits of the legendary actress grace the walls, including one of 14-year-old Ruffin greeting the movie star during a rare public appearance in Smithfield around 1950.

Here's a link to the full article with accompanying photos>


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