ONLINE AUGUST 6, 2020 • VOL. 2,
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
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ISAIAS: not quite the storm we had feared
By the time Hurricane Isaias reached the central Coastal Plains early Tuesday morning, it had been downgraded to a Tropical Storm. The highest wind gusts recorded at Johnston Regional Airport near Smithfield topped out at just 33 mph, the highest sustained winds around 20 mph.
More importantly, rainfall totaled 3.72 inches from midday Monday through Tuesday morning --- less than the 4-6 inches that had been forecast. As a result, the Neuse River at Smithfield did rise significantly --- from about 6 feet before the storm to a peak of 16.48 feet late Wednesday morning --- but that level only qualifies as "minor flooding" here and was no threat to lower-lying residential properties.
READ MORE about the storm with the unusual name on OBSERVATIONS>
3,148 cases, 46 deaths, 33 in hospitals
Despite the continuing rise in number of cases, Johnston County Health Director Marilyn Pearson told the County Commissioners on Monday that "most people are doing pretty well with this" --- a reference to reports showing more than 2,500 Johnstonians "presumed recovered" from coronavirus infections to date.
Dr. Pearson said the average age of Johnstonians who have died from COVID-19 infections is 75, while the average age of those requiring hospitalization is 58. The largest number of cases, 42% of the total, fall in the 25-49 age group, she noted.
The Health Department has conducted more than 2,300 tests, Dr. Pearson reported. (Many more tests are being conducted by health-care providers and businesses.)
VIEW the current list of test sites and testing events in Johnston County>
A TELEPHONE SCAM WARNING
Further complicating the coronavirus mess was word from the county this week that scammers have been telephoning folks pretending to be representatives of the Health Department offering $100 gift cards with payments for shipping and handling.
"If you receive one of these calls, do not share any personal or financial information," the county warns; "hang up immediately" and call the N.C. Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
Here's the County of Johnston's coronavirus report as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday:
• 3,148 cases, 46 deaths, 33 hospitalized, 530 at home, 2,514 presumed recovered.
• 1,688 female cases; 1,460 males.
• Cases by age: 494 ages 0-17 (454 last week); 424 18-24 (358 last week);
1,318 25-49 (1,209 last week); 584 50-64 (527 last week); 326 age 65+ (296).
• Cases by race: 1,842 white, 412 black, 477 other (417 not known).
• Cases by ethnicity: 1,491 (47%) Hispanic, 1,253 non-Hispanic (404 not known).
Smithfield-Selma's Graduation Day (at last!)
Principal David Allen offers a virtual fist pump prior to handing a diploma to one of 303 graduates in the SSS Class of 2020. More pictures from the socially distanced event outside the school's front door last Thursday, along with a list of the graduates and recipients of academic awards, appear on the FEATURE PAGE>
SCHOOL BOARD'S MONTHLY MEETING TUESDAY
The Johnston County Board of Education will conduct its regular monthly meeting next Tuesday afternoon (August 11) in the Evander S. Simpson Building on US 70 Business east of Smithfield. The agenda, along with attendance regulations, should be posted on the school system's website by the end of the week>
It would house the Sheriff's Department on one floor and the county's 9-1-1 Communications Center on the second. Estimated cost: $17.5 million.
Dan Mace of Moseley Architects attributed the lower-than-anticipated cost of the new jail to the coronavirus pandemic and told the board Monday he expects construction bids to remain depressed for another year. That should reduce the amount of money the county will have to borrow to complete both projects.
And, if plans can be completed and bids awarded on the second phase next spring, both projects can be finished in February 2022, Mr. Mace said.
Moving both the Sheriff's Department and 9-1-1 Communications out of cramped quarters would clear the way for sorely needed expansion of judicial facilities inside the Courthouse complex Downtown, Mr. Mace added.
That prompted Commissioner Jeff Carver to question the wisdom of committing to a second major construction project just now without knowing the cost of Courthouse renovations on top of other pressing needs like new schools as well as fiscal uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even so, he joined the other members of the board in a unanimous vote to authorize design work on the second building, concluding that it's okay "to spend a little money on soft costs" without making a final commitment on construction.
READ MORE from Monday's sessions of the County Commissioners>