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Two more people die in Pitt; 30 new virus cases reported

Two more people have died from COVID-19 in Pitt County, an outbreak has occurred at another nursing home, and the number of new cases increased by 30 over the weekend, according to state and local health officials.

Officials said due to patient privacy rules they could release no information about the deaths except that both people were older than 65. The Pitt County Health Department could not report the race or gender of the deceased, when the deaths occurred or say if they were related to an outbreak at a Greenville nursing home.

Ten staff and 34 residents at East Carolina Rehab and Wellness on Fifth Street in Greenville have tested positive for the virus, according to the N.C. Department of Health on Human Services congregate living report issued on June 9.

The department reported on Friday that another outbreak has occurred at PruittHealth-Farmville, where six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. The report indicated no residents had tested positive. It is scheduled to be updated today.

The county made no announcement about the new deaths, but confirmed they had occurred after the total number of deaths changed from two to four on the county’s webpage at 5 p.m. on Monday. Two other people died in April.

The total number of cases rose from 450 on Friday to 480 on Monday. The county estimates that 305 people who had tested positive have now recovered from the virus.

The reports come as efforts continue to help Pitt County residents hit hard by the economic downturn related to the virus. Volunteers with Churches Outreach Network on Monday distributed cleaning supplies and hygiene items to families identified by the Greenville Housing Authority, Pitt County Schools and other agencies.

After $6,000 worth of supplies were stolen from a warehouse utilized by Churches Outreach in May, the organization still managed to gather enough materials from donations to provide hygiene boxes for community members to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The group originally planned to donate 1,000 boxes but were only able to donate 365, the Rev. Rodney Coles said. While many of the boxes included products to clean the home, some included products for babies such as diapers. Others included feminine products and adult boxes included products such as adult diapers.

The distribution took place at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, which also hosted efforts to collect the items and box them up for distribution. This is phase one, Coles said. In the next phase families will receive temperature guns, hand sanitizer and masks. In the next drive they hope to deliver at least 1,500 boxes.

“The purpose was to be able to give them hygiene kits as well as cleaning kits, so there was two boxes of kits. One box contained hygiene kits and the other box contained cleaning kits to start preparing to try to get the home cleaned up,” Coles said.

First Presbyterian Senior Co-Pastor the Rev. Rob Jackson said the church provided emergency storage for Churches Outreach Network until the boxes could be assembled.

Fifty-six volunteers helped with the boxes. Two-thirds of them were from First Presbyterian Church and the rest were from surrounding churches, Jackson said.

On Pentecost Sunday, May 31, members of the church dropped off a larger amount of supplies. “We celebrate that as the beginning of the Christian Church, and we thought what better way to celebrate the birth of the Christian Church than to be participating in an act of outreach,” Jackson said.

He said First Presbyterian has a history of responding to disasters has assembled hygiene and clean-up kits in the past after hurricanes.

“We helped because we believe that service is a part of our calling. We have a saying that ‘we are not just saved for the kingdom that comes but we are saved for service in this one,’” Jackson said.

Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen have encouraged residents to remain vigilant as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise daily, encouraging everyone to wash their hands, keep a safe distances and wear masks.

Cooper said on Monday he’ll announce early next week whether businesses still shuttered because of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen, the Associated Press reported.

Under Cooper’s current order, restaurants can offer dine-in seating, and barber shops and hair and nail salons are open — but all at reduced capacity. Bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys and gyms remain closed. Cooper has to decide whether to extend the order, which expires June 26, or modify it in some way.

At a media briefing, the governor said he remained concerned by the continued uptick in cases and hospitalizations in particular the trends in nine counties. Overall, the number of positive COVID-19 cases exceeded 45,100 as of Monday morning, according to state health data. More than 1,100 virus patients have died since the pandemic began and almost 800 people are currently hospitalized, including 64 in Vidant Health System facilities.

“Right now, they’re not trending in a good direction, but we still want to give this more time,” Cooper said. He pitched the idea that the public could stop a “second wave” of cases by practicing social distancing, including the wearing of face maks, to prevent its spread.

“We believe that we can get a handle on this,” Cooper said. “That being said, we will always do what is the best for the health and safety of North Carolinians.”

Cooper also said his administration is considering whether to issue an order mandating wearing face masks in public. Employees in personal service businesses such as hair and nail salons already are required to wear them.

Cooper said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence over the weekend about North Carolina’s trends. He said he asked Pence and the federal government for more resources for testing sites. The number of completed tests surpassed 638,000 as of Monday. The state is currently working toward testing residents in all nursing homes. More than half of North Carolina’s COVID-19-related deaths involve nursing home residents.

Cooper identified the nine counties where case trends are getting the state’s attention as Alamance, Duplin, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Johnston, Lee, Mecklenburg and Wake.

Public gets chance to weigh in on county's budget

The public can weigh in on Pitt County’s proposed 2020-21 fiscal year budget during a virtual public hearing beginning at 7 p.m. today.

The total $259.6 million budget includes small funding increases for the sheriff’s office, public schools and Pitt Community College.

While property tax is being set at the revenue-neutral rate of 67.97 cents per $100 value, there will be an increase in the EMS District tax and three fire district taxes.

The county residential waste fee also is increasing to $120 annually from the current $74 annual rate.

Other fees for the disposal of commercial, construction and demolition waste, pallets, concrete and shingles also are increasing.

Because revenue from transportation billing is down, a 5.95-cent per $100 value EMS tax is being proposed. The current tax is 4.6 cents. The tax is paid by all Pitt County residents except those who live in Greenville.

Black Jack, Red Oak and Simpson fire districts are seeking increases to fund equipment replacement and/or personnel costs. Black Jack’s requested new rate is 8.9 cents per $100 value, Simpson’s is 6.65 cents and Red Oak’s is 9.5 cents. The tax rates of the other fire districts will remain unchanged.

Pitt County Schools is slated to receive nearly $42.5 million in funding along with $1 million for capital expenditures. That is a 1.5 percent increase from the current year’s funding.

The school system sought $43.75 million in funding along with $1 million for capital expenditures.

Pitt Community College received nearly $6.3 million and $100,000 for capital expenditures, the amount the college requested, and a 2.91 percent increase from the current year’s funding.

The budget contains nearly $14.87 million for the sheriff’s office and nearly $18.6 million for the detention center and jail health services.

Detention center funding was a 3.27 percent increase from the current year’s funding, while the sheriff’s office budget decreased slightly.

The commissioners did agree to fund one of two deputy positions that will serve as security at the Pitt County Courthouse.

Social services was budgeted nearly $32.6 million, a 2.8 percent increase. The commissioners funded one new position, although the agency’s director requested five.

Public health’s total budget is $12.3 million of which the county funded $6.2 million. The commissioners are funding a new nursing position to conduct home visits to monitor newborns. A physician extender, either a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, also will be hired.

Individuals who want to comment on the budget should contact the Pitt County Clerk to the Board up 5 p.m. to receive instructions. Call 902-2950.

Written comments may be submitted to

The governing virtual meetings require the commissioners to give the public up to 24 hours after the meeting to submit written comments. All comments will be due by 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

The commissioners will hold a special called meeting with remote participation at 9 a.m. on Thursday to discuss adoption of the budget.

Rural fire departments receive $5,000 grants

Five area rural fire departments received grants of $5,000 each last week thanks to a partnership between the North Carolina Department of Insurance and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey presented the grants to Scuffleton Rural Volunteer Fire Association, Macclesfield Rural Volunteer Department, Sharp Point Volunteer Fire Department, Pinetops Fire Rescue and Belvoir Volunteer Fire Department on Thursday. The grants were among funds distributed to 94 of the state’s lowest-funded fire departments.

Causey said he encouraged the creation of the grant as a way to support the rural volunteer fire departments, which often receive lower levels of funding. To qualify for grant funding, rural fire departments had to receive less than $50,000 from municipal and county governments.

“That’s where we can give the most help,” Causey said.

The grant funding comes at a critical time since COVID-19 has restricted and impacted fundraising opportunities for rural fire departments. Many rural fire departments rely on fundraisers to generate funding, according to chief State Fire Marshal Brian Taylor.

“I’m glad we had this opportunity and hope we can have more opportunities to help,” Taylor said.

Belvoir Volunteer Fire Department was able to hold its annual fundraiser as COVID-19 began affecting North Carolina. Chief Thomas Harris believes total amount raised was diminished because of COVID-19.

The Belvoir Volunteer Fire Department will use its grant money to recoup costs associated with purchasing masks, face shields and gowns, as part of COVID-19 precautions, and will purchase turnout gear.

Scuffleton Rural Fire Association was the only rural fire department in Greene County to receive the grant. It will use the money to help replace a rescue boat.

“For a department like ours, this is very useful,” said Chief Robert Daugherty. “It’s hard to get what we get and work on the little funds we’re given to operate each year. Every bit through grants helps a lot to keep the doors open and keep members in adequate safety gear.”

Despite a fire that claimed the Macclesfield Rural Volunteer Fire Department station on Sept. 18, 2018, the department is continuing to expand and has recruited two new members. The grant funding will help to purchase turnout gear for the two new members, with remaining funds being used to help purchase a fire truck.

“We need all the help we can get. Every little bit of grant (money) and donations we get is appreciated,” said Chief Teddy Stamatis.

Pinetops Fire Rescue Chief Steve Burress added, “We are certainly thankful to receive any type of grants we can. It takes a lot of funding to maintain our operations. It’s an important thing to us.”

Pinetops is in the process of updating its radio system and will use the $5,000 to purchase a base operating system.

Sharpe Point Volunteer Fire Department will use its funding for supplies. Funds also will be used toward the purchase of a new fire truck.

“A lot of our funding comes from donations, the private sector with fundraisers. I’m thankful the gran was there for us to get. We are in need of equipment. Any donation or grant we get is well used,” said Chief Robert Murray, adding fundraisers are being affected or canceled due to COVID-19 gathering limitations and safety concerns.

High density development with conservation district being sought at PZ meeting

Rezoning to allow high-density development is being sought for nearly 72 acres in the Dickinson Road area, according to the agenda for today’s 6 p.m. Greenville Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

The meeting will be conducted via a remote conferencing service and will be broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 9 or

Individuals who want to speak at the meeting can call 329-4498 for details.

CR Development wants to rezone nearly 65 acres located north of the intersection of Williams Road and Dickinson Avenue from residential-agricultural to residential-high density and rezone the remaining 8 acres as a conservation overlay.

Staff said the request is in compliance with the city’s Future Land Use and Character Map, which recommends traditional neighborhood medium-high density zoning for the area.

A portion of the property’s northern edge could be potential conservation/open space, according to documents in the commission’s agenda. It is located in the Greens Mill Run Watershed, designated as a special flood hazard area and floodway.

According to the planning documents, “Potential conservation/open space land is typically located in areas that contain existing parkland, needed land buffers, exhibit potential for flooding, or are deemed inappropriate for development due to physical or environmental barriers.”

The documents also says that some land within a conservation area “may not contain barriers to development, or there may be reasonable mitigation.”

Determining the development capabilities of a conservation area requests a site analysis.

According to planning documents, the site could accommodate 145 single-family residences. The proposed zoning would allow 150 multi-family units and110 duplex buildings, containing 220 units, to be built.

Also on today’s agenda:

  • Happy Trail Farms wants to rezone nearly 34 acres located north of the intersection of Herman Garris Road and Portertown Road from residential-agricultural to residential-single-family (medium density).
  • Amy A. Edwards wants to rezone 14.22 acres located along Portertown Road between Eastern Pines Road and Norfolk Southern Railroad. Five acres would be rezoned from residential-agricultural to general commercial and the other 9 acres would be rezoned to residential (high-density residential).
  • Langston Farms wants to amend the Future Land Use and Character Map for nearly 2 acres located at the northeastern corner of the intersection of South Memorial Drive and Regency Boulevard. The company wants it changed to commercial from office/institutional.
  • Collice and Ann Moore want to rezone nearly 2.4 acres located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Moye Boulevard and Stantonsburg Road from medical-support and medical-general commercial to medical heavy commercial.
  • Staff has asked the commission to continue until July 21 a request to amend the city code to create a use classification and associated standards for small private schools.

The change is being sought by the owner of the John Paul Catholic High School athletic complex who wants to expand the usage of the facility beyond the requirements set by the Board of Adjustment when he and the high school first sought to build the complex.

Staff said they are seeking the delay because there have been “positive discussions” between the school and surrounding neighborhoods.

“Staff would like to hold a neighborhood meeting before bringing this item back to the commission,” agenda materials stated.