2 Yellow, 2 Orange in 4-County Area

North Carolina is experiencing a leveling trend following declines in covid spread.

Younger adult groups are experiencing increases, according the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services.

In the 4-county area, Vance and Warren Counties are identified in the recent covid County Alert System update as yellow.  Granville and Franklin Counties are orange.


NCDHHS Updates County Alert System, Shows COVID-19 Trends Leveling

— NCDHHS Press Release

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today updated the COVID-19 County Alert System, which shows one red county — an increase from zero on the previous April 1 County Alert System.

Today’s update also lists 20 orange counties (previously 21 counties in the April 1 report), 48 yellow counties (previously 47), 30 light yellow counties (previously 31) and one green county (previously one). These updates account for 18 counties having moved up a tier (toward red) since the last report, 19 counties having moved down a tier (toward green) and 63 counties remaining in the same tier.

North Carolina’s key metrics show a leveling of COVID-19 trends after several weeks of decline. Although levels are far below the post-holiday peak in January, most of the state continues to experience significant or substantial community spread with concerning increases in younger adult age groups.

“We want to see our trends in new cases, hospitalizations and percent positive of tests decline again,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “The best way we can do that is by having as many people get vaccinated as quickly as possible and keep wearing our masks when out in public.”

To slow the spread of the virus, people should get vaccinated and continue adherence to the 3Ws until most people have a chance to get vaccinated. Regardless of what tier your county is currently in, individuals, businesses, community organizations and public officials all have a responsibility to take these recommended actions and others outline in the County Alert System.

The COVID-19 County Alert System gives individuals, businesses and community organizations, and public officials a tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to take slow the spread of the virus. The COVID-19 County Alert System uses metrics informed by North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into five tiers:

  1. Green: Low Community Spread
  2. Light Yellow: Moderate Community Spread
  3. Yellow: Significant Community Spread
  4. Orange: Substantial Community Spread
  5. Red: Critical Community Spread

VGCC Joins #CCMonth Celebration

Vance-Granville Community College added its name to the list of community colleges across the country to participate in #CCMonth, a month-long campaign to raise awareness about advantages of attending a community college and how they influence economies, academics and equity.

The campaign, coordinated by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), coincides with April’s designation as Community College Month. It’s a way to showcase that public community colleges are “a uniquely American educational model that was designed to guarantee access to affordable, high-quality higher education for all people,” according to a press release from VGCC’s Director of Communications Chris LaRocca. From nursing programs to trade certifications, community colleges “also serve as an onramp to bachelor’s, master’s and higher-level degrees for many students, and particularly for the most demographically and socioeconomically diverse students,” he stated.

Community college can accommodate adult students who work and go to school at the same time, and also make education accessible for many students who otherwise would not be able to access higher education.

“Community colleges are engines of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “They give opportunities to all students, and they support all students throughout their educations, whether they attend to attain an associate degree or certificate, intend to transfer on for a bachelor’s or higher degree, or they take one or a few courses to learn a new skill or expand their horizons.”

The campaign is expected to have strong participation from community colleges and their supporters throughout the country.

NC Dept of Agriculture

COVID-19 Fund Helps Offset Quarantine Costs of H2A Workers

Local farmers who employ H2A farmworkers can apply for some financial relief if any of those workers have to quarantine during the 2021 growing season.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Wednesday that his department has $2 million of federal COVID-19 funds that can be used to offset quarantine expenses.

“Farmworkers have always been critical to agriculture, but the pandemic has shown how essential a healthy workforce is to agriculture and our food supply,” Troxler said. “While it is a priority for all farmworkers to get vaccinated, this program will enable employers to safely quarantine workers who test positive for COVID-19 and hopefully minimize spread to their coworkers and others.” 

Under this program, employers that have farmworkers with valid H2A visas will be eligible for reimbursement of the cost of meals and lodging for the duration of the quarantine period, not to exceed the per diem rates for federal employees.  The employer on record for the farmworker with a valid H2A visa may submit reimbursement request on behalf of any farmworker requiring to be quarantined following a positive test for COVID-19, provided the employer covered the initial eligible expenses out-of-pocket on behalf of the farmworker. The program will be for expenses incurred from March 11, 2021 through the 2021 growing season.

The application period will open on April 14 and will continue through Dec. 15, 2021 or until program funds are exhausted. These funds are provided through CARES Act funding and subject to any changes to the federal legislation.  

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in serious and substantial impacts on the food supply chain, including migrant farm labor in North Carolina. The H2A program is a critical component in planting and harvesting of North Carolina commodities. This program will help offset the financial burden of quarantine accommodations for workers that test positive for COVID-19 in off-site locations.

Details regarding the NCDA&CS COVID-19 Farmworker Quarantine Reimbursement Program will be available at http://www.ncagr.gov/QuarantineReimbursementProgram.htm.  Please contact H2Acovidprogram2021@ncagr.gov with any questions regarding this program.

$5K to Warren County Animal Ark to Save Lives

Warren County Animal Control and Animal Ark has received a $5,000 grant from a national foundation to support its work to adopt pets and reduce animal euthanasia rates.

Petco Love, a non-profit organization established in 1999, awarded the grant to the county’s animal control agency.

“We are so grateful for Petco Love’s investment that will allow us to continue our spay/neuter programs,” said Director Dani Bowen. “These programs have made it possible for our citizens to be able to receive these services at an affordable rate,” Bowen said. The gift also will benefit the agency’s new Community Cat Program, which offers affordable surgery to residents with cats in need on their property, she added.

Since 1999, Petco Love (formerly Petco Foundation) has given close to $300 million to more than 4,000 shelters and organizations to support adoption and other lifesaving efforts. More than 6.5 million pets have been adopted through partnership with Petco.

In a statement to WIZS News, Petco Love President Susanne Kogut said the grants given are proof of its commitment “to create a future in which no pet is unnecessarily euthanized.”

Warren County Animal Control oversees the Animal Ark, and offers one-year rabies vaccinations, microchipping and adoptions. The agency also has spay and neuter programs that provide surgery at free or reduced rates. The agency works with many rescue organizations to save hard-to-place, sick or injured and pregnant/nursing dogs and cats.

For more information about Warren County Animal Control and Animal Ark and its spay and neuter services, visit warrencountync.gov or call 252.257.6137. To learn more about Petco Love, visit petcolove.org

Kerr Tar Workforce and NCWorks

Employment for Graduating Seniors, Class of 2021 Career Expo

High school seniors who will graduate in a couple of months have choices to make, whether it’s choosing a college or university to attend or beginning a career. A regional career expo targeting the Class of 2021 will be held next month and it is designed with the Gen Z’er in mind.

The virtual event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 5 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., according to Desiree Brooks, business services manager of the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments workforce development board.

Brooks told WIZS News Tuesday that several area workforce development boards, along with NC Works and the NC Department of Public Schools’ Career Technical Education (CTE) program have collaborated to put on the event.

“We have been coordinating with the CTEs in the five counties and they are working on getting students ready for the event,” Brooks said. “They are targeting students who are ready to enter the workforce upon graduation – we are all very excited about this event.”

The expo – tagged as the “Gen Z Edition” – will allow students and employers to communicate using a platform that young people are comfortable and familiar with, according to a flyer promoting the event. Students who have developed technical skills, have hands-on experience and earned credentials through their high school CTE program can use the expo as a way to showcase those skills for prospective employers. Employers can share job descriptions and other details of their business in interviews using text or video chat.

“One of our goals is to make sure the parents of seniors see the importance of this so they can encourage them to take part in this event,” Brooks noted. “Another goal is to get employers that are willing to hire graduating seniors with little or no prior work experience.”

Sign up for the event at trianglecareerexpo.com.

Horse Owners – EEE Vaccine Reminder Spring 2021

Area horse and donkey owners, take note: It’s time to start thinking about making sure your equines are vaccinated against a couple of mosquito-borne illnesses that often prove fatal to the animals that contract them.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus are two illnesses that can be prevented with a simple vaccination.

“Mosquito-breeding season in North Carolina lasts from spring until the first frost and horses are at risk if not properly vaccinated,” Troxler stated in a press release. “EEE is fatal 90 percent of the time in horses and WNV has a fatality rate of 30 percent.”

North Carolina reported nine recorded cases of EEE in 2020, a relatively high number, according to Troxler. “Horse owners need to act now to vaccinate their animals,” Troxler said.

State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Meckes recommends that equine owners talk to their veterinarians about an effective vaccination protocol to protect horses from mosquito-borne diseases. The combination vaccination initially requires multiple injections for horses, mules and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history.

Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days, so removing any source of standing water can reduce the chance of exposing animals to WNV or EEE. Keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans, and turning off lights after dusk can also help reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Insect repellants can be effective if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

· Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

· Symptoms of WNV include fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, impaired vision, head pressing, seizures and aimless wandering.

“If your horses or other equine animals exhibit any symptoms of EEE or WNV, contact your veterinarian immediately,” Meckes said.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

“It’s also a great time to make sure your animal is current on its rabies vaccination,” Troxler said. “In North Carolina, we see about five cases of rabies in livestock each year. Horses are naturally curious animals, which puts them at risk for a bite if a rabid animal gets through their fence line.”

Warren County Government Food Drive Delivers Nearly 5k Pounds of Goods

— Warren County Government Host Food Drive Challenge Press Release

Warren County, North Carolina– Warren County employees answered a recent call from Warren County food pantry, Loaves & Fishes, for donations of non-perishable food items. County departments participated in a food drive challenge, far exceeding their goal of 1,000 pounds of food to donate to Loaves & Fishes.

County employees delivered over 4,851 pounds of food.

The food drive was organized by county pandemic emergency response team co-feeding coordinator, Crystal Smith of Warren County Cooperative Extension, and logistics were handled by Cooperative Extension staff.

Some friendly inter-departmental competition ensued, resulting in Social Services coming in at number 3 with most pounds raised (1,092 pounds), topped by Veterans Services/IT/Soil & Water/Register of Deeds super group at number 2 (1,096 pounds). However, the Warren County Senior Center came in at number 1, donating 1,466 pounds of non-perishable food items.

Thomosa Dixon and Larry Johnson of the Warren County Senior Center pose with volunteers from Loaves & Fishes and half of the food donated by Warren County government employees.

Warren County Logo

Warren Countywide Zoning Basics via Zoom March 25

If you own property in Warren County, then you may want to attend the upcoming Warren County countywide zoning information session.

It’s a virtual session and will take place Thursday, March 25th from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Discussion will be centered on: What is countywide zoning; When do you need a conditional use permit, and how do you get one; What is a voluntary agricultural district; What types of business can you put on your land?

You must pre-register to attend ⸺ https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwpd-uuqjwiGN0DhuJsr51tqqb1M-F776Il


Tax Day for individuals extended to May 17: Treasury, IRS extend filing and payment deadline

— press release courtesy of the IRS

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced (this week) that the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. The IRS will be providing formal guidance in the coming days.

“This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Even with the new deadline, we urge taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible, especially those who are owed refunds. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds, and it can help some taxpayers more quickly receive any remaining stimulus payments they may be entitled to.”

Individual taxpayers can also postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Penalties, interest and additions to tax will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of May 17, 2021. Individual taxpayers will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by May 17.

Individual taxpayers do not need to file any forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the May 17 deadline can request a filing extension until Oct. 15 by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Filing Form 4868 gives taxpayers until October 15 to file their 2020 tax return but does not grant an extension of time to pay taxes due. Taxpayers should pay their federal income tax due by May 17, 2021, to avoid interest and penalties.

The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds associated with e-filed returns are issued within 21 days.

This relief does not apply to estimated tax payments that are due on April 15, 2021. These payments are still due on April 15. Taxes must be paid as taxpayers earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. In general, estimated tax payments are made quarterly to the IRS by people whose income isn’t subject to income tax withholding, including self-employment income, interest, dividends, alimony or rental income. Most taxpayers automatically have their taxes withheld from their paychecks and submitted to the IRS by their employer.

State tax returns
The federal tax filing deadline postponement to May 17, 2021, only applies to individual federal income returns and tax (including tax on self-employment income) payments otherwise due April 15, 2021, not state tax payments or deposits or payments of any other type of federal tax. Taxpayers also will need to file income tax returns in 42 states plus the District of Columbia. State filing and payment deadlines vary and are not always the same as the federal filing deadline. The IRS urges taxpayers to check with their state tax agencies for those details.

Warren County part of internet pilot program

Students in Warren County will soon be able to access high-speed internet via satellite technology, thanks to a pilot program aimed at supporting remote learning through improving internet access, according to information from Warren County Schools and the Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.

Warren County joins Hyde and Swain counties in a pilot program funded through the CARES Act, with additional support from several other N.C. agencies. It allows students to access Starlink internet service through SpaceX.

“Many students in the county are still without high-speed internet service at a time where having that connectivity is especially critical to their success,” stated Delores Pulliam, Warren County Schools Chief Finance Officer, in the written statement.  “We hope this pilot will be a much-needed lifeline for our K-12 students and their families.”

Starlink provides high-speed internet service via Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology, which BIO has determined could be a viable option to reach residents in remote areas. Through the pilot, school districts will be able to test the feasibility of the service for K-12 students who live in areas with no broadband infrastructure or reliable cellular service.

The pilot is funded by $200,000 in CARES Act Funding from the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) and $64,000 in CARES Act Funding from NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, on behalf of Hometown Strong. This funding will support this initiative in researching, analyzing, and providing recommendations regarding the use of satellite technologies that may help reduce the homework gap as well as improve rural healthcare and further rural economic development.

The Friday Institute at NC State University is leading the CARES Act-funded program, with additional support from the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), and the Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO). Besides funding, the partners are also assisting the school districts with implementing the “Satellite Internet Technologies for Student Connectivity Pilot,” which will allow students to access Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Starlink internet service.

“Our students need high-speed internet to succeed not only in these challenging times but into the future,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “Innovative programs like this pilot with SpaceX can connect students to high-quality internet service to help with remote learning, and we are excited for it to expand.”