Local News

Cumberland County leaders encourage COVID vaccinations, masks

08 County Covid IMG 4914Cumberland County leaders conducted a press conference Aug. 6 with health officials to encourage residents to get a COVID-19 vaccination and to continue to mask-up due to the Delta variant and the 837 new COVID-19 cases in the county over the previous seven days.

“The best protection against this virus is the vaccine and I encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” said Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charles Evans.

Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County Public Health Director, said the COVID-19 Delta variant is much more contagious than the original strand. She added that the COVID-19 positive infection rate is currently above 15% and hospitalizations are increasing. The percent positive needs to be closer to 5% for everyone’s safety according to the World Health Organization.

“I know the frustration among the vaccinated is growing with the unvaccinated, I ask you take that frustration and turn it into conversation,” Green said. “I know that conversations with your friends and family will make a difference.”

At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in January, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center had approximately 130 people admitted to the hospital, according to Mike Nagowski, Chief Executive Officer for Cape Fear Valley Health System. As vaccines started to be administered, that number had a downward trend to 14 people who were COVID positive.

“In the last six weeks, as the Delta variant has taken hold … we now have 89 people who are COVID positive in our hospital. Almost every single person in the hospital is unvaccinated,” said Nagowski, who described the Delta variant as “like the original COVID on steroids.”

The medical center is seeing younger patients. “The people dying today are far different than those who were dying in the beginning of the pandemic,” Nagowski said.

Cumberland County Schools will return on Aug. 23 for in-person learning for traditional calendar schools. According to Cumberland County Schools Director of Health Services Shirley Bolden, the top priority for the school year is to operate in-person learning all year long as safely as possible.

“In keeping with the recommendation of the local, state and national health officials, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connolly plans to recommend to the Board of Education universal masking for all students and staff at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. This would be for all pre-K through 12th-grade students and staff, regardless of their vaccination status,” Bolden said.

This action is intended to reduce the number of students needing to quarantine in the event of an exposure. “We believe that universal masking can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the school setting,” she said.

In addition to universal masking, the goal is to maintain social distancing of 3 feet between students and 6 feet between staff. CCS is also encouraging those who are not vaccinated to do so now to slow the spread of the virus.

“Thanks to federal funding, COVID-19 testing will also be available and will provide one more layer of protection to help keep students and staff safe,” Bolden said.

Clinics will be held at Cumberland County Public Library locations on Saturdays in August from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Appointments are not needed.
Aug. 14 at Hope Mills Library
Aug. 21 at East Regional Library
Aug. 28 at Spring Lake Regional Library

The Department of Public Health, 1235 Ramsey St., offers the vaccine weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Pfizer and J&J vaccinations are available by appointment or walk-ins will be accepted.

View the COVID-19 vaccination calendar and make an appointment at cumberlandcountync.gov/covid19.

Pictured above: Chairman Charles Evans speaks at a press conference Aug. 6. (Photo courtesy Cumberland County)

Grants will help High School Connections program at FTCC

07 students walkingFayetteville Technical Community College’s High School Connections program provides high school students the option to begin earning college credit while still in high school.

HSC offers more than 30 Career and Technical Education certificate programs that lead to entry-level job credentials/certificates. These pathways provide essential knowledge, technical capabilities and employability skills for career success that bridge workforce gaps by linking secondary and post-secondary curriculum.

This summer, FTCC Foundation received two grants from local organizations that will be used to create a resource fund for the HSC program
at FTCC.

Cumberland Community Foundation awarded a Community Grant in the amount of $20,000.

The United Way of Cumberland County awarded the Foundation a $15,000 grant through the Youth Growth Stock Trust.

FTCC Foundation partners with donors to support FTCC by raising awareness and financial resources that can provide college access for students to attain their educational and career goals.

The HSC Resource Fund will provide funds to pay for books and program supplies for high school students from low-income families who wish to continue their education beyond high school. This project will be offered community-wide and will leverage resources by providing long-term solutions to low-income students by increasing their job opportunities through higher education and job skills. The goal for the resource fund is to overcome financial barriers and increase educational access.

Aaron Mabe, coordinator of the HSC program at FTCC, noticed that for many students attending Title I high schools or residing in economically distressed communities, the cost of supplies and materials was a barrier to successful program completion.

“These grants will provide access and equitable opportunities for students who wish to learn marketable job skills and valuable trades. Without these resources, many students would not be able to afford the books and tool kits needed to take the classes. We are grateful for the support from Cumberland Community Foundation and the United Way,” Mabe said.

Dual (high school/college) enrollment courses provide a wide variety of exciting offerings to high school students including photovoltaic, collision repair, welding and construction management.

These programs allow students to complete a certificate or diploma aligned with in-demand state, regional and/or local workforce needs.

While traditional transferable college courses require textbooks or lab kits, the majority of career and technical education programs require additional supplies to instruct skill mastery.

FTCC’s academic departments work diligently to accommodate the financial cost of program supplies and minimize the substantial out-of-pocket cost to students. For many students attending Title I high schools or residing in economically distressed communities, the cost of supplies and materials is a barrier to successful program completion.

According to U.S. Census Data (from 2019), prior to the pandemic, median household income in Cumberland County averaged around $45,000 with 17% of families living in poverty.

There are 13 public high schools in Cumberland County. The percentage of their student body considered to be economically disadvantaged ranges from 34.6% to 69.7%, with an average of 55%.

To learn more about FTCC’s High School Connections program, please visit www.faytechcc.edu/academics/high-school-connections/ or call 910-678-8583.

Cape Fear River Trail Part C now open

06 CF River Trail Part C 1After a year of construction, the barricades have been removed and Part C of the Cape Fear River Trail is open once again.

Part C is the lower portion of the Cape Fear River Trail that connects Parts A and B. With the addition of Part C, the trail now spans more than seven miles one way.

Visitors can access Part C from the parking lot at Jordan Soccer Complex off Treetop Drive or access the trail at Clark Park on Sherman Drive.

Part C of the trail includes a boardwalk. The boardwalk crosses CSX Transportation property and is located under the CSX bridge.

Later this year, a paved path will connect the Cape Fear River Trail with the Linear Park Trail. Work on Part C began in June 2020.

The total estimated cost is $2.47 million. Money from the City’s General Fund, the state and federal government will cover costs.

Visitors can learn more about the Cape Fear River Trail, including operating hours, bicycle and pet requirements visit www.fcpr.us/parks-trails/trails/cape-fear-river-trail.

FAST hiring drivers, FTCC offers training

05 FAST Coach 2The Fayetteville Area System of Transit wants to improve the benefits of bus operators who are among the lowest paid city workers.

“Most drivers are paid $15.52 an hour and up to $18 an hour depending on seniority,” said Transit Director Randy Hume in an interview last year. Hume said pay increases are necessary to get people to take bus driving jobs.

FAST recently donated a city bus to Fayetteville Technical Community College for the school’s new commercial driver’s license training program.

The city’s FY2022 budget includes money to provide scholarships for FTCC students who commit to driving for FAST when they complete the academic program. The city will also pay trainees while in class.

The bus turnover ceremony was held July 27 at the FAST Transit Center on Franklin Street.

The 200-hour class B CDL training program with passenger endorsement is expected to begin in September.

For information about the program, contact FTCC CDL Driving Instructor Eric Smith at 910-486-3909 or smither@faytechcc.edu.

Local employment office is now at new location

04 ncworks career center mcpherson church rdThe Cumberland County NCWorks Career Center, formerly known as the Employment Security Commission, has moved to a new location from its long-time office on Ray Ave. downtown. The NCWorks Career Center is now located at 490 N. McPherson Church Road.

The Career Center provides job search and life skills classes, resume and cover letter preparation, skills assessment, career planning and development, occupational skills training and literacy skills.

The facility operates under the administration of the Mid-Carolina Council of Governments and is governed by a 21-member Workforce Development Board appointed by the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.

The new location provides a more modern setting for customers and career center employees.

For more information, call 910-486-1010 or visit NCWorks.gov.

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