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Pizza Inn closes for good
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — A longtime south High Point restaurant has closed its doors for good, another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pizza Inn at 110 W. Fairfield Road initially closed March 11 with the intention of reopening, but it recently made the closure permanent and removed the signs from the building.

“It never fully recovered from the COVID pandemic,” owner William Simmons said. “It was running about 70% of previous sales and had a very hard time having any help — no employees.”

The restaurant, which was popular for its pizza buffet, originally opened in 1981.

Simmons, who also owns and operates a Pizza Inn in Shelby, took over as franchisee in 2010.

He said the restaurant managed to stay open a full year after the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 but did only about 20% of its normal amount of business, being limited to takeout service much of that time.

Simmons said he is not aware of any plans to open another Pizza Inn in the area.

“I’m 68 and fixing to retire in about a year and a half,” he said. “Personally, I won’t be doing any of them. There might be someone else who comes in. At one point, Pizza Inn corporate talked about buying that location, but it fell through at the very end.”

The pizza chain was founded in 1958 and is now a subsidiary of Rave Restaurant Group of Dallas, which owns, operates and franchises more than 230 Pie Five Pizza, Pizza Inn and PIE restaurants.

High Point was the only Triad Pizza Inn location, according to the chain’s website. The closest remaining restaurant is in Durham.

pkimbrough@hpenews.com | 336-888-3531

Local jobless rates show decline

HIGH POINT — The local unemployment rate in February hit its lowest point since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the state’s latest report on local unemployment rates across the state offers hope that employers may be starting to put the pandemic’s effect on the economy in the rearview mirror.

The city of High Point’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.5% in January to 7.2% in February, the lowest since last spring’s shutdowns caused the rate to spike to 16.3% in April 2020.

The N.C. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday that jobless levels fell in 96 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in three and remained unchanged in one.

Job gains were steady locally and across the state in a range of workforce categories. The number of workers employed statewide increased in February by 46,644

to 4.72 million, while the number unemployed decreased by 14,589 to 281,902, according to the state Commerce Department.

The better job creation during February may reflect business confidence in the direction of the pandemic as vaccinations steadily increase, said Mike McCully, associate professor of economics at High Point University.

“It seems that businesses are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

One encouraging sign for the local job market is the rise in construction employment, a sector whose impact ripples throughout the economy,

“As we move into spring and summer, construction will continue to ramp up,” McCully told The High Point Enterprise. “We can also expect increased consumer confidence, since vaccination rates are rising.”

Another encouraging sign is the increase in temporary hiring, which may serve as an indicator for full-time jobs, McCully said.

“As businesses see confidence in the economy rising, they will convert temp jobs into permanent ones,” he said.

Despite the improvement in February, yearly employment figures still show the toll the pandemic has taken on the economy and job market. The February 2021 unemployment rates were higher than the February 2020 rates in all 15 of the state’s metropolitan areas and all but one of the state’s counties, the Commerce Department reports.

Since February 2020, the number of workers employed statewide decreased by 215,747, while the number unemployed increased by 107,577.

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

Guilford expands in-person teaching
  • Updated

GUILFORD COUNTY — Middle and high school students in Guilford County Schools will begin attending class five days a week later this month, the school system announced Wednesday.

Middle and high school students have been attending classes two days a week in person and three days a week remotely since earlier this year. Students in sixth through 12th grade will start attending in-person five days a week on April 19.

Elementary school students already have been learning in person five days a week.

“Our goal has always been to educate the maximum number of students in person for the greatest amount of time possible while keeping students and staff healthy and safe,” said Superintendent Sharon Contreras.

Students who are enrolled in a virtual school or who learn remotely through their home schools will remain on that plan through the end of the academic year. The district isn’t accepting new requests for in-person learning.

Currently, more than 47,800 students in Guilford County Schools are learning in person.

School district leadership is expanding five-day in-person instruction based on new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. With masking requirements in place, the public health agencies say that schools can place students 3 feet apart, instead of 6 feet, when desks are facing in the same direction.

Protocols requiring 6 feet of physical distance while waiting in lines and traveling through hallways and corridors remain in force, as do efforts to limit student and employee gatherings in meeting rooms and common spaces. Faculty, staff and school board meetings will continue to be held virtually through the end of the school year, the school system reports.

Also, Guilford County Schools will scale back health screening protocols April 19. Schools will stop requiring student health assessments prior to boarding a school bus, entering a school or classroom, or participating in athletics. Students’ temperatures will no longer be taken prior to school entry.

Daily temperature checks and health screening assessments prior to entering a school will continue for employees and other adults through the end of the school year. District schools and buildings remain closed to visitors and volunteers.

Mask mandates will remain in place for students, employees and adults on school buses.

County vaccines to reach more

GUILFORD COUNTY — Guilford County is preparing mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics while answering questions from parents of minors and addressing concerns of residents who resist taking vaccinations.

The first mobile vaccine unit is expected to arrive May 15, according to Dr. Iulia Vann, director of the Guilford County Division of Public Health. That will be used, along with two smaller vans, at various places such as parks, church parking lots or neighborhoods, Vann said during a media update Wednesday morning.

“Going forward, we do know we have to be flexible and pivot around the needs of our community,” Vann said.

Through work with various community groups, county leaders realized early in the pandemic that efforts would need to be more personal, and they began a search last summer for vehicles that could be used for mobile vaccine clinics, Vann said.

“We will be able to meet people where they are. All of this planning going forward is to eliminate barriers to make sure anybody who wants to get a vaccine can,” she said.

Guilford County Emergency Management Director Don Campbell reported Guilford County has administered 83,537 doses of vaccines, which includes 47,004 first doses, 35,435 second doses and 1,098 of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“For Guilford County residents, we are excited to show 152,061 or 28% are (at least) partially vaccinated and 95,802 residents or 17.8% are fully vaccinated,” Campbell said. “Those are great numbers to continue to climb and get us closer to those goals overall.”

Campbell encouraged residents to visit healthyguilford.com to schedule an appointment for a vaccination or testing.

Because vaccine eligibility opened last week to everyone 16 and over regardless of health or employment status, Vann said her staff has fielded a lot of questions from parents. Although not required, the health department encourages parents or guardians to accompany their 16-, 17- or 18-year-olds to their appointments.

“If you cannot accompany a minor to their vaccine, it is important to ensure they will have a good understanding of what they are receiving, the potential side effects of the vaccine and if they will need to return for a second dose if they are receiving one of the products that require a second dose,” Vann said. “Parental consent is not required as long as the adolescent is able to make those medical decisions for themselves and is able to understand the risks versus the benefits of vaccines in general, medications or other procedures.”

In response to reports that some people are hesitant or resistant to taking the vaccine, the county is trying to answer any questions, Vann said.

“We are making efforts to target various demographics who we have gathered concrete information from to make sure we are addressing the message in the right manner,” Vann said.

“What we are finding is that much of the research has large overlaps among a variety of different groups.”

The county is continuing to work with focus groups, churches and LatinX communities while partnering with stakeholders such as UNCG to understand underlying causes of vaccine hesitancy, Vann said. The county also is working to tailor its marketing messages to create campaigns that are focused on diversity in the community and the spectrum of vaccine attitudes, she said.

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde