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Reduce exposure to COVID-19, stay home

SEBRING – Most Americans have had their lives turned upside down, Highlands County residents are no exceptions. Empty grocery store shelves, no toilet paper, no stress reduction from the gym. Even houses of worship have canceled their services, including one of the highest holy days for Christians, Easter Sunday.

All this is part of social distancing and efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It is our new normal. Sunday morning’s report from the Florida Department of Health confirming a case of coronavirus drives home the point of staying at home.

Floridians are no strangers to “hunkering” down due to hurricanes, however self-isolation is a new experience for most of us. Health officials warn of gatherings of more than 10 people, although there is no quarantine currently. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered some tips when and if we are ordered to stay in our homes. The CDC also said most people with coronavirus can recover at home.

The CDC says if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the community to stay home as much as possible. AdventHealth officials said to make sure you have plenty of medicine on hand for a “period of time.” The CDC encourages everyone to have over-the-counter medical items such as tissues and medicines for fever reduction.

Highlands County has a campaign that encapsulates the movement to slow the spread: “Stop the spread, call ahead.” The campaign urges those with symptoms of coroanvirus to call the doctor of Department of Health at 863-386-6040 or Central Florida Health Care at 863-452-3000. Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.

Keep enough groceries on hand so there is less need to go to the markets. Of course, there is the standard hand washing for 20 seconds and coughing into an elbow and using tissues when sneezing. Use hand sanitizer that consists of 60% alcohol (if you can find it). Don’t touch your face. Disinfect high-touch surfaces like door knobs and counters and cell phones, according to the CDC.

The CDC website has an entire section on getting those in the home with a action plan in case of an outbreak. The nuts and bolts of it are to determine the people who you need to be included in the plan. The CDC said to make a contact list. Share the list with those who are on it.

If there is someone who is sick in the house, the CDC recommends keeping that person isolated preferably with a separate bathroom. Clean and disinfect the room often.

Local hospitals are encouraging people to stay out of the emergency rooms as much as possible. A phone call to the primary physician or a teledoctor service may be sufficient.

According to Georgia Pacific’s research, a family of 2.6 people use 409 regular rolls per year. The website said when staying at home 24/7 will increase toilet paper use by 140%. They calculate two weeks, two people will need nine double rolls and four people would need 17 double roles. They did not say the toilet paper had to be purchased all at once. Many stores are putting limits on toilet paper supplies and also other products, those limits now include milk, eggs and meat.

Unlike the aftermath of hurricanes, this isolation will be in the comfort of air conditioning. Grocery delivery services such as Instacart can reduce time in public and streaming shows can help to fight off boredom. Many museums are offering virtual tours. Students can keep their skills sharp with any number of free e-learning websites. Perhaps this is a time to learn a new card game.

More information is available is available on floridahealth.gov or at CDC.gov.

Positive test confirmed: Highlands County has first COVID-19 patient

SEBRING — Saturday had word of a local resident testing positive for novel coronavirus which turned out to be in error.

Now, it’s not in error. On Sunday, via a livestream video, Highlands County Emergency Manager LaTosha Reiss confirmed word from the Florida Department of Health that a local woman, 78, had tested positive for the virus.

According to the online Florida COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, run by the Health Department’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, the woman is a resident of the county and the infection was not connected to travel outside the county.

She also has been hospitalized, the database states.

Coincidentally, the Health Department announced another death from the virus in Palm Beach County, for a total of 13 deaths in Florida.

The total number of cases in the state, as of 6 p.m. Sunday, were 1,007, with 937 Florida residents and 70 non-Florida residents.

“Highlands County Board of County Commissioners is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation,” Commissioner Ron Handley said in a written statement. “The Emergency Management Office is communicating multiple times daily with FDOH and keeping County Administration updated. FDOH is communicating multiple times daily with the CDC and all allied health partners.”

The Health Department is now monitoring 1,099 individuals who either have symptoms or came in contact with those who were infected, but have not tested positive for the disease.

In the same video announcement with Reiss, Highlands County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Scott Dressel reiterated statements earlier that day from the agency’s social media that, right now, the county is not under a lockdown, quarantine or curfew of any kind.

“Please do not call [911] dispatch for people who are gathered in groups or are out on the lake, or anything like that. There is nothing we can do other than strongly urge people to follow the guidelines,” Dressel said, listing some of the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

Reiss repeated those recommendations to wash your hands thoroughly, practice social distancing by keeping six feet or more from others, avoid crowds of 10 or more — if possible — and stay home if you are feeling sick.

She also urged anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to call their doctor.

Those symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath that may not appear until up to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.

Anyone with the following emergency warning signs, the CDC states, should seek medical attention immediately:

- Trouble breathing

- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

- New confusion or inability to arouse

- Bluish lips or face

The CDC also cautions that this list is not all inclusive, and any other severe or concerning symptoms should be reported to a medical provider.

Dressel also suggested people take a break from social media.

“There’s a lot of people out there who are spreading false information,” he said, urging people to rely on official sources.

He also recommended people take a break from their mobile devices to do other active things, such as cleaning the house, playing in the yard or reading a book — just to get some down time to gather their thoughts.

“Trust us,” Dressel said. “When there’s big news we need to get out to you, you will know.”

Delivery service available in Highlands County

There has been a lot of change in a very short period of time. Restaurants were ordered to close dining areas, stores have limited products, schools are on an indefinite spring break and everyone is being told to stay home to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.

When you need food for your family or need to go grocery shopping you can now do it from home. If you are looking for dinner and don’t feel like cooking you could always use Uber Eats or DoorDash and if you don’t want to leave the house but need to go shopping, Instacart is the way to go.

Uber Eats has a limited area of availability in Sebring but if you are in the zone of service you are in luck. While it is not business as usual, Uber Eats is supporting local businesses with no delivery fees. Safety measures have increased and an option to leave food at your doorstep is now available.

“We continue to focus on protecting the health and safety of everyone on Uber Eats — ensuring we are a reliable platform when people need it most,” stated Tony Xu, CEO/Co-Founder, in a press release. “As customers and delivery people look to limit contact to protect themselves and their loved ones, we’ve started educating users about how to request deliveries be left on their doorsteps, and have shared CDC guidance to restaurants to ensure all orders are sealed in tamper-evidence packaging.”

Restaurants available through Uber Eats are Captain D’s, Nutmeg’s Café, Village Inn, Bob Evans, Five Guys, Denny’s, Arby’s and many more. On the Uber Eats’ app, it states “Lets support our community, eat local.” Be sure to check the Uber Eats app for availability, as availability may change.

DoorDash is another option for food delivery in our area. In a statement sent to customers, DoorDash’s “leave it at my door’ will be the default drop-off option. “Hand it to me” will still be an option in the drop-off menu. As DoorDash increases safety measure they have shipped hand sanitizer and gloves to Dashers (delivery personnel).

“My husband and I deliver DoorDash and we recently received an email saying they are giving us gloves and hand sanitizer,” said Janine Ganaban. “We haven’t received ours yet but they are supposed to be on the way. The patrons have the option of having food left at a designated place. What we do is take a picture of it to prove that we dropped it off and text it to the customer. We walk away and they pick it up. We are expecting increases, but haven’t been receiving much tips. We have a Facebook group that we are a part of and one dasher was tipped with hand sanitizer. DoorDash is available in the Sebring and Avon Park area but sadly Lake Placid does not have DoorDash yet. We are working on getting it in Lake Placid. Instacart is available across the entire county.”

Local restaurants that are available through DoorDash are McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Ruby Tuesday, Senor Jalapeno, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Bob Evans, Denny’s and many more. Please check the app for availability as availability may change.

Instacart is a way to shop online and the food will be delivered to your doorstep. Shop for groceries, household goods and personal healthcare. Publix, ALDI, CVS, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and even Petco are available stores in our area. Get everything you need at the store without leaving the comfort of your home. “Leave at my door delivery” is now available through Instacart.

“As the situation progresses, we’re working with local and national health officials to determine the appropriate precautions to ensure the health and safety of all members of the Instacart community,” stated an Instacart press release.

Some tips for using Instacart via Instacart’s website:

1. Check delivery times frequently. Due to heightened customer demand, available delivery windows may fluctuate throughout the day. Our teams are working around the clock to ensure availability, and we encourage customers to check available delivery times frequently in the app.

2. Choose preferred replacements. During this busy time, retailers are experiencing elevated demand for certain items. Help your shopper get what you need by pre-selecting replacement options for everything on your list. While your shopper is preparing for your order, be ready to respond to questions she or he may have about replacement options by using our in-app chat functionality.

3. Choose Leave at My Door Delivery. In the spirit of social distancing, you may prefer to reduce contact with people outside your household. Choose the “Leave at My Door Delivery” option when you check out in the app and your shopper will notify you when he or she has delivered your groceries to your front door.

4. Plan ahead. Take frequent inventory of your fresh foods, pantry staples and household essentials, and place your orders a few days in advance of running out of key essentials.

5. Send groceries anywhere. As an Instacart customer, you can send groceries to friends or family members, even if they’re across the country. It’s easy to give the gift of groceries to someone else — simply input their zip code, choose their local store, fill up your cart with the items they need, place and pay for their order to be delivered to their home. You can even track replacements, chat with their shopper directly from the store, and help notify them when their groceries have arrived. If you think your recipient would prefer to manage their own order, you can also send them a virtual Instacart gift cards.

6. Use a group cart. With Instacart’s group carts, you can invite a friend or loved one to join your cart, work together to add the items they need, and ship them directly to their preferred address. Families in the same household can make sure everyone orders the items they want, or you can help a relative in another state add all the items they need and navigate the checkout and delivery process for them. It’s a great way to help someone with their grocery order, no matter how far away they are. You can create a new group cart by clicking the green cart icon in the upper right corner of the app “My Carts” “Create a group cart.”

7. Say thank you to your shopper. Over the last few weeks, the Instacart shopper community has served as household heroes for families across North America. When you order, please consider tipping above and beyond to reflect the extra effort of your shopper.