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Coronavirus not scaring off race teams, fans

SEBRING — Campers are already at Sebring International Raceway and anticipation is high waiting for the 68th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts. The truest race fans are not letting a virus get in their way of diesel fuel-lead fun on March 18-21.

The “12 Hours,” as locals call it, will go on — perhaps with some extra precautions this year. President and General Manager of SIR Wayne Estes said the his crews are working hard to keep everyone as safe as possible. He said they are adhering to whatever recommendations are made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other governing bodies.

“People have to take their own security precautions, like washing their hands and not showing up when they are sick,” Estes said. “We have been ramping up our cleaning. We had so many more people in with the WEC (World Endurance Championship) addition last year; we needed to get better. We are doubling and tripling our efforts.”

Estes said the cleaners are taking great lengths to wipe down handrails, counter tops and other surfaces.

“We will have hand sanitizer stations thanks to AdventHealth Sebring,” Estes said. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have any. We couldn’t find them anywhere. We have had a really good partnership with them. They have given us good counsel.”

Dr. Cary Pigman is an emergency room doctor at AdventHealth Sebring as well as the medical director for the 12 Hours. He said there are plans in place for the infield and pit-out care. If a driver gets into a wreck (Pigman gave the example of an Italian team member), a mask would be put on him/her and questions about traveling and symptoms would be asked. If they were negative, the trauma would be treated and there would be no need for isolation. If that same driver was traveling internationally, the mask would stay on and appropriate care would taken to the hospital for appropriate treatment and quarantine if necessary.

Pigman explained that similar protocols would be taken for fans in the infield.

The local hospitals have said they are ready for the influx of visitors. Last weekend, Highlands Regional Medical Center practiced triage maneuvers by setting up tents outside.

“Highlands Regional Medical Center regularly participates in emergency drills in order to plan for an influx of visitors in times such as Race Week. The tent was part our emergency preparedness drill,” said Director of Public Relations and Communications Lindsey Pierson. “During Race Week, we are prepared to meet any medical needs of the large crowds that visit our area and we are committed to delivering our patients and community with high-quality care.”

Local hospitals encourage the community to protect themselves against the coronavirus (COVID-19) by following these preventative actions:

· Avoiding close contact with people who are sick,

· Avoid touching your eyes nose, and mouth,

· Stay home when you are sick,

· Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue,

· Practice good hand hygiene, and

· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Pigman also recommends frequent hand washing and maybe not “so much hugging.”

AdventHealth also released information on an information hotline Tuesday afternoon. The AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line, 877-VIRUSHQ, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It serves as a one-stop-shop to connect Floridians with resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health,” according to the press release.

IMSA Twelve-Hour Fan Fest kicks off races

SEBRING — The IMSA Twelve-Hour Fan Fest rolls into town from 5:30-8 p.m. Tuesday ushering in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts on March 18-21. The free event is fun and family friendly.

Old and young alike will love seeing the transporters as they roll into downtown Sebring and make way around the Circle. The transporters often have creative artwork that corresponds to the team they represent.

Live music will keep everyone in good spirits and toes tapping through the night. The block party atmosphere will have food trucks for casual dining. Attendees will also have a chance to meet several of the race car drivers and get an autograph and perhaps snap a selfie or two.

Even those who are not gear heads can appreciate the lines of the sleek race cars that will be on display. The cars on display this year are the Mazda Dpi, Wheelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac Dpi, AIM Casser Sullivan, Lexus RC-F-GTD, Mercedes AMG, Riley Motorsports-GTD and Lamborghini Huracan GEAR -GTD.

The fan forum begins at 6:30 p.m. and the autograph session begins at 7 p.m. Michelin Pilot Challenge drivers at the autograph session will be Dylan Murry, Riley Motorsports, car 35; Jim Cox, Riley Mortorsports, 35, and Aurora Straus, Turner Motorsport, 95.

Other drivers slated to be at the festival are Ricky Taylor, Acura Team Penske, 7; Pipo Derani, Wheelen Engineering Racing, 31; Filipe Albuqerque, Wheelen Engineering Racing, 31; Alex Riberas, Heart of Racing, 23, and Oliver Gavin, Corvette Racing, 4.

Youngsters 8-18 years old can learn new skills by entering in the free Pinewood Derby sponsored by 4H and the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension starting at 5 p.m. Create and decorate a derby car against other cars. The top winner gets a trophy and a ticket to Saturday’s race. The winner will get to race his or her derby car against one made by a real race car driver. Only 50 spots are available for the derby. For more information on the Pinewood Derby, and to pre-register please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2020-4-h-pinewood-derby-race-at-fan-fest-tickets-92741062013

Another great event for the youngsters is the free Kids Power Wheels Race. Kids can bring their battery-powered four-wheel vehicles, whether it has flames or fairies on them. The event is free, but racers need to pre-register. Kids will move from “tech” to training classes then start their engines and race to the Circle. For more information on the pinewood derby, and to pre-register please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/kids-fan-fest-power-wheels-race-tickets-92730496411

Incumbents elected to city council

SEBRING — All the incumbents in city government retained their seats on Tuesday.

The entire field included five incumbents and one challenger.

Of the five, Mayor John Shoop and Sebring City Clerk Kathy Haley ran unopposed and won by acclamation, a form of unanimous consent.

Shoop is entering his third term after being elected in 2014 and Haley is entering her eighth term after being elected in 1996.

The other four vied for three open city council seats: incumbents Lenard Carlisle, Tom Dettman and Mark Stewart, and one challenger, Mark Wilson.

The incumbents had the most votes, won the seats and will serve new three-year terms on the council.

Carlisle, Dettman and Stewart each carried more than 25% of the vote, compared to Wilson’s 17.41%. Stewart had almost 30%.

Voter turnout was low, however. According to the Supervisor of Elections website, only 685 city voters turned out, just 12.33%. There are 5,556 registered voters in the City of Sebring.

In all, 1,683 votes were cast among the four candidates. Distribution was as follows:

- Carlisle had 25.37%, or 427 votes. He was originally elected in 2013 and this is his third term.

- Dettman had 27.93%, or 470 votes. He was originally elected in 2017 and this is his second term.

- Stewart had 29.29%, or 493 votes. He was originally elected in 2014 and this is his third term.

Wilson had a total of 293 votes.

Highlands Supervisor of Elections Penny Ogg said Monday that only 57 participated in early voting, just .01% of the city’s voters.

She said municipal elections have been lower than 12%.

“You always want to see more people get out and vote,” Ogg said, “but we’re thankful for the people who did get out and vote today.”

All went smoothly, she said, and results were available very shortly after the election.

She reminds voters that the election results will not be official until the Sebring Canvassing Board meets on Friday.

Next Tuesday, March 17 is the Presidential Preference Primary. All precincts in the county will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for party members to cast their ballots for whom they want to represent them as a presidential candidate.