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Sebring girl donates her meal to local firefighters

SEBRING – The Sebring Fire Department was surprised Thursday evening with a complete dinner from a 10-year-old girl who gladly gave up her meal to thank them for their service.

Grayson Campbell, 10, of Sebring won pizza and cupcakes for her entire family after participating in the Aktion Club of Highlands County’s Chalk It Up Contest last month. The winners were announced and Julia McTaggart of Springfield, Illinois, formerly of Lake Placid, and Hendrix Lawn Service of Avon Park made a donation to pay for all the participants to win a pizza party.

Grayson, the daughter of Captain Chris and Katie Campbell of Sebring, was excited about winning the pizza but she had different plans for her meal. She wanted to offer her dinner to some local firefighters who always work hard at their job, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wanted the firefighters to know how thankful I am for all the sacrifices they make each day. I wanted them to have my special meal because I wanted them to feel special since they are,” Grayson said.

Sebring firefighters Jacob Figur and Clayton Waldron were totally flabbergasted when the food arrived at the station at 6 p.m. Thursday, delivered by an Aktion Club representative.

“Please thank the little girl for us,” Figur said. “This is awesome.”

The Aktion Club provided more than just a pizza and cupcakes to the firefighters on the Thursday shift. The club assisted Grayson and donated salad and wings as well from Galati’s Restaurant in Sebring. They made sure there were enough cupcakes for all the firefighters and personnel at the station as a token to say thanks for all their hard work and dedication to the community.

Other winners received their pizza dinners this week and celebrated their victories.

AP Airport project proceeding, but behind schedule

AVON PARK — Work continues on the $1.7 million taxiway project at the Avon Park Executive Airport that will improve safety of the ground traffic, but some unexpected delays pushed the completion date back to June.

Construction started Jan. 6, 2020 on the Taxiway F project, which includes pulling up some of the exiting sections of the taxiway, reconstructing, re-configuring and putting down new asphalt.

Avon Park Finance Coordinator Danielle Phillips said recently that Runway 5/23 is temporarily closed as the contractor works on the back stretch of the taxiway. The runway should reopen by the end of this week.

“We plan to close [Runway] 10/28 for a week closer to the middle of the month,” she said. “By the end of the month we plan to close both runways for a short time period to complete pavement and remove the hotspot on Taxiway B.

“With some unexpected delays, the new expected completion date is the middle of June.”

At a November City Council meeting is was noted that the project would start at the beginning of the year (2020) and would likely be completed by the middle of March.

In November, the City Council approved the contract with the low bidder on the project — Dickerson Florida, Inc., Ft. Pierce.

The total estimated cost of Dickerson Florida’s part of the project is $1,265,218.

Amherst Consulting Company, Maitland provided the engineering services on a project that includes realignment of Taxiway F from the terminal apron to the Runway 23 threshold and extension of Taxiway F from the Runway 23 threshold to the Runway 28 threshold.

The City paid about 25% of the cost of the engineering services, which totaled $143,792, with the FAA paying 75%.

Pilot Jim Renfro, whose business is located at the airport, said in November that the taxiway project will alleviate a safety issue at the airport.

There is vehicular traffic with people coming in the gate and then driving across a runway, he said. The project involves tearing out that existing taxiway and the construction of a perimeter taxiway.

If you are going to the terminal building you will have to go all the way around the end of the runway, Renfro said, so you won’t be driving a vehicle or taxiing an aircraft across two runways that are intersecting.

It’s principally a safety thing, he said. It will create some inconvenience about taxi time, but the safety factor far exceeds that.

Florida surpasses 40,000 COVID-19 cases

SEBRING — The Florida total of COVID-19 cases surpassed 40,000 on Saturday with 1,715 deaths as Highlands County added three more cases for a total of 96.

After the number of new cases in Florida residents dipped to 353 on Thursday, there were 794 new virus cases on Friday.

Among the 95 Highlands cases that are Florida residents, the number of females who tested positive (48) edged past the number of males (47), with an age range of 0 to 85 and a median age of 56.

The latest demographic information on new cases in Highlands County shows that the the five new cases from Thursday included four females age 27, 31, 61 and 82 and one male age 61.

The number of cases by zip code in Highlands are: 25 in 33825 (Avon Park), 22 in 33870 (Sebring), 10 in 33852 (Lake Placid), 6 in 33875 (Sebring), less than 5 in 33960 (Venus) and zero in 33857 (eastern Highlands).

According to the Florida Department of Health, Sunny Hills of Sebring ALF has one resident who tested positive. The Palms of Sebring nursing home has one resident who tested positive and The Palms of Sebring ALF has had one staff member who tested positive.

The number of deaths attributed to the virus in Highlands is 8 with the latest death, a 73-year-old male, verified on Thursday.

There has been 31 hospitalized in Highlands due to COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic. According to the Board of County Commissioners the number of people currently hospitalized is at three.

Miami-Dade County, continues to be the hardest hit county in the state, with a total of 13,841 cases and 482 deaths.

Nationwide there has been 1,286,833 cases and 77,280 deaths. New York has had more than 321,000 positive cases and more than 26,000 death.

Worldwide there has been 3,965,863 cases and 275,527 deaths.

Barbershops, salons can open Monday

TALLAHASSEE — Coronavirus hair can soon be professionally snipped.

Gov. Ron DeSantis posted a video Friday featuring Orlando barbershop owner John Henry, who announced that starting Monday, barbershops, hair salons and nail salons will be allowed to reopen in most of the state after being shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are ready to get back to work and make some money,” Henry, who operates J Henry’s Barber Shop, said in the video. “But getting back to work, we want to be safe to continue to wear gloves, wear masks, bookmark appointments and continue to keep the community safe. I know everyone is happy to come out and support the barbershop, and we want to continue to keep one thing in mind, safety is always first.”

The video was posted shortly after DeSantis said Palm Beach County will be included Monday in the first phase of the state’s economic reopening. That will leave only coronavirus hotspots Miami-Dade and Broward counties out of the first phase.

Henry was among a number of barbers and cosmetologists who sat down with DeSantis last Saturday to push for their professions to be included in the reopening. They highlighted advanced cleaning protocols for work stations and tools, along with in-store physical distancing requirements for customers.

DeSantis said at the time more review was needed about safety standards for people who have direct contact with customers.

But during an appearance Friday morning in Jacksonville, DeSantis said industry proposals had been looked at by the state Department of Health and physicians and were “going in a really good direction.”

“Look, I practically have a mullet. So, I haven’t had a haircut in a long time,” DeSantis said during the appearance. “But you know, we just want to make sure we’re going in a safe, smart step-by-step approach. We’re being very judicious on everything we’re doing. But I absolutely see a path. And I think if people watch out, I think that you’ll be hearing something on that very soon.”

After forcing businesses to shut down or dramatically scale back operations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, DeSantis last week announced the first phase of a reopening effort that included allowing restaurants and retail stores to serve customers with limited capacity. The first phase took effect Monday for all but Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

While announcing Friday that he would include Palm Beach County, DeSantis said he would also like to move Miami-Dade and Broward into phase one, possibly starting May 18, as they’ve also had “good trends” in efforts to control the virus.

DeSantis said Palm Beach County’s percentage of positive cases was moving closer to Orange, Hillsborough and Duval counties, and away from Miami-Dade and Broward.

The first phase allows retail outlets and restaurants to operate with indoor capacity at 25 percent. The first phase also lets medical facilities again provide elective surgeries.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, a former state legislator, called phase one “a large step for this community. It’s a large step for recovering our economy.”

“It’s not a surprise to me in any way that the members of this community have shown a positivity rate much lower than that to our neighbors to the south,” Kerner added. “That’s not because Broward, Miami-Dade, is doing anything wrong, but there’s certainly a strong correlation statistically between urban populations and the positivity rate.”

But U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., expressed concerns about the plan to reopen Palm Beach County, which has had 3,615 coronavirus cases. Deutch wrote a letter to physician Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, and asked for her position on the county’s readiness to reopen.

Also, state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, called the county reopening decision “troubling,” saying there have been 482 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the county since Monday.

“This growing increase shows that Palm Beach County has not yet succeeded in flattening the curve. At best, the county is in a high plateau,” Berman said in a prepared statement.

Palm Beach County commissioners had already agreed to allow limited recreational activities in the county, including golf, boating, tennis and the use of public parks, and have agreed to reopen beaches on May 18.

DeSantis has not set a timeline for the second and third phases of the reopening plan, which are expected to allow businesses such as movie theaters, gyms and tattoo parlors to reopen and eventually allow people to visit hospital patients and long-term care facilities.