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Sebring High students observe 9/11

SEBRING — This is the third year that the Sebring High School Chapter of Young Americans for Freedom participated in Young America’s Foundation’s 9/11 Never Forget Project.

All across America, Young Americans for Freedom clubs have set up flags in remembrance of the victims lost on 9/11.

U.S. government and honors U.S. government teacher and faculty sponsor for Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Virgil Beato noted that this is the first year in which virtually none of the students at Sebring High School were yet born on Sept. 11, 2001. But despite this, the Young Americans for Freedom student members know that they must never take their freedoms for granted, he said.

The message – 9/11 Never Forget – is the responsibility of every teacher and parent to ensure that today’s teens not only know about the tragedy, but also that they have an informed patriotism, Beato said.

“I am grateful for the work of faculty members and parents of these students, who have inspired YAF students to foster a culture on campus that embraces America’s founding principles,” he said.

According to the national YAF, each year Young America’s Foundation helps students across the country properly remember the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks through the 9/11: Never Forget Project. “This program began in 2003 when we discovered that most college campuses were either completely ignoring the anniversary or holding a politically correct event instead,” he said

Young Americans for Freedom was founded on Sept. 11, 1960, at the home of William F. Buckley Jr.

Day of Giving - Dental care for those in need

SEBRING — It was a brighter day Friday for those in need of dental care with the annual Day of Giving hosted by Lakeside Dental Arts, by Dr. David Willey.

Willey, along with doctors Stephen Ebner, Steven Guelff, Michael Kirsch, and many dental staff members, provided free dental services for those in need at Lakeside Dental Arts, which opened at the beginning of the year on Lake Jackson at 2660 U.S. 27 South, Sebring.

This year marks the eighth year for the Day of Giving event.

As in the past, it was first-come, first-served, with each patient receiving one free service (filling, extraction, or cleaning).

This year’s event necessitated more planning by the dental staff to provide safety measures due to COVID-19.

Lakeside Dental Arts Marketing Director Nancy McDuffee said, concerning the coronavirus, they all talked it over as a team. Willey feels very strongly about the Day of Giving and he really wanted it to happen again this year.

“So we had to come up with a way to keep the patients as safe as possible and ourselves as safe as possible,” she said. “So we ordered a huge tent so everybody could be socially distanced and we have hand sanitizers everywhere so people are sanitizing their hands before they go anywhere.”

The tent is to provide a waiting area for the people who come for services.

There are covers over the dental chairs, which are changed after each patient. The chairs are sanitized and “obviously all the dental instruments are always sanitized for each patient,” McDuffee said. Also, the wearing of masks is required.

“We are trying to work as quickly as we can and as efficiently as we can,” she said.

They see about 100 patients each year for the Day of Giving, McDuffee said. The four dental hygienists will each see 10 patients during the day with the other 60 patients treated by one of the four dentists.

“We have a lot of people from the community who also feel very strongly about this event and they come in and they help us, because without their help this would not be possible,” she said.

There are many people in need of dental care and, unfortunately due to COVID-19, a lot of people have pushed dental care to the back of their priorities, McDuffee said.

“Once you let a small dental problem go it becomes a very large dental problem.”

So with the Day of Giving, they are treating people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it and to get people out of pain. It could be called emergency care, but it is 100% free, she said.

“All we want in return is a happy smile.”

County hiring fire marshal: Not law enforcement and not necessarily a firefighter

SEBRING — In the midst of making expansions to Highlands County Fire Rescue, Chief Marc Bashoor needs to fill an existing position.

Highlands County Fire Marshal Jimmy Branca has retired after 30 years and Bashoor needs a new person to fill that post.

Currently, he has on-duty staff fulfilling the roles of doing building inspections and plan reviews.

The job description is “pretty straightforward,” Bashoor said. The fire marshal will make sure the county is fulfilling the Florida statutory responsibilities for building inspection and plan review, as well as annual inspections for “target hazards,” such as water treatment plants.

“The fire marshal makes sure those things get done,” Bashoor said.

Highlands County will not be hiring a law enforcement investigator. Some counties may have one, but Highlands County calls the Division of the State Fire Marshal for arson investigations.

“They are certified enforcement officers who enforce fire code and the arson laws of the state,” Bashoor said. “Highlands County does not have that need and [we’re] not proposing it.”

While Branca was a certified firefighter and battalion chief, the county’s new fire marshal won’t even have to serve those functions, Bashoor said.

It’s a professional position that will not require firefighter certification, he said — not that it wouldn’t be a plus.

An ideal candidate will have prior experience as a firefighter, because that person would “understand the firefighting end of it,” Bashoor said.

However, he or she may simply be a retiree who wants to keep fire inspector certification and not a firefighter certification.

By not requiring the fire marshal to have firefighter certification or field response duties, Bashoor said it saves the county the higher cost of high-risk insurance and retirement pay.

Suggested salary starts in the mid-$50,000 range, but Bashoor said it can be negotiable for an experienced and well-qualified applicant.

Bashoor said he may find a lot of retired firefighters, usually people with 30 years or more in service.

“Usually by that 30-year mark, they decide they want to do something [new],” Bashoor said. “As you get older, you realize this is a young person’s game.”

Not that Bashoor has slowed down at 55, but he said he made a choice to focus on physical fitness, especially as a chief.

“I started when I was 18, and when I finally retired from Prince George’s County [Maryland], I was 52,” Bashoor said. “I’m also in a business that demands a certain level of physical fitness. It really hit me when I was chief and asking people to rescue a ‘big fat guy’ like me.”

He won’t be asking that of the new fire marshal. It’s a professional position more than an emergency one, but still subject to call out at any hour of the day.

The online job description at states that in addition to the $54,000 to $85,000 salary range and the building and plan inspections, the job requires someone responsible for managing fire prevention, fire safety public education and other various fire service programs.

The fire marshal will develop the county plan for fire control and prevention as well as coordinate overall fire protection to include technical advice and assistance to volunteer and paid fire personnel, even on the scene of fires and other emergencies.

In addition to having a professional and safe unit, and following board policies, the fire marshal will respond productively to change and work productively with all volunteer, paid and elected personnel, staff and officials.

The fire marshal will need to have experience and knowledge of fire services, including training techniques, fire safety codes and regulations, firefighting techniques and emergency medical treatment.

The person should be able to plan, evaluate, assign and coordinate activities performed by fire personnel as well as establish and maintain effective working relations with emergency personnel, employees, officials and the general public, especially in high-stress situations.

In addition to a myriad of physical capabilities, the fire marshal will also need a minimum of 10 years experience as a certified firefighter inspector or fire marshal, and possibly five years in management, including budget management, as well as five years of experience working in paid/volunteer departments.

Anyone with five years of experience managing union issues and leading volunteer components would also be a plus.

Highlands adds another death, 28 cases

SEBRING — Highlands County added another loss Friday to the tally of COVID-19 deaths, as well as another 28 new cases.

Friday marked the highest one-day jump since Aug. 14 when the county saw 32 new positive cases. Highlands’ new case total is 1,974, with a new death toll of 70.

The Florida Department of Health update on Friday also said the county had 29 current hospitalizations, up from 21 the previous day.

Highlands County still carries a rank of “spreading” with a county-by-county national database and COVID-19 dashboard at The county was listed as “epidemic” slightly more than a month ago on the same site, and is still surrounded by counties with “epidemic” status.

The county and many other counties in Florida still have more deaths than that of entire states of Vermont, with 68 deaths, and Alaska and Wyoming, each with 42.

Meanwhile, Florida added another 3,650 cases to reach 658,381 cases on Friday, roughly 1,000 more than the 2,583 the state added to Thursday’s total.

The state also recorded another 176 deaths on Friday, for a total of 12,502. There were fewer new deaths than the more than 200 for each of the previous days.

Friday’s report showed Florida had 43,159 COVID-19 patients in long-term care facilities, and another 21,442 in correctional facilities.

Cases in Florida’s Heartland were as follows on Thursday:

- Polk County has a total of 18,228 cases, an addition of 109 new cases on Friday, up from 96 new cases on Thursday. Polk has 483 deaths, attributed mostly to recent nursing home deaths.

- Hendry County added another three cases Friday to now have 2,008 cases, with still 41 deaths.

- DeSoto County added four more cases to now have 1,530 cases, with still 23 deaths — ending a two-day streak of no new cases.

- Okeechobee County, which added six cases on Thursday, added another 18 on Friday for a total of 1,313, with still 20 deaths.

- Hardee County, which added five more cases on Thursday, added another 12 on Friday for a total of 1,202 cases, with still nine deaths.

- Glades County, which had added 22 on Thursday, added two new cases Friday, but still has the lowest local total with 470 cases — less total cases than Polk’s total deaths. Glades also still has just four deaths.

Gilchrist County had a zero increase since Thursday, and was the only county in Florida to show no daily increase on Friday.

Nationwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, there have been 6,417,186 cases — up 356,683 from Thursday, and a drop from the 47,345 new cases reported Thursday.

Nationwide deaths are at 192,381, Johns Hopkins reports, which is up 937 from Thursday’s total and a drop from the 1,472 new cases reported Thursday.

Worldwide, the pandemic has seen 28,268,970 cases, up 300,394 from Thursday, and 911,282 deaths, up 5,658.

The Highlands County Board of County Commission, in partnership with the Highlands County Department of Health and AdventHealth Sebring, will have free COVID-19 drive-up testing next Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Thursday, Sept. 17, at the AdventHealth medical complex at 4240 Sun ‘N Lake Blvd. in Sebring.

Drive-through testing will be from 5-6 p.m., and by appointment from 5-7 p.m., weather permitting.

All ages are welcome. Those being tested must stay in their vehicles.

You may opt to drive through or call and make an appointment for a specific time.

Appointments can be made by calling 863-386-5690 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays.

If you are sick or feel you may have been exposed to the virus, please call your primary care physician or the local health department to be tested as soon as possible.

As always, people are advised to wear masks in public, especially indoors, wash their hands thoroughly and practice a safe physical distance of six feet or more from others to help slow and stop the spread of the virus.