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Highlands district schools report 27 virus cases this month

SEBRING — Amid the county and state’s increase in COVID-19 cases, the School Board of Highlands County reports a total of 27 positive cases thus far this month.

The district had a total of 28 cases in October.

Most schools have had at least one case this month, but there are no schools with a large number of cases.

According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are six schools with one staff member each who tested positive – Lake Country, Memorial, Park and Sun ‘n Lake elementary schools and Hill-Gustat and Sebring middle schools.

Three schools had three students each who tested positive – Lake Country Elementary, Hill-Gustat Middle and Lake Placid High.

Four schools had two students who tested positive — Lake Placid and Memorial elementary schools, and Lake Placid Middle and Avon Park High.

Four schools had one student who tested positive for the coronavirus – Cracker Trail and Sun ‘n Lake elementary schools, and Sebring Middle and Sebring High.

In response to questions about its COVID and quarantine policies, the district offered the following information recently:

• If you are tested as a result of having symptoms, do not return to school until you receive a negative test result indicating that you do not have coronavirus.

• The general guideline for quarantine is being within 6 feet for 15 minutes with a person who tests positive.

• If you are quarantined because of being in contact with a positive case, you must isolate from that person (at home, work, etc.) before your 14-day count begins.

• Even if you receive a negative COVID-19 test result during your 14-day quarantine, you must still quarantine for the entire 14-day period.

South Florida State College had two student cases last week, according to the Florida Department of Health’s previous-week school listing for the week of Nov. 8-14.

Over the course of the pandemic, the college has had a total of 15 positive cases, which included 12 students and three staff members.

School superintendents in south Florida are asking the state for guidance that would establish coronavirus benchmarks to help them decide how to stay safe while the number of cases is on the rise locally and nationwide.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he won’t allow schools to shut down again, but the superintendents of the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts want to keep the option open.

In Palm Beach County, a rain delay for a football game could have contributed to a quarantine order for 62 members and coaches in the Palm Beach Central High School football program, according to an investigation by health officials, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Dozens of players and coaches were stuck in a bus for two hours because of the delay, which may have played a part in the quarantine and the eventual positive tests for 16 players and four coaches.

Let there be lights in Sebring
  • Updated

SEBRING — The City on the Circle will soon be the circle of lights as thousands of lighted silhouettes will light up the night skies. The Sebring Christmas Carousel of Lights will be twinkling from 6-9 p.m. starting Saturday, Nov. 28, and will shine daily until Dec. 26. Admission is free; there is a nominal fee for games.

The bright lights beckon Santa and Mrs. Claus to spend each night greeting children. Some changes will be noticed this year, according to organizer Jon Spiegel. Because of COVID-19 concerns, Santa will not have anyone sitting on his lap asking for toys. Interactions with the Clauses will be without physical contact. The jolly couple will sit behind a big sneeze guard. Spiegel said he and his crew have carefully arranged the lighting so souvenir pictures can still be taken without it being obvious that Santa and his wife are behind plexiglass.

Thousands of lights that call the Circle home for the holidays are placed by Spiegel and a crew of about 12 guys.

“It takes about two weeks to wire it up but then the set up is fairly quick,” Spiegel said. “It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle.”

There will be other changes this year. For instance, the golf game will be expanded but there will no puppet show. Spiegel said there was no way to practice social distancing with 150 people who watch the 40-minute show that normally runs five times a night.

Sebring’s CRA sponsors the Carousel. Funds from the concessions, games and memento pictures go back into the event for new equipment and maintenance, according to Spiegel. People collect the pictures and return every year to make sure they have new one, which Spiegel said makes him feel good.

Spiegel has been setting up the Sebring Christmas Carousel of Lights for 37 years. It all started with a bet. Spiegel was on the board that made decisions about the displays when he told a fellow member that he could do a better job than the company they hired from Orlando to set it up. So his friend said to go for it. It was a bet he either won or lost, depending on how one looks at it.

“It was quite a bit smaller then,” he said.

Changes in landscaping can affect where the layout of the wiring and silhouettes are placed. This year, there were new tables and seating to work around.

“This is my way of giving back,” Spiegel said. “I don’t belong to any service clubs or anything, so this is what I do.”

Spiegel said it takes just two days to take everything down. After a month of dealing with the display and games, he is relived when it is over. When he does decide to retire from the Carousel, he will hand the reins over to Jeremy Daughtery.

County COVID-19 positivity rate is up
  • Updated

SEBRING — Highlands County’s coronavirus cases increased significantly from Wednesday and added 46 new cases of the infection. That was up by six from the previous day. The new cases brought the total to 3,372 overall. The count was broken into 3,350 residents and 22 non-residents.

The four new cases of coronavirus came from 339 tests processed. Of those tested, 293 were negative. The daily positivity rate was 13.57%, higher than Wednesday’s rate that was under 10%.

The daily median age was 55 with the overall median age of 51. There have been 1,810 women diagnosed with the disease, and 1,526 men and 14 where the gender was unknown.

There were no new deaths and they remain at 133. There are currently 62 people hospitalized with COVID (348 total). The Agency for Healthcare Administration shows the county’s ICU bed census at 21 with five beds available.

Long-term care facilities have had 436 cases of infection. Corrections has 69 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health. Lafayette County was the only county without any increase. Other counties weren’t as lucky and added numbers with three digits. They are: Alachua – 112, Brevard – 165, Broward – 914, Clay – 103, Collier – 131, Duval – 438, Escambia — 131, Hillsborough – 421, Lee – 268, Leon – 142, Manatee – 190, Marion – 114 Okaloosa – 119, Orange – 525, Osceola – 202, Palm Beach – 563, Pasco – 187, Pinellas – 278, Polk — 195, Santa Rosa – 100, Sarasota – 280 and Volusia – 132. Dade was the only county to increase by four digits with 1,926.

Across the state, Florida has added 9,085 new cases of infection. There were 90,1234 residents and 13,099 non-residents. The cases came from 119,142 tests processed. Of those tests, 110,140 were negative. The state’s positivity rate was 7.58% on Thursday. Over the past two weeks, the positivity rate has ranged from 6.31-9.99%.

There was 81 deaths. The daily median age for the state was 39.

Nationally, there were 11,667,719 cases reported with 251,8982 deaths attributed to the disease.

Globally, the Department of Health shows 56,708,132 and 1,356,689 deaths.

Thanksgiving edition

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Highlands News-Sun will be printed on Thanksgiving Day.

We hope your Thanksgiving is a peaceful and wonderful time with family and friends.