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Highlands_news-sun
Lake Placid might have new neighbor in Steube

LAKE PLACID — One selling point of the Lake Placid Government Center purchase or new Town Hall, was the possibility of renting out office space to individuals or politicians to help pay for the nearly $1 million building. The latter may happen sooner than later. Much like Fred Rogers, the council is asking Representative Greg Steube, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Town Administrator Phil Williams wanted feedback on the proposed Steube lease that was priced at $185 per month. Because Steube is a politician, he would have to add some security features and could not be on the town’s WiFi. Williams wanted to make sure the council would allow for the security conditions that would be paid by Steube. They agreed.

Councilman Ray Royce said he had many conversations with Steube when he was running for Congress to replace Tom Rooney, whose office was in the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center in Sebring. Royce said he did not think Rooney was paying anything.

“I think the county just provided that space for free. That’s my understanding, I could be wrong. Is that accurate?” Royce said.

Williams said Rooney was paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $165-$175.

“Anyways, Congressman Steube would like to to move his office here,” Royce said. “ Frankly, it’s a win-win. There are some other tenants in that building (Ag Center) that need the additional office space up there.”

Royce said Steube has hired a new assistant director out of Arcadia. The move would mean less travel for her and also to Okeechobee.

“It’s a benefit to the Town of Lake Placid, the Greater Lake Placid area, to have our Congressman located in this building,” Royce said.

Councilman Charles Wilson agreed. Royce said $185 is not much, but it is better than generating nothing.

Councilwoman Debra Worley said it was her dream to see “something like this” in Town Hall.

“I would be all for just not charging them anything,” Worley said.

She said Steube and his staff work hard for the people in the area. Just Steube’s presence in the community “would be enough,” she said, but she would go along with whatever the other council members decided.

Royce made a motion allowing Williams and the mayor to enter into a lease with Steube’s office space in the building. Wilson seconded the motion and the motion passed unanimously.

Mayor John Holbrook said this would open the door to other possible tenants.


Highlands_news-sun
Virus scare has some supplies rationed

SEBRING — If you go to Publix today, don’t expect to find someone cooking the latest Aprons recipe for sampling.

Also, be prepared to go home with just two of certain key household items that have become scarce in the last couple of weeks, thanks to hoarding and panic buying over novel-coronavirus COVID-19.

The supermarket chain, based out of Lakeland, has joined other stores to limit purchases in an effort to ensure all customers can get what they need and have items in stock until the next truck arrives.

Currently, Publix is only allowing customers to purchase two of the following items:

- Hand soaps and sanitizers

- Rubbing alcohol

- Bleach

- Disinfectant wipes and sprays

- Aerosol disinfectant sprays

- Facial masks and gloves

- Facial tissue

- Disposable cups, plates and utensils

In Sebring’s Walmart Tuesday night, shelves had no hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes or first aid alcohol.

At approximately 10 p.m., one single box of alcohol arrived on an empty shelf, and at least one customer helped himself to more than half a dozen bottles, leaving just a couple in the box.

Toilet paper was also bought up at Walmart, as well as other stores. On Saturday, Business Insider reports that three Australian women tussled over toilet paper in a Woolworths supermarket in that country. It’s believed that reports of panic buying there helped spark panic purchases here.

National reports state that not only does the average person in the U.S. use about 100 rolls of toilet paper each year, the U.S. imports very little toilet paper — less than 10% — and most of that is from Canada and Mexico, meaning the supply chain will likely stay intact.

According to multiple news sources, there is no shortage of toilet paper production: As many as 150 U.S. companies make the product.

However, artificial shortages have developed because of panic buying, resulting in some stores having to limit the amount of toilet paper being sold to each household.

CNN reports that the four major reasons people resort to extremes is conflicting messages, a lack of a clear direction from officials, fear from others’ panic buying — if they take it all, I won’t have any — a natural tendency to over-prepare and the ability to feel a sense of control.

Part of the panic buying can be attributed to government advisories. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Department of Homeland Security told people to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak with a stockpile of supplies for a two-week quarantine.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that supermarkets, in addition to rationing staple items and working to restock more quickly to meet demand, have also looked at ways to feed an increasing number of “self-isolating consumers.”

Online or store-based curbside or grocery delivery services, with no face-to-face payments, have presented themselves as a means of providing for isolated people.

Meanwhile, Business Insider has reported that several panic-bought items are not necessary in an epidemic.

Dr. Manisha Juthani, an associate professor of medicine of infectious diseases and epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale School of Medicine, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, listed five items people have bought in panic that they don’t really need.

Toilet paper

While Juthanj said having some supply of toilet paper in the house is worthwhile, stockpiling is unnecessary, even for two weeks. Redlener, also baffled at the toilet paper panic, said there’s not immediate reason why that item would be difficult to get, if needed.

Bottled water

Juthani said most tap water is drinkable, especially in this country, and water systems should not be vulnerable to this disease, based on what they know. Still, Redlener said some people in areas with less readily available supplies might want to make sure they have a 14-day supply of water at home for a quarantine.

Batteries

Batteries are generally useful for a hurricane kit, but not for a coronavirus quarantine. The experts said an outbreak would not likely affect major infrastructure systems like water and electricity.

“I doubt that we’d be in any kind of situation where electricity would be down,” Redlener said.

The only situation he saw of use for a 14-day supply of batteries would be for children needing to play with battery-powered toys.

Hand sanitizer

Every house should have some hand sanitizer to prevent infections, but clearing shelves is excessive, Juthanj said, and not necessary.

“Good old-fashioned soap and water are good enough for hand hygiene,” Juthani said. “Although hand sanitizer is convenient and easy to bring with you, I think stockpiling it is not necessary.”

Redlener said people should purchase in calm ways, “and not go rushing out and just going crazy.”

Too much canned food

While having a 14-day supply of food is good, both Redlener and Juthani recommended a gradual approach, and said stockpiling food might not be necessary.

“It depends on where you live,” Redlener said. “Because in New York City, everybody can get prepared food and grocery delivered. But in cities and urban and rural areas where that’s not possible, that’d be a different story.”


Highlands_news-sun
Flu and coronavirus: Similar symptoms, different fears

Is it the flu, a cold or the new coronavirus? Patients and doctors alike are parsing signs of illness to figure out who needs what tests or care and how worried they should be.

“You have three different major viruses floating around at the same time,” causing somewhat similar symptoms — but different levels of concern, said Dr. Gary LeRoy, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

So what’s the biggest danger? And why are we responding to them so differently?

Familiar foe

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is a flu-like illness that has killed a small fraction of the number of people that the flu kills every year. Through the first four months of the outbreak, coronavirus has killed about 4,300 people. Flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 every year around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

To some, that comparison seems comforting because flu is such a familiar foe. President Donald Trump regularly brings it up, noting in a tweet how many more Americans die from flu and adding, “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on ... Think about that!”

But to public health experts, the huge number of flu deaths is exactly why extraordinary steps should be taken to try to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading widely.

The flu’s annual return can’t be stopped because it’s already so embedded in the population. There is still a chance COVID-19 cases can be limited or spread slowed while treatments are developed.

How deadly are the viruses?

Flu kills about 0.1% of those it infects, but that’s still hundreds of thousands of people each year because it infects millions.

Researchers are still trying to understand just how deadly the new coronavirus is. The mortality rate from infection with the virus isn’t known yet because the cases caught in an early part of an outbreak are often the most severe, people with mild or no symptoms aren’t being tested, and sometimes overwhelmed hospitals struggle to care for the sickest patients. Various reports have estimated the fatality rate from less than 1% to as high as 4% among cases diagnosed so far, depending on location.

Most people infected by the new coronavirus develop mild or moderate symptoms and recover after about two weeks.

So what do I have?

Flu, cold and coronavirus often share certain symptoms, but differences in intensity and how they appear

can offer clues to which one is causing the misery. Doctors can test for the flu and get results within a day, but coronavirus testing is still limited by availability in the United States.

Colds are often suspected because adults get about two on average each year, said LeRoy, a family medicine doctor and associate dean at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

“The common cold just starts out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny nose, stuffy nose” and any fever is usually mild, he said.

Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, the Yale New Haven Health System advises. They can include a high fever (over 100.5 degrees), extreme exhaustion, muscle or body aches, a dry cough and chills.

“It really hits you like a bus,” and people may start a day well but feel terrible by afternoon, LeRoy said.

Flu symptoms can include a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and possibly vomiting or diarrhea, though the latter two are more common in children than adults, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

One study of hospitalized patients in China found that about half did not have a fever when they were admitted but nearly all developed one.

What to do if you’re sick

Don’t go straight to your doctor’s office — that just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

Fever, cough and noticeable shortness of breath — “if you have those three components, especially if it’s associated with some recent travel or someone you know who’s been exposed to COVID-19, those things should prompt you to call for medical attention,” LeRoy said.

“Mildly ill patients should be encouraged to stay home,” the CDC’s Dr. Sue Gerber told doctors on a conference call last week. People having difficulty breathing should seek care, and older people or those with other conditions should contact their doctors early in the course of illness, she said.

Prevention

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

There’s one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it’s not too late to get it. It won’t protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

“You don’t want to have a compromised immune system if you were to encounter coronavirus,” LeRoy said.

Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Highlands_news-sun
Orange, grapefruit crops drop in latest forecast

SEBRING — The bad news: Orange and grapefruit production has gone down, along with forecast numbers for the season.

The good news: Those numbers aren’t much, and according to a local industry official, the lapse in production is only temporary, and there is a surplus of orange juice in the market, meaning supplies should stay stable.

“There’s still plenty of orange juice,” said Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest monthly forecast for citrus production, released Tuesday, predicted a drop of slightly more than 1% in production from February’s forecast: From 72 million 90-pound boxes to 71 million.

The industry uses 90-pound boxes as a standard measurement.

“That’s not a significant decrease,” Royce said of the production prediction.

He suggested that growers probably had a bit more of their fruit drop on the ground as a result of natural causes and a temporary labor shortage.

“The [U.S.] Department of Labor held up a lot of H2A crews that would have been there,” Royce said.

As a result, the harvest season could not get started in earnest when it normally does, and fruit the pickers would have put in boxes ended up on the ground.

At this point, he said, all the early oranges are gone — either picked or lost — and the harvest has moved into the Valencia season.

“I think everyone’s feeling, regarding the fruit that’s there, [that] we’ll get it off the trees in the next coming months,” Royce said.

The USDA forecast for oranges had been at 74 million boxes in January, for the season that runs from September through July. A year ago, the state produced 71.6 million boxes of oranges.

In addition to seeing a 1 million-box decline in orange production, predictions for grapefruit production have dropped 8.5%, to 5.4 million boxes. The grapefruit forecast had grown 10% from January to February, to 5.9 million boxes.

The Florida Department of Citrus has called this forecast a sign of overall “stabilization” for the hard-hit industry.

“Today’s forecast indicates an industry that remains in transition, but is cautiously optimistic for a bright future,” Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp said in a press release.

The new forecast kept the state’s citrus specialty crops, primarily tangerines and tangelos, at 1.05 million boxes.

Royce said some of the growers, who still have long-standing contracts on their drops, have gotten good returns. Others whose contracts have expired have not, he said. They had to accept lower prices because of an increase in orange juice inventories.

When Hurricane Irma decimated the state in September 2017, the 2018 harvest dropped from what the USDA had predicted to be a good year — 75 million boxes — to just 45 million.

Juice packagers covered the gap for their juice market with supplies from out of country, mostly Brazilian juice, Royce said, but then Florida’s groves bounced back the following year, creating a surplus.

Florida needed to maintain a supply to keep its market share and recover from Irma, but in the meantime, the surplus has outstripped demand.

“It will take a while for inventory [numbers] to get to where we like them,” Royce said.

Meanwhile, he said, with everyone still concerned about staying healthy in an influenza season, and a pandemic for the coronavirus, Royce said the Vitamin C in orange juice remains a good way to boost and maintain defenses against illness, and encourages people to drink more juice.

Naturally, he would prefer they choose juice supplied by Florida growers, if at all possible.

Information from the News Service of Florida included in this report.