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Teen, 17, killed in possible accidental shooting

SEBRING — Highlands County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home on Cadagua Drive in Sun ‘N Lake of Sebring regarding a shooting that took place about 10:15 p.m. Thursday. The shooting, which law enforcement may have been accidental, resulted in the death of a 17-year-old male.

The young man was pronounced dead at the hospital. The victim’s name has not been released.

There were few details released by Friday’s press time. Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Scott Dressel said detectives are still investigating the shooting.

“Initial information indicates the shooting was accidental,” Dressel said.

Detectives are seeking the public’s help. Anyone with information is being asked to call 863-402-7250 or email detectives@highlandssheriff.org. Anonymous tips can be called into with Heartland Crime Stoppers at 800-226-8477 or visit the website at heartlandcrimestoppers.com.

Two other unrelated shooting deaths that took place in the past month have resulted in the arrest of two county residents on charges related to those crimes.

IMSA to race at Sebring in July

SEBRING — The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship didn’t stop at Sebring in March, as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts was postponed until November. But Sebring International Raceway will be holding an IMSA race before then, as a July race at SIR was added to the WeatherTech calendar on Friday.

The revised IMSA schedule shows the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returning to action on July 3-4 at Daytona International Speedway, with a two-hour and 40-minute night race on July 4.

The series moves to Sebring on July 17-18 for another two-hour and 40-minute sprint race on July 18. While fans will not be permitted at either of the July events, both races will be televised live on NBCSN.

Sebring International Raceway Senior Director, Marketing, Business Development & Communications John Story said the television aspect is huge for the series and for the teams and sponsors, as sports fans have shown a real hunger for live events during the sports shutdown.

It’s also a great opportunity to introduce the IMSA brand to a new group of fans and Story said the shorter race format was ideal for those unfamiliar with the WeatherTech series.

IMSA also announced several more support races for the 12 Hours of Sebring in November. The Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series races have been added, joining the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 Michelin Pilot Challenge, as the additional races for the 12 Hours.

“The addition of a new weekend of racing in July and the Lamborghini and Porsche events on our November weekend is great news for our fans and the entire motorsports industry,” said Wayne Estes, president and general manager of Sebring International Raceway. “The races in July will be tremendous televised events and we could not have asked for better additions to the November schedule than the races IMSA has added.”

Sebring fans are familiar with the Lamborghini Super Trofeo — which held its world finals at SIR in 2015 — and the Porsche GT3 Cup races have always been popular with local fans.

“The Lamborghini races are great and are always highly competitive,” Story said. “Those races will round out a great four days of racing in November.”

IMSA President John Doonan said he was appreciative of everybody to work together to get the schedule updated.

“Our No. 1 priority since March has been to get back to racing as safely and as quickly as possible, and this revised schedule is evidence of that,” Doonan said. “We appreciate the patience, cooperation, and input of our IMSA stakeholders, and we all are very much looking forward to going racing again this summer and putting on amazing races for our audience.”

Naturally, IMSA personnel was thrilled with Friday’s announcement.

“Big THANK YOU for all the @IMSA personnel and especially John Doonan on the hard work in making sure we can go back racing in early July!” Pipo Derani said on Twitter.

“We couldn’t be more excited to get back on track to resume the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona International Speedway! We’re ready for July!” wrote Wayne Taylor Racing on Facebook.

Tickets for the November races will be made available this summer, and tickets for the 2021 SuperSebring activities, which will include the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the FIA WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring and the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 will go on sale this fall.

Gyms to reopen, restaurant seating to expand

TALLAHASSEE — Gyms and fitness centers can start to reopen Monday and restaurants can seat more customers, as Gov. Ron DeSantis continued Friday to take “small steps” with his economic recovery plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

DeSantis said restaurants on Monday can expand their indoor seating to accommodate 50% occupancy, after being limited to 25% occupancy since May 4. Retail stores also will be able to go to 50% occupancy — moves Democrats cautioned need to come with more available testing for the virus.

Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to get back to business after being shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. DeSantis urged people to take precautions as they work out.

“If you’re inside, make sure you’re doing the social distance and then sanitize the machines and surfaces after use,” DeSantis said during a news conference at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside Hospital Clinic in Jacksonville. “I mean, that should be happening anyways. I mean, if you’re sweating on the dip bar, clean the dip bar when you’re done doing dips.”

Also as part of DeSantis’ announcement Friday, local governments can reopen libraries and museums with limited capacity, and they can work with amusement-park operators and short-term rental owners to submit reopening plans to the state.

The closure of theme parks in mid-March has been a major hit to Florida’s economy and tax revenues.

“They should identify the date certain that they believe that they could resume safe operations,” DeSantis said. “They have to provide how they’re going to do it, how they’re going to accommodate the guests, how they’re going to protect the staff, and then they need to have an endorsement from the relevant official in their locality.”

Movie theaters and bars, meanwhile, will remain closed.

DeSantis said he’s working on plans to open summer youth programs and schools, saying the virus tends to attack people who have underlying health conditions or who aren’t in good physical condition. He said Wednesday that plans were being devised for youth sports programs.

“I would say the experience in Florida has been very, very low risk for minors, which I think is a really, really good thing,” DeSantis said. “And I’ve said many times, I would have no problem with my kids playing with other kids or doing that, because I just view them as a low-risk environment. I think there’s a whole bunch of other risks that are more significant that parents happily accept every single day.”

Friday’s announcement was an additional part of a first phase of economic reopening that began May 4. That phase expanded at the start of this week to include allowing barber shops and salons to reopen and to include Palm Beach County, which had been initially left out.

On Thursday, DeSantis included Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the reopening efforts. Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward have the largest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state.

While many Florida businesses started to reduce services and close their doors in mid-March, the state has been on a semi-lockdown since DeSantis issued stay-at-home orders for people and “non-essential” businesses on April 1.

Democratic lawmakers warned Friday that plunging into more reopening without adequate COVID-19 testing being available would use Floridians as economic “guinea pigs.”

“I think we’re sort of shooting in the dark here,” said Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, while at the Old Capitol on Friday. “Because without testing, without much more significant testing of more Floridians, it’s going to be hard for us to make a determination that we’re doing this safely and effectively.”

DeSantis said the state will continue to monitor and prepare for any outbreaks or resurgences of the virus. But while research on a vaccine continues, he said, “everyone should recognize that you will never get to a point where you can just say it’s gone.”

As of Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported the state had 43,210 cases of the coronavirus and 1,875 deaths, including 808 new cases and 48 deaths added since Wednesday. The numbers had not been updated by the Florida DOH by the press time Friday for the Highlands News-Sun.

Democratic legislators argued Friday they’re ready to go back to work in a special session to address problems in the unemployment system and the economic impacts of the virus on the state’s budget, as they’re seeing reports that the budget shortfall could reach as much as $10 billion.

But they contend DeSantis and his business allies are rushing the phased reopening.

“Clearly, we do need to begin to look at opening,” Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said. “But we don’t need to do it too soon, because we’re just got to make it more difficult. This experiment that the governor is harping upon, this experiment is going to utilize the people of Florida as the subject like guinea pigs.”

Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, expressed concerns about workers at bars, Central Florida theme parks and other high-volume businesses if they are reopened.

“Imagine the hundreds and thousands of people going there. How are you going to control them? How are you going to safeguard your employees?” Torres said.