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Family RV park to break ground soon

SEBRING — A new luxury RV resort coming to the City on the Circle promises to be nothing like Cousin Eddie’s RV experience in “National Lampoon” fame.

Sebring Square RV Resort will be breaking ground soon off DeSoto Road. The target date for opening is February 2022. Vice President and partner Chris Miller of Sunlight Resorts said they will break ground on the property any day now.

The large lots will have a 20-by-70-foot pad on them with a 50 and 30 amp hookup.

“We have traveled across the country visiting RV parks,” Miller said. “We know what people want. We have done our homework.”

The “we” that Miller speaks of is his other partners, David Jenkins and Tristan Farrell. Miller was born and raised in Sebring and graduated from Sebring High School, so he is very familiar with the area. The men have five different properties that are either open, under construction or in engineering. The closest open park is Resort at Canopy Oaks in Lake Wales.

The Sebring Square property will be for all ages and will be dog friendly. The clubhouse will be 8,700 square feet with a kitchen that guests can use. The clubhouse will offer a gym to those wishing to stay in shape. A game room with pool tables will provide fun for all ages.

The clubhouse will boast a large pool and a tiki bar for relaxing. Amenities also include a shuffleboard court, bocce ball and the increasingly popular pickleball courts.

Cabins will be available for rent and some park models will be for sale. Guests can stay nightly, weekly, yearly or become residents. Miller said they will start taking lot reservations in about three months.

“Sebring is a great market for the RV world. There are no new RV parks in the area,” Miller said.

COVID has been surprisingly beneficial to the RV world as the shutdown of flights, cruises and other industries, people took to RVing to get away with the safety of their families.

Sunlight Resorts will also have Rum Runners, a 20-acre park with 110 lots on it to open off Brunns Road in Sebring and could be ready in the fall of 2022. Palm Breeze of Punta Gorda is to also open in the fall of 2022. Champions Run is set to open in Ocala this fall.

For more information on the properties, visit Sunlightresorts.com.

According to the RV Industry Association, RV shipments were at 46,286 in February 2021 were up 30.1% over the same time last year across the country. There are 11.2 million households in American with an RV. Of those owners, 22% are between 18 and 34 years old.

Burlington store coming to Shelby Crossing

SEBRING — The former Gold’s Gym location in The Shops at Shelby Crossing is being renovated by Burlington, the New Jersey-based company formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory.

Burlington is known primarily as a clothing store, but it also carries other items such as home décor and pet supplies so it also falls into the department store category.

It operates on an “off-price” business model based on discount pricing by purchasing over-produced or excess goods.

The City of Sebring Building Department confirmed that Burlington has a permit to remodel the former Gold’s Gym location, which closed in November 2019 after being in business for 11 years.

The Shops at Shelby Crossing was built in 2007.

Burlington’s website shows that, in March, new stores opened in Florida in Doral, Hialeah, Tampa and Orlando. Grand openings are scheduled for April 16 in Largo and April 30 in Venice.

The listing of grand openings ends with three new stores in July. Sebring is not on the list.

Highlands News-Sun has attempted to contact Burlington, but has not yet received a response.

Currently, the closest Burlington store is 55 miles from Sebring at the Posner Village Shopping Mall, with the next closest being 65 miles away in the Lakeland Square Mall.

Burlington is a division of Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corporation with about 740 stores in 40 states and Puerto Rico, with its corporate headquarters located in Burlington Township, New Jersey.

Burlington Stores began in 1972 as a family-run business, with one store in Burlington, New Jersey. In those early days, serving the customer was about delivering a broad selection of off-price coats and outerwear.

The company started opening more stores across the U.S. and expanded its product assortment to include ladies’ sportswear, men’s active wear, and children’s apparel, while staying true to our off-price model.

In the ensuing four decades, Burlington’s product selection has grown to include baby, home, beauty and its name changed to Burlington Stores to reflect the breadth of its product offerings.

Transgender athlete ban heads to full house

TALLAHASSEE — A proposal to ban transgender females from taking part in girls’ or women’s high-school and college sports is teed up for consideration by the full House, after a Republican-controlled education panel overrode fiery objections Tuesday.

The House Education & Employment Committee voted 15-6 to approve the proposal (HB 1475) sponsored by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, with Rep. James Bush, D-Miami, the only Democrat supporting the bill.

Dubbed the “Fairness In Women’s Sports Act,” the proposal would make participation in athletics contingent on determining a student’s “biological sex,” a disputed term that refers to the sex assigned at birth.

Tuck said “inherent, biological differences between men and women” give males an edge in sporting events.

“American sprinter Allyson Felix is the fastest woman in the world. She has more gold medals than Usain Bolt,” Tuck said, referring to a famed male sprinter. “But yet, her personal best in the 400 meters can be beaten by hundreds of high school boys.”

Rep. Kristen Arrington, D-Kissimmee, questioned whether the bill is needed, as governing organizations of high school and college sports already have rules addressing the issue.

“The Florida High School Athletic Association and the NCAA, they already have existing policies in place for almost a decade for transgender girls to compete fairly with other girls,” Arrington said. “Why is this policy not already sufficient?”

Tuck cited differences in the organizations’ policies and said her bill “strikes a balance and makes sure that women aren’t competing unfairly against biological men.”

Arrington proposed amendments aimed at softening the measure, but Republicans rejected them. One proposal would have exempted transgender girls who have taken hormone- replacement therapy and testosterone blockers for a year.

Abigail O’Laughlin, a former high-school athlete from Okaloosa County, opposed the measure.

“I am quite honestly offended that the claim of protecting women is being used to exclude transgender individuals, when there are far bigger issues at stake when it comes to equity for women,” O’Laughlin told the committee.

Bill opponents and proponents who spoke during the meeting both contended that “science” backs their positions.

Paul Arons, a physician who said his practice has included treating transgender people, took issue with proponents’ assertions that the bill is in keeping with scientific consensus.

“As a scientist, I want to represent science accurately. Young transgender subjects of HB 1475 have a scientifically validated female gender identity. This bill is an assault on their personhood,” Arons said.

But Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the Christian Family Coalition of Florida, also pointed to science as he supported the proposal.

“Please follow the science, follow the biology. A yes vote is a vote for fairness and a vote for equal rights for women and women’s sports,” Verdugo said.

The proposal would give a legal cause of action to athletes who have been “deprived of an athletic opportunity.”

Under the measure, students’ schools would have to resolve disputes “by requesting that the student provide a health examination and consent form or other statement signed by the student’s personal health care provider which must verify the student’s biological sex.”

Opponents argue that Florida has had a negligible amount of complaints about transgender athletes participating in sports, and Tuck pointed only to out-of-state disputes when trying to illustrate a need for the legislation.

Arrington, like other opponents, cautioned that passing such legislation will lead to sports organizations such as the NCAA and large corporations taking their business to other states.

“It’s discriminatory and bad for business and our economy. Our children don’t need this now. These kids have survived school shootings, underfunding, overcrowding, and now a pandemic. This is the last thing they need to contend with. Let them play sports,” Arrington said.

The issue has emerged as one of the most hotly contested topics of the 2021 legislative session, and opponents Tuesday decried a “coordinated, muti-state attack” on transgender people.

More than 25 other states with Republican-controlled state houses have introduced or passed similar measures. In March, more than 500 college athletes signed an open letter addressed to NCAA President Mark Emmert about legislation in other states.

“You have been silent in the face of hateful legislation in states that are slated to host championships, even though those states are close to passing anti-transgender legislation,” the letter said.

A similar Senate bill (SB 2012) has been approved by two committees and would need approval from the Rules Committee to be considered by the full chamber.

The Senate measure, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, is less stringent than the outright ban proposed in the House. It includes an exception for “persons who transition from male to female” if they meet certain conditions, such as specified testosterone levels.

Office closing early

As of today, Wednesday, the Highlands News-Sun office will be closing at 3 p.m. daily for a short period of time. If you visit the office, please be sure to wear a mask and knock on the door for entry. For further help, please call the office at 863-385-6155.

County, state and national COVID numbers on rise
  • Updated

Highlands County had a bad showing when it came to daily coronavirus data when the Florida Department of Health release the daily update. Coming on the heals of a holiday weekend with low COVID-19 numbers, the county and state are national numbers are on the rise.

The county more than doubled its new cases at 29. The new infections brought the caseload to a total of 7,795. Of those cases, 7,707 were from residents and 88 were from non-residents.

The highest infection rate on Tuesday was from the 35 to 44 years old with eight new cases, or 28%, of the new cases.

There have been three new deaths reported by FDOH overnight. There have been 326 people in the county who have died from COVID.

Despite a significant increase in testing, the positivity did not go down. In fact, it went up a smidge. Out of 288 tests processed, there were 199 negative tests, which produced a daily positivity rate of 12.72%. In comparison, Monday’s report showed 88 tests with 77 negative and a 12.5% positivity rate.

There have been 618 hospitalizations. Hospitalizations still make up 8% of all cases, which has not budged. The Agency for Health Care Administration showed 32 patients with COVID as their main diagnosis.

There have been 682 cases (9%) to come out of long-term care facilities. FDOH shows 85 residents or staff member deaths from long-term facilities.

Corrections has seen 126 cases of coronavirus. The county’s median age was 42 years old with an overall median age of 52 years of age.

Florida saw a big jump in its number of new cases with 5,556. That was more than 2,000 above the previous day’s cases. The additional cases brings the overall total number of cases to 2,090,862 since the beginning of the pandemic. The cases can be divided by 2,051,647 residents and 39,215 non-residents who were infected with the virus.

Deaths nearly doubled overnight at 70. The new deaths bring the state’s overall death toll to 34,434. Of those deaths, 33,780 people were residents and 654 were not residents.

Similar to the county, the state saw a sharp increase in testing at 79,282 processed with 73,823 negative rate. Again, despite the increase in tests, the positivity only went down to 6.89%.

AHCA showed 3,020 people are hospitalized in the state due to COVID. The median age was 35.

The FDOH shows 9,922,411 doses of vaccine have been administered. They say the Johnson & Johnson counts as one dose while those with one dose of the two-shot vaccines count as one and those who have taken both the initial and booster shot will count as two.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its variant list on Monday night instead of the traditional Sunday night update, and Florida has now seen 3,191 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant. The U.S. has now seen a total of 15,511 cases.

The other two variants being tracked by the CDC (South African and Brazilian) have seen much lower numbers, with there being 374 cases of the South African (B.1.351) variant and 289 cases of the Brazilian (P.1) variant.

Florida leads the country in Brazilian variant cases with 64, although Illinois has seen some new cases and now has a total of 59.

The South African variant seems to be prevalent in the Southeast, with South Carolina having 75 cases, Florida has had 24 cases and Georgia has seen 22.

Numbers in the United States doubled from the previous day, although it was known they were going to be higher with a number of states not reporting on Easter Sunday. States reported 68,564 new cases on Monday and 380 deaths. Deaths were up 70 from the previous day, so a little bit lower than anticipated, although the death-reporting lag could be making its presence felt here.

There were 1.43 million tests reported Monday, which is pretty close to the seven-day average.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the United States has seen 30.82 million cases and had 556,185 virus-related deaths.

Globally, there have been 132.1 million cases and 2.86 million deaths.