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LP Middle has 65 students quarantined

LAKE PLACID — Sixty-five students have been quarantined at Lake Placid Middle School after one student tested positive for COVID-19, according to Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge.

Based on contact tracing, it was determined which students had to go on quarantine.

Due to heat advisories, there were larger numbers of students in the gym during physical education classes, which accounted for the majority of these quarantine numbers, Lethbridge explained.

All families have been notified of the possible exposure and the preventative quarantine steps have been taken, he said.

Earlier this week two players had tested positive on the Avon Park High School volleyball team, prompting the quarantine of the entire team – 15 players, and one coach.

Also earlier this week, Lethbridge said there was one positive student at Sebirng High and one positive employee at the Kindergarten Learning Center.

Students are quarantined 14 days since the last day they were exposed to the positive case, Lethbridge explained.

Near the end of August the district had positive cases in students or teachers at the following schools: Avon Elementary, Avon Park High, Hill-Gustat Middle, the Kindergarten Learning Center, Sebring Middle and Sun ‘N Lake Elementary.

At that time, Lethbridge advised if anyone has had their child tested and is awaiting the results, the child should not be sent to school.

He said the district has had several instances with individuals, who should have had their students stay at home, but have sent them to school while awaiting results and that should not happen.

Never Forget 9/11, 19 years later

SEBRING – Nineteen years ago today, 19 {span}Al{/span}{span}-{/span}{span}Qaida{/span} terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia. The attack killed nearly 3,000 people.

According to the 911 Memorial & Museum, 2,753 people were killed in New York at “Ground Zero,” 184 people were killed at the Pentagon, and 40 people were killed on Flight 93. Passengers on Flight 93 found out about the attacks and battled hijackers for control of the plane. It would crash into an empty field in Pennsylvania just 20 minutes away from Washington D.C. by air.

Once the second tower was hit, there was no doubt the first plane was not an accident. Americans knew they were under attack. The nation was gripped in fear as they watched images of the towers falling and saw people jump to their deaths. Thousands of people ran from the Pentagon and World Trade Centers as first responders ran into burning buildings to save lives. September 11 was the end of watch for many first responders.

Some events through history are so heinous or traumatic that you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing, for example Pearl Harbor and the day JFK was assassinated. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would refer to Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy,” 911 would qualify as well. Americans adopted the slogan “Never Forget 911.” During the COVID-19 pandemic most local memorial ceremonies have been canceled.

Readers shared their 911 memories with the Highlands News-Sun via social media. Young or old, they remembered exactly where they were and what they felt during and after the attacks. Many shared the sense of unity and patriotism Americans shared after the attacks.

Juan Quinones said he was working for the City of New York, just three blocks from Ground Zero. The building he was working in was evacuated and closed for a week. Quinones said the scene was very chaotic and he wanted to get home. With the subway closed, buses were overloaded with people trying to flee, it took him longer to get home than normal.

“I got on the train. While riding the train, people started screaming as the towers were seen crumbling down and people flying out of the buildings to their deaths,” Quinones said.

He said it was very sad. He said cell phones were not working, which made communication difficult.

Sylvia Blackmore didn’t believe what she saw on television was reality.

“I was at home that day, TV was on, I thought they were playing an excerpt from a movie until I paid attention and became aware of what was happening ... so very sad. (I) Called my husband in tears,” she said.

Several teachers were in classrooms when they got the news. Some were told not to turn on television/radios while others watched it in class with their students. Readers who were students when 9/11 happened, like Echo Grace, who was in middle school, described how they wanted the security of home when they found out. Grace said when homeroom let out, students were “running and freaking out.”

“My friend that was in band found me and took me to the live feed just as the second plane hit the other tower,” she said. “Everyone was on the payphones trying to call their parents.”

Patti Kennedy was having breakfast at the Village Inn with friends and the server told them when the first plane hit the north tower and a bit later revealed another plane hit the south tower. She said she felt like the world was ending and called her parents and kids when she arrived home and told them she loved them.

“I miss the USA that existed for awhile after that terrible day, the one where we were proud and loved our country, and the one where we came together despite our differences.”

Highlands adds two cases; Florida adds 211 deaths

SEBRING — Highlands County had gained just two new cases of COVID-19, based on Thursday’s update from the Florida Department of Health, for a total of 1,947, with deaths holding at 69.

Of local cases, 21 were hospitalized.

The states of Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming, with 39, 58, and 42 deaths, respectively, have had fewer deaths than Highlands County.

Highlands is still ranked as “spreading” by a county-by-county national database and COVID-19 dashboard at, where Highlands County was listed as “epidemic” slightly more than a month ago.

Currently, the county has 296 cases per 100,000 persons, based on population estimates of 105,069 people, and 189 cases confirmed in the last 14 days.

Florida gained another 2,583 cases to hit 654,731 cases statewide on Thursday, with another 211 deaths, for a total of 12,326 Florida residents now dead from the pandemic.

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

- Hendry County added another case to now have 2,005 cases with still 41 deaths.

- DeSoto County still has 1,526 cases and 23 deaths.

- Okeechobee County added six cases for a total of 1,295, with still 20 deaths.

- Hardee County added five more cases for 1,190 cases, with still nine deaths.

- Glades County added the most overnight, with 22 more cases, but still has the lowest local total with 468 cases and four deaths.

Calhoun County ended a four-day streak of no cases by adding four new cases Thursday.

Franklin County ended its two-day zero-case streak Thursday by adding three new cases.

DeSoto had a second day with zero new cases.

Nationwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, there have been 6,381,503 cases — up 47,345 from the last report — and 191,444 deaths, up 1,472.

Worldwide, the pandemic has seen 27,968,576 cases, up 340,386 from Wednesday, and 905,624 deaths, up 6,867.

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.

Nursing homes to allow some visitors

SEBRING — Families who have loved ones in long-term care facilities got some welcome news Sept. 1. Governor Ron DeSantis announced nursing homes could receive general visitors once again. However, there are some strict rules that have to be followed.

Nursing homes were put on lockdown in March to outside visitors in order to protect the most vulnerable population.

Visitation will only be allowed at facilities that have been COVID-19 free for two weeks, including residents and staff. “If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the facility must immediately cease all indoor and outdoor visitation in the event that staff person was in the facility in the 10 days prior to the positive test,” stated the emergency order.

Currently there are five long-term care facilities that have positive residents or staff as of Sept. 8 and would not be able to accept visitors.

Residents will pick out five people who are over 18 years old and only two people can visit at a time. Appointments to visit are made in advance. These “essential caregivers” are able to help with daily needs even if there is a positive coronavirus case in a facility. Social distancing does not apply to “essential caregivers.”

The Palms of Sebring has both assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. The Palms Marketing Director Julia Mercer said The Palms was has done an exceptional job with keeping their facilities COVID-free.

“We probably have 450 people come through our doors everyday, with only one positive, that’s pretty good,” Mercer said. “We are very proud of that. We have really good support from the families. I give them kudos. They know this is hard.”

Many residents “visit” with their relatives on phone apps such as FaceTime, while others visit family through the window. An in-person visit would be great and lift spirits.

“Knowing it’s coming soon is a huge help,” Mercer said.

Mercer said at The Palms, the dining rooms have been reopened with limited capacity and rotated dining times.

The visits will look different, and masks and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) will have to be worn. Masks must be worn by everyone, even if they are not touching the resident. The facilities are to have enough staff to manage the visitors and be able to provide PPEs for staff. They must have disinfecting supplies and use them.

Facilities have the responsibility to make sure no visitors are positive for COVID-19, are not symptomatic and not quarantining. The facility staff must screen visitors, and set a limit of guests.

Visitors will share some responsibility for the residents safety as well. Just like the other CDC guidelines, visitors should stay home if they feel sick or have a fever.

The full emergency order is posted on the Florida Department of Health’s website at

We remember

In remembrance of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, the Highlands News-Sun will not publish any world news today. That will resume with the Saturday edition. A list of those who lost their lives this day 19 years ago can be found on pages A6 and A7.