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EMT school offers scholarships to needy students

SEBRING — Bill Miller wants to help students who may want to become paramedics or emergency medical technicians.

He and some business partners want to give free tuition to four needy students — one each from Highlands, DeSoto, Glades, and Hardee counties — to train for the emergency medical field with his training company, Miller Dynamics Inc. in Avon Park.

On Tuesday, while the school’s latest crop of students demonstrated their training on the skid pad at Sebring International Raceway, Miller said he and his wife, Emily, have given classes in continuing education and CPR for three years.

In the last couple of years, they have gotten certified in training paramedics and EMTs. This latest class, graduating this week, will put seven new EMTs and five new paramedics into the job field.

The need is there, according to Annmarie Cornine, instructor with Miller Dynamics who served formerly with Highlands County Emergency Medical Services and is now a firefighter/paramedic with Polk County Fire Rescue.

“There’s more demand than there was several years ago,” Cornine said. “There are never enough hands, even with the COVID thing going on.”

She said the situation has gotten busier since the beginning of the year, for many reasons. Hiring and training got pushed back by the pandemic and classes that have just begun to reopen are not keeping up with demand.

That demand comes both from expansion of emergency medical services throughout central Florida, and also a large population of elderly whom she said either can’t go home because of coronavirus concerns or can’t get home because they are injured or unable to drive the trip on their own.

For whatever reason, she said, thanks to COVID-19, “Whoever is here is here.”

Call volume is up, according to both Cornine and one of her paramedic students, Highlands County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Billy Kingston.

Cornine said his training isn’t necessary for his job; as battalion chief, he supervises scenes. However, Kingston, who holds the minimum EMT training required for the job, said he wanted to know more.

“He has experience behind him to push him forward and be comfortable in the new role,” she said.

Kingston said he just feels more comfortable knowing all aspects of an emergency response.

“[It’s] important to me to be able to know everything that’s going on in the call,” Kingston said. “[It’s] not required for the job, but will give me more ability to function in the call in multifaceted ways.”

Kingston said he got into the training in part because Miller is a mentor to him. Kingston also holds the job of safety director at the Sebring International Raceway — Miller’s former position.

Still, Miller was a paramedic in Fort Myers and Highlands County, Kingston said.

“He can get you to ‘what’s the reality of what you’re learning in the book,’” Kingston said, noting that with his schedule of working C-shift with the county and then taking classes when not on the road, “You kind of live it. [You] work one day and work [it] the next day. It is a pretty big commitment from that perspective.”

Is it as busy out there as Cornine said? Kingston said yes.

“If you look at the roads this time of year, now that people are starting to get out and about more, I think overall there are more people here in the county than typically would be in June and July,” Kingston said.

With a national need for paramedics, Kingston said one challenge is trying to compete with other job markets. Polk, Cornine said, has 650,000-700,000 people. They are typically down about 50-60 paramedics, Kingston said.

Highlands’ only local training facility is South Florida State College, Kingston said. With Emily Miller’s nursing background, he said, she can give the perspective of what a field medic needs to do to provide a high level of care in the field.

The class size was small, which gave them time to ask questions, but a good portion of learning it is having to get out there and do it, Kingston said.

That includes figuring out the best option — aerial or ground transport — to a level 1 trauma center, if needed.

Knowing the area helps, said Kingston, who believes that local recruiting is the best option, especially to attract long-term employees.

For details about the school or its scholarships, call 561-718-0104 or www.millerdynamicsinc.com‎.

State virus count hits 66K

SEBRING — While Highlands had no new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, all the other Heartland counties had new cases including Hardee, which now has more total cases than Highlands.

Highlands County remained at 150 cases and nine virus related deaths, but on Monday Hardee County added five cases for a total of 152 with no deaths, Okeechobee added four resident cases for a total of 143 with no deaths and Glades had one new case for a total of 86 (including 46 cases in correctional facilities) with one death.

Hendry had an increase of 10 resident cases for a total of 573 with 19 deaths and DeSoto had 15 new resident cases bringing its total to 296 with seven deaths. Hendry has had 70 cases in long-term care facilities and 20 in correctional facilities.

The virus count by zip code/municipality includes: Sebring at 65, Avon Park at 46, Lake Placid at 20 and Venus at 4 and in Hardee County, Wauchula at 64 and Bowling Green at 58, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

COVID-19 testing data shows that statewide 1,259,283 have been tested with 5.2% positive, Highlands with 5,244 tested with 2.9% positive, Hardee with 1,272 tested with 12% positive, Glades with 378 tested with 22.8% positive and Hendry with 3,456 tested with 16.6% positive..

Florida had 1,189 new cases on Monday for a total of 66,000 cases, 11,185 hospitalizations and 2,765 deaths.

Nationwide, there have been 1,962,982 cases and 111,097 deaths.

Worldwide, there have been 7,156,598 cases with 407,326 deaths.

Gas prices continue to rise

SEBRING — The old saying “nothing good lasts forever” was proven true in regards to the price of gas. The glut of gas is gone. So are the cheap(er) gas prices from the last nine weeks.

AAA The Auto Club Group predicted the gas price hike on Sunday in a press release. AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins said gas prices have risen 6 cents as of Tuesday. He expected an additional 5-cent increase by Wednesday. AAA anticipates gas to be over $2 per gallon very soon.

The state average is $1.95 as of Tuesday. AAA shows Sebring with an average of $1.92 on Tuesday. The increase can be seen by looking in the not too distant past. Monday’s price for regular was $1.88 and one week ago, the price was $1.87; a month ago regular gas cost $1.81 a gallon.

As of Tuesday, Sebring is just under the $2.60 price per gallon of a year ago. That could all change over the summer.

The most expensive gas is West Palm Beach and Boca Raton at $2.01 while the cheapest can be found in Orlando, Fort Myers and Tampa at $1.87 as of Tuesday.

“For now, wholesale gas prices suggest a state average of about $2 per gallon,” Jenkins said. “Time will tell where they go from here.”

AAA explained oil prices rose 10% last week and the price of oil is $39.55, the highest it has been in nearly three months.

“Crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices are rising in response to positive U.S. employment numbers and OPEC’s agreement to extend crude production cuts,” Jenkins said. “Those increases could be passed along to consumers as early as this week. Florida gas prices could rise an average of 5-10 cents. If that happens, the state average could hit $2 per gallon for the first time in 10 weeks.”

Jenkins also explained more people are returning to work and driving more, which is increasing the demand for gasoline.