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Father's Day during a pandemic

SEBRING — Father’s Day celebrations may look different in 2020 in light of the coronavirus. Smaller, more intimate barbecues and get-togethers will take the place of massive family parties.

Others may choose to celebrate dad with immediate family and stick with exchanging gifts within their own home. Gifts may look different this year as well. Neck ties might be replaced by custom monogrammed face masks. A day at the cinema might be replaced by a day of no chores for the man of the house.

No matter what their celebrations look like, dads are honored on the third Sunday in June.

Dads are celebrated in all different forms, biological, step-fathers, mentors and those men are father figures.

A sermon in West Virginia in July 1908, celebrating the lives of more than 360 men who perished in a mine explosion the previous December was the inspiration for Father’s Day. According to History.com, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was responsible for pushing the idea of celebrating fathers with a special day, like mothers had.

Dodd was one of six children who were raised by a widower she wanted to honor. Dodd got support from local churches, YMCAs and retailers. On June 19, 1910, just two years over after the West Virginia sermon, the first Father’s Day event took place in Spokane, Wash.

Controversy in the 1920s-30s nearly banished Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in lieu of one holiday, “Parent’s Day.” Eventually, President Richard Nixon signed Father’s Day as a federal holiday in 1972.

Despite the pandemic, the National Retail Federation said 75% consumers will celebrate Father’s Day, though, 58% of them said the festivities may be virtual.

The NRF expected consumer spending to reach $17 billion dollars, up from 2019’s estimated $16 billion. The NRF also estimated the consumers would spend an average of $149. In comparison, the average spent on mothers is $208.

No matter the size of the celebration, the amount spent of gifts, all fathers and father-figures deserve to be honored on their special day.

AdventHealth Sebring unveils Heart and Vacular Center

SEBRING — Friday saw AdventHealth Sebring formally open its new expanded Heart and Vascular Center.

Dr. Thomas Shimshak, interventional cardiologist and head of the department, said the $17-million facility, with four catheterization labs and 24 patient rooms should help handle the increased demand the hospital has seen for cardiac services in recent years.

When asked whether increased numbers of patients drove the hospital to expand cardiovascular programs or the expansion of the program drew more patients, Shimshak said it was a little of both.

The number of people using the program used to “acutely peak” during the season when winter visitors would come to Florida, Shinshak said, with a drop in patients during the summer.

“But over the last two years, we’ve not seen that dip,” Shimshak said. “Our volumes have been sustained, but then they become even more acute during the winter months.”

The net effect, he said, is that the program had reached capacity and needed to expand bed capacity with beds dedicated specifically to cardiovascular services with specially-trained nursing staff.

“So the [new cardiac] unit made sense,” Shimshak said.

The expansion has included a fourth catheterization lab and new services to care for patients with heart rhythm disorders.

That has meant the addition of Dr. Safi Ahmed, an electrophysiologist who has come on staff as a full-time on-site doctor, making 14 doctors now in the program.

Prior to this, Shimshak said, the hospital had Dr. Daniel Friedman come over from Bradenton, once or twice a week.

“We have more volume [now] than we could take care of with that model,” Shimshak said.

Shimshak said the program added another interventional cardiologist on staff a year ago — Dr. Shahnaz Punjani — making a total of three of that specialty in the program.

Randy Surber, CEO of AdventHealth Sebring Medical Center, said the expansion was needed for a program already, as he said, ranked among the top 1% for outcomes and quality measures.

“[And so] it’s a program we’re extraordinarily proud of. We have tremendous leadership, with Dr. [Thomas] Shimshak being the medical director,” Surber said.

Surber said the goal, since Heartland Florida already has a large need for cardiovascular care, having grown by 8-12% on average each year, is to add five more physicians to the program this year.

“We’ve already recruited two of the five,” Surber said, Ahmed being one of those. “So it’s an exciting time. It really is, and we desperately needed the additional bed, quite honestly.”

The 24,000-square-foot facility is billed as the only certified heart and vascular center and primary stroke care center in the Heartland of Florida, the facility is expected to be up and running fully by June 29.

Since the original opening of the Heart and Vascular Center in 2009, AdventHealth Sebring has performed more than 4,300 successful angioplasties and has included expanded cardiac services to AdventHealth Lake Placid.

Highlands jumps again to 215; 3 ALF staff infected

SEBRING — Highlands County’s number of people infected with COVID-19 has jumped again another nine cases to 215.

Three of those 215, according to Saturday morning’s reports from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), are staff members at local assisted living/long-term care facilities.

One worker tested positive, each, at Highlands Fellowship Home at the Fairway, formerly Fairway Pines, at 5959 Sun ‘N Lake Blvd. in Sebring; Florida Mentor Intermediate Care Facility 55 E. College Drive in Avon Park, and Kenilworth Care and Rehabilitation Center at 3011 Kenilworth Blvd. in Sebring.

Among Highlands’ 215 confirmed positive cases, total hospitalizations have been 47, with 46 residents and 1 non-resident. Seventeen people are currently hospitalized and the death rate is still nine.

Highlands had its first reported positive case on March 21.

Statewide, Florida gained another 4,049 cases over a 24-hour period, hitting a new total of 93,797 cases.

The statewide death toll went up 40 people to 3,144.

Tests administered in Highlands County have gone up another 92 tests to 6,481, with 6,263 negative results: A 3.3% positive rate.

That includes 213 Florida residents who have the virus, out of 6,200 tested, and two non-Florida residents, out of 63 tested.

None of the tests were inconclusive, but five are still awaiting results.

Positive cases in the county have a median age of 51, with 102 males and 111 females.

FDOH details of ethnicity and race for the positive cases in each of the state’s 67 counties, show that among those infected in Highlands County are 86 Hispanic, 113 non-Hispanic, 28 “other” and 8 with no data.

Cases by race for Highlands County have been amended on the FDOH online COVID-19 Date and Surveillance Dashboard to read 137 white, 40 black, 28 other and eight unknown/no data.

Surrounding Heartland counties’ numbers are as follows:

- DeSoto County increased eight cases from 431 to 439.

- Glades County remains unchanged at 121

- Hardee County increased 28 cases from 244 to 272.

- Okeechobee County increased 10 cases from 230 to 240.

In Polk County, just to the north with 650,000-700,000 population, positive cases increased 114 overnight from 1,856 positive cases with 406 hospitalizations and 77 deaths to 1,970 positive cases, 410 hospitalizations and 78 deaths.

Miami-Dade continues to lead the state in positive cases with 25,080 cases — 473 of them non-Florida residents — up 704 cases from Friday, and with 874 deaths — 10 more than Friday.

Saturday was yet another day of four-digit increases in cases, statewide, a 17-day trend that started on June 3.

Ten counties had three-digit increases, which accounted for 2,888 of the statewide increase from Friday:

- Broward — 391

- Collier — 105

- Dade — 704

- Duval — 211

- Hillsborough — 337

- Manatee — 137

- Orange — 295

- Palm Beach — 309

- Pinellas — 285

- Polk — 114

Nationally, the number of positive cases is 2,228,368, up from 2.19 million on Friday, with 119,241 deaths — up 588 from Friday.

Worldwide, the number of positive cases has increased to 8,705,724, with 461,037 deaths.

Free testing will take place twice this week at the Highlands County office of FDOH, 8:30-11:30 a.m., Monday and Friday at 7205 South George Blvd. in Sebring.

Registration is required by calling 863-386-6040.

Anyone who has or develops symptoms before receiving test results should contact their healthcare provider or call FDOH at 863-386-6040 to schedule an appointment.

For more information on COVID-19, visit floridahealthcovid19.gov. In Highlands County, call 863-402-6800 or text hccovid to 888777.

Recycling to resume June 29

SEBRING — If you’ve held on to your plastic bottles and soda cans for the last month, you can get rid of them soon.

Recycling services in the unincorporated areas of Highlands County will resume on June 29, according to a press release from the Board of County Commission.

Anyone still using their green carts as overflow for garbage will need to stop that, hose them out, and have them on the curb — filled with recyclables — before 7 a.m. on their scheduled collection day.

Recycling has been on hold since March 25, when the county commission directed County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. to suspend recycling services temporarily.

Since March, county residents have had the option to use both the blue and green bins for household garbage and place them curbside on their scheduled collection day.

Howerton, who also serves as solid waste director, said at the time that Waste Connections, the county’s contract garbage hauler, had difficulty trying to offload recyclable materials at out-of-county facilities, also due to coronavirus.

Until that were to change, Howerton said, there would be no place for the hauler to take recycled materials.

In late April, Howerton told the Highlands News-Sun that the recycling materials plant for Waste Connection had not reopened or returned to full operations, in large part because of shutdowns under the pandemic.

In a workshop on June 2, county commissioners said no to the hauler’s request for a rate hike to help cover lost revenue from a tight, almost nonexistent market and lost loads due to contamination with household garbage.

Howerton pointed out then that contamination of recycling loads has been high — as much as 40% — despite efforts to educate the public on what can and what can’t go into a recycling bin.

He now says that the ideal is zero to 10%, but contamination needs to be at least below 20% to be feasible.

Howerton said the county was collecting approximately 400 tons of recyclables a month before the stop in services.

With the restart of services, the county will only accept aluminum and steel cans, plastic bottles/jars and clean cardboard, in an effort to help reduce load contamination.

Paper items, such as paper mailers, loose paper sheets, newspaper, magazines and such will no longer be on the list of accepted recyclable items.

The county already does not recycle plastic bags of any kind. Recyclable items must be placed loose in the green cart, not bagged.

Discarded plastic bags should go in the blue cans, county officials said.

A good rule of thumb about what is recyclable or not, county officials said, is “when you know, in it goes; when in doubt, throw it out.”

Another change is service involves the Highlands County Recycling Center on Skipper Road, which will only open on Mondays, starting June 29.

Residents may still bring items to the county landfill at 12700 Arbuckle Creek Road in Sebring, which is open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

For details, call 863-655-0005 or 863-402-6505, or follow Highlands County BCC on Facebook by searching for highlandsfl.gov and on Twitter @HighlandsFLBCC.