News Update for 4/7/20

As national health officials warn residents to brace themselves for a terrible week from the Coronavirus, Highlands County has added another case. There now are 36 people who have tested positive for the disease here. Florida Department of Health numbers still do not track how many have recovered from the virus.
The age range spans from 0-85 years. there are 22 men and 14 women. Eleven have been hospitalized. Two people are said to have had the Coronavirus as a contributing factor in their deaths.
So far, of the 282 tests given locally, 241 have tested negative.

Highlands County commissioners will get together in regular session this morning. Reportedly, they will attempt a virtual meeting – something the school board tried with limited success.
Among other things, they are expected to ratify a work-at-home program instituted last month in an effort to social distance employees while still performing their jobs.
In other action, commissioners are expected to approve the sale of some county-owned property and re-name a couple of roads. Reportedly, they also will be asked to approve a burn-ban for the county.

Events have been cancelled left and right due to the Coronavirus. Now, Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman has issued an edict calling for a halt to the annual Easter Weekend gathering in the Highway Park neighborhood south of Lake Placid. Blackman says his office will not allow any large public gatherings until the threat of the disease has significantly diminished.
On Easter Weekend each year, more than a thousand people flood
Highway Park for a giant party. It sometimes has sparked violence – including multiple homicides. Blackman said that all regularly scheduled events for that weekend have been cancelled in Highway Park – including that annual party.

Highlands County has established a local number for residents who have questions about the Coronavirus locally. It rings at 863-402-6800. It remains unclear how busy operators have been there.
Meanwhile, officials say if citizens have general questions about the Coronavirus, they can call the state’s 24/7 hotline at(866) 779-6121.
For those with Corona-like symptoms or possible exposure, authorities advise a call to their primary care doctor. Those without a primary care doctor, should instead call the local health department at 863-386-6040 or Central Florida Health Care at 863-452-3000.
Once tested, they ask residents to self-monitor and self-isolate until test results are received.

Three people reportedly were arrested for violating probation after their vehicle crashed into a Lakeland home.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said 42-year-old Sarena Stokes was driving with two other passengers when her car left the roadway and crashed into a house.
No one inside the house was injured. Stokes was treated for a broken arm. Stokes and her passenger, 47-year-old Donald Reams, pushed past residents and fled the scene but later returned. The third occupant, 51-year-old John Sumner, remained.
All three have been charged with violating their probation. Stokes was also charged with leaving the scene. Reams also faces battery charges.

Authorities say a Florida man fatally shot his wife and two teenage sons before turning the gun on himself.
Haines city police say officers found four people dead after responding to a 911 call at the family’s home Sunday morning. Police say 43-year-old Mark Joseph had called 911 and told dispatchers that he had shot his wife and children. Police say he then told the dispatcher that he intended to shoot himself and that the door would be unlocked.
Responding officers found all four family members dead from gunshot wounds to the head.