News Cast 10/2

News Cast for October 2nd:

Okeechobee County Commissioners met with officials from the local Department of Health (DOH) and Emergency Management for a status report on the COVID-19 in the county and the commissioners got some rather sobering news. Local DOH spokesperson Tiffany Collins says Okeechobee County currently has the highest positive rate of the virus in the state with outbreaks in the state correctional facility having over two hundred positive cases of the virus, accounting for a positive rate of 13 percent, considerably higher than the state’s average of three percent. Local long term care facilities are also experiencing outbreaks, reporting 123 residents with the virus, accounting for eight percent, with the state’s average being at seven percent in that category. Collins says the correctional facility is testing almost every day and while the numbers have been fluctuating, they are still reporting a high number of cases but she assured the commissioners that they are doing everything possible to help bring those numbers down.

Collins says there have been some outbreaks at a daycare facility as well and people need to be more cognizant of following CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Officials from the Okeechobee County Emergency Management Center say there will be two sessions of a special virtual class called SKYWARN being taught this month by members of the National Weather Service in Melbourne. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says it has been a part of the National Weather Service since the 1960’s, to train people to be weather spotters in their areas. They would report severe and hazardous weather to help meteorologists make life saving decisions in the event of a severe weather situation. Smeykal says these weather spotters are not “storm chasers” in any way.

Smeykal says these weather spotters are invaluable because as advanced as Doppler radar has become over the years, it has its limitations. The first virtual SKYWARN class will be taught on Thursday afternoon, October 15th and the second virtual class will be taught on Wednesday evening, October 28th. If you’re interested, you can get more information by calling the Emergency Management Center, the National Weather Service in Melbourne or by downloading the Okeechobee Emergency Management app to your smartphone.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday morning rose only by one but that was unfortunately coupled with another fatality.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,576 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities are now up to 28. 1,573 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to an even one hundred with the median age of the patients now at forty. 175 county residents have been hospitalized.  Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste. The local state of emergency in the county was renewed by the county commissioners yesterday and it officially began today. It should last until mid-November.

Overall, as of yesterday morning, the state has 709,144 positive COVID-19 cases since March and we’ve hit an unpleasant milestone as we’ve now surpassed the seven hundred thousand mark in the number of FL residents affected as there are now 700,602. Florida’s death toll is at 14,444 with 44,320 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations. The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm now every Tuesday thru Saturday. This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. Any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121. Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more. If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at or the Center for Disease Control at

On the arrest report:

60 year old Penny Louise McDonald of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a warrant from Jackson County for violating probation on past charges of introducing contraband into a detention facility. She’s being held without bond.

41 year old Andrew Trevino Riojas of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving following a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at $250.00 dollars.

36 year old John Ashford Hair of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of domestic battery. He’s being held without bond.

60 year old Steven Lee Garrett of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for past charges of driving on a suspended license. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

34 year old Desiree Nicole Paulus of Okeechobee was arrested for two counts of petit theft. Her bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

36 year old Candice Sabonia Jackson of Okeechobee was arrested by police on warrants from Martin County for failing to appear in court on past charges of driving on a suspended license and driving a vehicle with an unassigned license tag. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

55 year old Jo-Ann Lynn Long of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license and without a valid vehicle registration after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.