News Cast 11/12

News Cast for November 12th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning after three weeks and they looking to proclaim November 18th thru the 25th as Farm City Week in the county and November 19th as Rural Health Day. Commissioners will also look to approve a new position of Fire Prevention Officer for the county fire department and get a progress report on the county’s jail expansion and renovation project. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock and it will be held in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating in the courthouse will be limited due to social distancing guidelines and the meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the Okeechobee County Commissioners, during a meeting they had early last month, they honored Okeechobee native Gregg Maynard for his services to veterans of the US Armed Forces in Okeechobee and other neighboring communities. Maynard, a US Army Veteran who served in the war in Bosnia in 1995, has been doing carpentry work such as building wheelchair ramps and bathroom re-modeling for veterans as well as helping them get benefits and navigating the Veterans Administration (VA) system. Maynard says he got the desire to do this some years ago after he got a call from a friend who needed him to build a wheelchair ramp for a 90 year old veteran in Okeechobee (Maynard Proclamation 1). When he’s not helping veterans, the 45 year old Maynard drives a truck part-time. Maynard’s information on his work can be found on Facebook under “Thank You For Your Service.”

Last summer, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated funding for small businesses in the county and people should be reminded that that same CARES Act addresses the issue of housing relief. Joy Jarriel, the coordinator of Okeechobee County’s State Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP), says the county received a little over $240 thousand dollars back in August to address the needs of county residents who need help with foreclosure and eviction prevention brought about by a lack of income from under-employment or flat out unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jarriel says income-eligible people can apply for these funds and the amount received is based on individual cases. Besides foreclosure and eviction prevention, the funding is also designed to address re-housing assistance (Jarriel-Housing Relief Reminder 1). Jarriel says applicants must have proper identification from all who live in the home as well as other documents such as tax forms. The funding will be administered until it’s all gone or until December 1st whichever comes first. This program also applies to mortgage issues. To apply for the funding, please call the SHIP Coordinator’s office at (863) 763-9312, extension 6 or email Jarriel at jjarriel@co.okeechobee.fl.us.

In order to enhance public safety, awareness and protection, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department has announced that a man who is registered as a sex offender has moved into the community. 59 year old Tony Andrews Jackson has moved into a home on the 16 hundred block of NE 5th Street. He is African-American and he stands five feet, nine inches tall, weighs 215 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes. Jackson was convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a minor in Okeechobee County in 2011. Jackson has served the full sentence that was imposed on him by the court system. Sheriff’s officials say this bulletin is used for information purposes only. Citizen abuse of this information to threaten, intimidate or harass Jackson or other registered sexual offenders in the community will not be tolerated under any circumstances. If you need any other information, you can call the Sheriff’s Department or you can log on to the Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators website at www.fdle.state.fl.us for more information on Jackson or other sex offenders in your area.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday unfortunately rose by ten more cases but fortunately the number of fatalities stayed the same.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,833 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities still number at 43. 1,828 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from infant to one hundred with the median age of the patients being an even forty. Hospitalized county residents now number at 196, rising by one. Those who’ve 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.

As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 858,012 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 846,321 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 17,300 with 51,115 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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

32 year old Ronald Wade Palmer of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for contempt of court when he failed to appear to answer for charges of domestic battery. He’s being held without bond.

33 year old David Lee Garrett of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of the controlled substance fentanyl without a prescription, drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. His bond is set at four thousand dollars.

41 year old Christopher Van Hatcher of Okeechobee was arrested by police for cocaine possession. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.