News Cast 11/16

News Cast for November 16th:

An Okeechobee man is dead following a vehicle accident early Wednesday morning in Palm Beach County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 37 year old Ernesto Ramirez was driving a semi-truck southbound on Highway 27 in South Bay a little after six o’clock when the driver of another oncoming semi-truck, 30 year old Jovan Watson of Tampa, reportedly failed to maintain his vehicle in single lane traffic and drifted off the road and onto the grass shoulder before overcorrecting and crossing two lanes of traffic and ending up on the southbound lanes and colliding with Ramirez’s truck. Watson’s truck also collided with a Chrysler sedan, driven by 30 year old Jesus Vela of Belle Glade. Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene by medics while Vela was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach for treatment. He’s in stable condition. Watson was reportedly not injured. It’s under investigation.

The Okeechobee City Code Enforcement Department, a division of the City Police Department, will be undergoing a change thanks to a decision by the city council. During their last meeting, councilmembers voted to have an assistant code enforcement officer as a full-time position with the department, unlike before when the assistant was only working on a part-time basis. City Police Chief Bob Peterson says this was necessary because the full-time code enforcement officer and the part-time assistant could not keep up with the workload and more importantly maintain what the city expects from the code enforcement department as a pro-active division of the police department. Peterson says it’s really necessary now because the backlog of cases is just too much.

The measure passed by a four to one measure, with Mayor Dowling Watford dissenting. Watford’s reasoning was that the part-time assistant structure works well as the city has cleaned up a lot of the code enforcement issues but also the hit on the budget, since now the full-time assistant will be getting a bump in salary and benefits, like the lead code enforcement officer.

The extra cost to the city will be just under $40 thousand dollars.

Tropical Storm Eta just passed through and we were lucky once again we weren’t impacted by it too much. We may have been pretty lucky this year thus far and we’re just under a month until the official end, but it’s important to realize that we are still in Hurricane Season. With that in mind, now is the time to make sure your home is strengthened to withstand a hurricane or tropical storm. Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee County Emergency Management Center says your garage door is the most vulnerable part of your home and once that goes, the rest of your home will surely be next. Smeykal says to replace your garage door once every ten years or use a retro fit kit.

Smeykal says while using plywood and aluminum is a good solution for boarding up your windows, poly plastic and some fabrics work just as well and they are not as difficult to put up on your windows.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of Friday unfortunately rose by seven more cases but fortunately the number of fatalities stayed the same once again.  As of Friday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,854 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities still number at 43. 1,849 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 rose by one, and they now number at 198. 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 Friday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 870,552 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 858,585 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 17,445 with 51,542 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:

38 year old David Bernard Robinson of Okeechobee, an inmate at the county jail, was arrested for battery on a fellow inmate. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

36 year old Randy Lee Salas of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

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

22 year old Harley Dean Henderson of Boynton Beach was arrested for petit theft for the third time. His bond has not been set.