News Cast 11/24

News Cast for November 24th:

Time is running out to receive funding for housing relief in Okeechobee County. 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 also 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 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 December 1st or when the money is all gone, 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.

This past Friday, FL Governor Ron DeSantis provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan as well as therapeutic treatments that are available to those most vulnerable to the virus. Florida is prepared to distribute those vaccines when and if they’re approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). DeSantis says he recently met with officials involved in Operation Warp Speed and he got some answers to what he calls “key questions.” DeSantis says the news in the last few weeks has been “particularly heartening” about the vaccine and he says state officials have been planning and preparing for vaccine distribution.

By the end of December, pending FDA approval, DeSantis estimates there will be about 40 million vaccinations available between both Pfizer and Moderna Pharmaceuticals. Hospitals should receive them within a few weeks followed by CVS and Walgreens. DeSantis also says a new therapeutic by Eli Lilly of Indiana-based Lilly Pharmaceuticals, has been proven to be effective with a 70 percent reduction in hospitalized patients who used it.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday unfortunately rose by 43 more throughout the weekend but fortunately the number of fatalities once again stayed the same for the 13th straight day.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,985 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities are still numbering at 43. 1,974 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 are numbering at 204, as that figure rose by three throughout the weekend. 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 944,745 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 930,728 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 18,085 with 53,499 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. mThe 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.

Two Lehigh Acres men are dead following a vehicle accident Friday night in Lee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the 50 year old driver of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) was pulling out of a driveway of Lee Memorial Park on the 12 thousand block of State Road 82 in Lehigh Acres just after 10:30 and was in the middle of making a left turn when he drove right into the path of a sedan and the driver of the sedan could not stop in time before colliding with the left side of the SUV. The impact sent the SUV off the roadway and onto the north shoulder of Route 82 before coming to rest on an embankment, while the sedan crossed the median and ended up in the eastbound lanes of 82. The SUV driver and his 44 year old male passenger were pronounced dead at the scene by medics. The sedan driver and his two passengers, all men and all from Lehigh Acres, were treated for minor injuries. The accident is being investigated. FHP is not releasing the names of the victims due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

28 year old Kelli E. Griffis of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. Her bond is set at $250.00 dollars.

23 year old Lillian Louise Geary of Okeechobee was arrested on a local warrant for burglary with assault and battery. Her bond is set at fifty thousand dollars.

42 year old Carla Michelle Shrout of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. She was released after posting a $55 hundred dollar bond.

35 year old Jack Owen Albritton of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of trafficking stolen property. He’s being held without bond.

33 year old Candice Nicole Nesby of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of possession of oxycodone, drug paraphernalia and other controlled substances. She’s being held without bond.

38 year old Rigoberto Garcia of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. He was released after posting a six thousand dollar bond.