News Cast 11/25

News Cast for November 25th:

We may be on the eve of Thanksgiving, but it will be a full workday for the Okeechobee County Commissioners today as they will be meeting this morning for the last time this month. Commissioners will discuss and consider approving the inter-local agreement with the city of Okeechobee to provide fire protective services and they will also hear from Libby Pigman of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) on a new pump station for Nubbin Slough (slew). The meeting will begin a half hour earlier than normal, 8:30, in the Historic County Courthouse for the installation of newly re-elected Commissioners David Hazellief, Brad Goodbread and Kelly Owens before they begin their normal discussions on county issues. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website. Seating in the courthouse will be limited due to social distancing guidelines.

Speaking of the Okeechobee County Commissioners, they received a progress report on the county’s jail expansion and renovation project during their last meeting. Joe Mrak, the Principal of Lehigh Acres-based Securitecture, the architectural firm that is in charge of the project, says schematic designs on the project are now underway and he and his representatives have met with the sheriff’s department and discussed the plans and made some refinements to them and they plan on meeting with the sheriff’s department twice a month and make revisions as needed. Mrak says the plans and designs for inmate housing pods are pretty much complete but the area that will require the most work is the existing building on the site that is the sheriff’s office, prison intake area and that it may be better to move the sheriff’s office to another existing building in the area that is not in use so workers can build around it.

Some buildings being suggested as a temporary home for the sheriff’s department include the old Alderman and the old driver’s license buildings respectively. Mrak says he and his staff are also beginning to meet with local agencies about permitting in case of any delays in the project. Construction on the new jail and renovations should begin in July.

As reported earlier, we are on the eve of Thanksgiving and under normal circumstances it is the busiest travel time of the year but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, circumstances are anything but normal. AAA officials forecast fewer Americans will be traveling this holiday than they have in the last decade, mainly because of health concerns and unemployment, both due to the pandemic of course. AAA officials say there may be 50 million Americans who’ll travel but the expectation is much lower than that. Most will drive but some will fly as they have already, as three million people have traveled by air since Friday. Palm Beach area travel agent Laura Reece says despite the pandemic, it’s still one of the busiest travel days but Reece says people have had second thoughts.

AAA officials recommend making sure your vehicle is in good working order before traveling and take every precaution to protect yourself and family. Plan ahead and contact local authorities to learn about any restrictions. Despite the pandemic, there are more people traveling by air this week than at any time since mid-March.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday unfortunately rose by an unlucky 13 more but fortunately the number of fatalities once again stayed the same for the 14th straight day.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,998 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities are still numbering at 43. 1,986 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 206, as that figure rose by two. 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 953,300 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 938,830 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 18,157 with 53,827 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:

30 year old Donald De Layne Bush of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated stalking. His bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.

36 year old Erica Jean Powers Harris of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of driving on a suspended license. She was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

23 year old Alexis Lira of Lake Placid was arrested on a Highlands County warrant for violating probation on past drunk driving charges. He is being held without bond.

43 year old Paula Rene Spigelmoyer of Avon Park was arrested for violating probation on past charges of possession of a controlled substance. She’s being held without bond.