News Cast 11/9

News Cast for November 9th:

Okeechobee County is currently under a tropical storm warning. Tropical Storm Eta has been lashing much of south Florida since Saturday, slowly getting stronger as the weekend progressed into this morning with winds as high as 25 to 35 miles per hour and gusts of up to 45 miles per hour. With that in mind, Okeechobee County has issued a modified state of emergency as of yesterday afternoon. A call center has been established and it will be operational until 10am this morning. The number of the call center is (863) 824-6888. Two different shelters were established as of yesterday; a Special Needs shelter, and a General Population Shelter but both were closed as of 8am this morning. The state of emergency will continue until the end of this week or until county officials decided to end it sooner. Once again, Okeechobee is under a Tropical Storm Warning due to Tropical Storm Eta. The call center for information on it is (863) 824-6888. The call center will close as of 10am this morning. Continue to listen to WOKC for any updates on Tropical Storm Eta or the local state of emergency.

With the emergence of Tropical Storm Eta and the Tropical Storm Warning in Okeechobee County and the possibility that it could become a hurricane later this week, Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says residents are advised to monitor the system and make sure you have your storm supply kit ready. Smeykal says there should be enough food and water for each person and pets in your group, not to mention medication, flashlights and batteries to last for at least five days.

Go to www.ready.gov/kit for more information on preparing your storm supply kit. Continue to listen to WOKC for more information as it becomes available.

Officials from the Okeechobee County Road Department say there will be a partial road closure and detour beginning today in the county and that will directly impact motorists for a while. Repairs will be made on portions of NE 39th Boulevard, otherwise known as North Cemetery Road and this road closure and detour will be between NE 54th Way and NE 54th Trail and it will be a continuous road closure and detour for installation and re-construction of NE 39th Boulevard. The road closure is expected to last about two weeks. Drivers are urged to plan ahead and drive with caution and allow more time to pass through the area as traffic volume there may be higher than normal. The work will begin today and continue until Friday, November 20th. If you need further information, please contact either the Deputy County Administrator’s office at (863) 763-6441 or the County Engineer’s office at (772) 766-1363.

Roadwork that will be done on Route 70 East between McDonald’s and W&W Lumber was a topic of concern discussed during last week’s Okeechobee City Council meeting. Mayor Dowling Watford says the work, which will be done by Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), will narrow the width of the road from twelve feet to eleven feet to allow for a safety strip between the road and the sidewalk, similar to a bicycle lane. The road narrowing is a concern, specifically for motorists who will be sharing the road with large trucks as it gets narrower but that work order cannot be changed. While that’s a big concern, a bigger concern is the roadwork might involve some closing of intersections and entrances to businesses in that area, specifically to W&W Lumber and Okeechobee Feed, but Watford says FDOT officials will take a second look at it.

Watford says this work needs to be done because of drainage issues that need to be addressed there that this work will solve. It’s scheduled to begin sometime next year.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of today unfortunately rose by 18 throughout the weekend and that’s the bad news. The good news is our fatality numbers remained the same.  As of this morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 1,806 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities are still numbering at 42. 1,801 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 forty. Hospitalized county residents remain at 194. 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 this morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 843,897 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 832,525 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 17,121 with 50,489 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:

44 year old Roy Lee Melvin of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of methamphetamine, causing criminal mischief, trespassing and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident after he crashed his pickup truck through the entrance gates of the Agri-Civic Center. His bond is set at $65 hundred dollars.

18 year old Exzavier Kenneth Hammond of Okeechobee was arrested on four counts of contributing to the delinquency to a minor. His bond has not been set.

22 year old Hunter Douglas Mulcahy of Okeechobee was arrested on a fugitive warrant from Kentucky on charges of possession of another person’s mail. He’s being held without bond.

28 year old Dyllan Roy Heasley of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and not paying child support. His bond is set at $750.00 dollars.

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