News Cast 12/1

News Cast for December 1st:

The Okeechobee City Council will be meeting this evening and they will be looking to ratify the inter-local agreement to provide fire protective services to the city, following the approval of the agreement by the council last month and the Okeechobee County Commissioners last week. Councilmembers will also be considering a bid from an outside company to provide improvements for the pavements on SE 3rd Avenue. The meeting will begin at six o’clock in City Hall. It will be broadcast live on the Zoom application. Seating in City Hall will be limited due to social distancing guidelines. Contact the city administrator’s office or log on to www.cityofokeechobee.com for instructions on viewing the meeting through Zoom.

If you thought time was running out to apply for funding for housing relief in Okeechobee County, looks like you’ll get an early Christmas present as more funding is being requested for qualified applicants who might’ve been turned away. Joy Jarriel, the coordinator of Okeechobee County’s State Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP), says the county received a little over $240 thousand dollars in CARES Act funds 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. That funding reportedly was exhausted or encumbered. However, Jarriel announced during Wednesday’s County Commissioners meeting that the Florida Housing Finance Corporation will allow the county to apply for additional funds to provide for those qualified applicants. 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. 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 new funding will be available through the month of December.

There were no new positive cases reported for Okeechobee on Monday. According to the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,033 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March. 2,020 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. The fatality rate for Okeechobee remains at 43. 209 county residents have been hospitalized. 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 Monday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 992,660 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 976,944 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 18,500 with 54,706 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.

If you have 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.