News Cast 12/2

News Cast for December 2nd:

For the first time in recent memory, the Okeechobee City Council will begin 2021 not at full capacity. During their meeting last night, the council passed a resolution that recognized and accepted the unconditional resignation of Okeechobee resident and councilmember-elect Russ Cale, who ran unopposed for the seat on the council that will be vacated by Wes Abney. Cale tendered his resignation on Monday in an effort to help ease the grief of the family of Brian Barrett, who took his life at the end of October following a personal indiscretion by Cale. Mayor Dowling Watford says it was a “sad and unfortunate” situation but Cale did the right thing by resigning and while he believes Cale could’ve made a valuable councilmember, the controversy surrounding Cale’s personal life would detract from his ability to serve the city and its residents. That said, Watford says he admired Cale’s courage and understanding in this case. Councilmember Bobby Keefe also admired Cale’s courage in his decision to resign and he says this should not be the end of the line in terms of his aspirations to serve the city of Okeechobee on the council. Plans are now in place to have a special election to determine Cale’s replacement and that should be decided sometime after the new year begins. Neither Cale nor members of the Barrett family wished to comment on the matter. Councilmembers also passed a resolution recognizing the re-election of Councilmember Monica Clark.

Last week, for the second time in three days, there was a vehicle accident involving Okeechobee County residents but fortunately this one turned out to be not nearly as tragic as the last one. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say a 22 year old Okeechobee man was driving a sedan north on County Road 721 just south of Bullhead Grade in Glades County near Okeechobee at around eight o’clock Thursday night when he was approaching a right handed curve, just as a sports utility vehicle (SUV) was approaching from the opposite direction. The sedan driver apparently allowed the vehicle to drift to the opposite lane, right into the path of the SUV and both vehicles collided head on. The impact sent the SUV off the road, where it rotated and came to rest in a ditch on the shoulder of 721 while the sedan remained in the northbound lane of 721. The sedan driver was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Ft. Pierce for treatment of his injuries while the SUV’s occupants, all from Okeechobee County, were treated for minor injuries. It’s under investigation. Due to Marsy’s Law, FHP will not release the names of those involved in the accident. An accident in Okeechobee County last Tuesday evening near the Dollar Store General parking lot on NW 30th Lane claimed the life of a 77 year old local man. Likewise, his name was not released by FHP.

It’s December 2nd and as of yesterday, the 2020 Hurricane Season officially came to a close and Okeechobee County came away from it largely unscathed. That said, Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue officials are encouraging residents to please remove their hurricane shutters if you have them installed on your windows and doors. Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says while fire and rescue crews have tools necessary to get through the shutters when needed, it’s often an unnecessary task (Franklin-Shutter Removal). The 2020 Hurricane Season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record with a total of 28 recorded storms.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County as of yesterday unfortunately rose by 17 more but fortunately the number of fatalities once again stayed the same for the 20th straight day.  As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,050 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities are still numbering at 43. 2,037 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 211. 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 1,008,166 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 991,910 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 18,679 with 55,197 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, you can direct them to the Okeechobee County 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:

22 year old Mark Thomas Russelburg of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, possession of marijuana resin, two counts of tampering with evidence and carrying a concealed weapon. He was released after posting a $75 thousand dollar bond.

20 year old Brian Lee Bishop of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and underage possession of alcohol after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a three hundred dollar bond.

34 year old Natasha Deshelle Thompson of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of violating a dog ordinance. She was released after posting a $250.00 dollar bond.

47 year old Donna Marie Ramsey of Okeechobee was arrested for interfering with custody of a child. Her bond has not been set.

26 year old Blake Austin Michael Dickson of Okeechobee was arrested on breach of peace charges. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

25 year old Michael Austin Snelling of Okeechobee was arrested for misusing the 911 emergency system. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

59 year old David H. Feltenberger Senior of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a local warrant for contracting without a license. He was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.

38 year old James A. Doheny Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

23 year old Nicolas Ramos of Okeechobee was arrested for simple assault and battery and violating probation on a previous simple assault and battery charge. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

35 year old James Lenard Wiggs Junior of Lake Placid was arrested for driving on a suspended license and fleeing and eluding law enforcement officers after a traffic stop and pursuit. He was released after posting a $55 hundred dollar bond.