News Cast 12/23

News Cast for December 23rd:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will be meeting this morning for the last time in 2020 and they will listen to Jonathan Bean, Executive Director of Martha’s House, regarding the property where Martha’s House currently sits and they will also consider funding the Okeechobee County Economic Development Corporation (OCEDC) for a third straight year. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock and it will be held in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating will be limited due to social distancing guidelines and the meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

While most people who live here in Okeechobee County already know of its vast attributes, specifically Lake Okeechobee, now the vast majority of those who live in the Sunshine State will know it too. Earlier this month, county officials announced that a picture of fishermen fishing on Lake Okeechobee during a sunrise will be a part of the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) annual calendar. Okeechobee County Tourism Coordinator Sharie Turgeon says FAC members selected a theme for this year’s calendar about what makes your community spectacular and to submit photos showcasing the most unique sights in your communities and the picture of fisherman on Lake Okeechobee was chosen to be on the December 2020 page of the 2021 calendar. Turgeon says this honor means a lot to her personally as well as on a professional level.

This picture was submitted by local resident Pat Tyner. Okeechobee County has been featured on the calendar twice in the last three years. A total of 564 photos were submitted from the state’s 67 counties for consideration for the FAC calendar. It can be purchased by emailing Gabrielle McDonald of the FAC at gmcdonald@flcounties.com or by calling (850) 694-0275.

You now have eight days to apply for funding for housing relief in Okeechobee County. Joy Jarriel, the coordinator of Okeechobee County’s State Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP), says you have until the end of the month to apply for the remaining thirty thousand dollars in CARES Act funding to address 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. 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. Remember, this new funding will be available only through the end of this month. After that, no more funding will be available.

On the subject of COVID-19 in Okeechobee County yesterday, it was good news and bad news as the number of positive cases rose once again, this time by 24, that’s the bad news. The good news is the number of fatalities remained steady. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,285 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities remain at fifty. 2,268 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. 229 county residents have been hospitalized as that figure rose by one. Those who have 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.

In Hendry County, positive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday morning are considerably higher than Okeechobee, as they now stand at 3,068, as that figure rose by 27 from the previous day. 3,054 of those people are Hendry County residents. Fatalities are numbering just a bit less than Okeechobee County, as they now number 48, rising by two as we get closer to Christmas Day. 257 residents have been hospitalized.

As of this morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 1,223,015 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,202,660 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 20,754 with 60,471 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight and four every Monday thru Thursday and eight to two on Fridays. 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, or just 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. . The local health department offers COVID-19 testing every Monday thru Friday for first responders and for those who have symptoms.

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.

A man from Moore Haven walked away from a vehicle accident unharmed but the same cannot be said for a 74 year old South Carolina woman Monday evening in Hendry County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Moore Haven man, who is 31 years old, was driving a sedan west on State Route 80 in the outside lane near State Route 29 in LaBelle at around 7:45 when for unknown reasons he collided with the South Carolina woman, who was walking on the Route 80 travel lanes. The woman was transported by med-flight helicopter to Lee Memorial Hospital in Ft. Myers for treatment where she is listed in critical condition. The accident is under investigation. Names of the people involved in the accident are not being released by FHP due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

19 year old Ty’Juan Antonio Lewis of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a Desoto County warrant for resisting a law officer without violence. His bond has not been set.

23 year old Andrevious Trevon Stallworth of Okeechobee was arrested by police for loitering and prowling. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

19 year old Kevin James Clausell of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto and driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.

40 year old Jason Edward Gillis of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of possession of synthetic cannabis. He’s being held without bond.

23 year old Dwan Sharrod Marshall Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior at his place of employment. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

24 year old Caleejah Williams of Clewiston was arrested for possession of over 20 grams of cannabis and introducing contraband into a detention facility. Her bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.

35 year old James Lenard Wiggs Junior of Lake Placid was arrested for burglary and petit theft. His bond is set at $16 thousand dollars.

45 year old Jason Thomas Beale of Loxahatchee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.