News Cast 12/31

News Cast for December 31st:

Since last Tuesday in Okeechobee County, vaccines for COVID-19 have been administered to people, mainly to first responders and hospital workers and those in assisted living and nursing homes are due to receive it today. Next up on the list beginning after the new year, will be the 65 and over population. Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says those local residents over the age of 65 can begin calling the local health department on Monday, January 4th at eight o’clock to schedule their appointments to get the vaccination. The vaccinations for the 65 and older population will begin on Tuesday, January 5th and continue throughout the week. Smeykal says all appointments will be made on a first come, first serve basis and if you don’t get an appointment right away, not to worry, because you’ll get your chance to be vaccinated eventually.

The number to call to schedule your appointment is (863) 462-5800. You cannot call until Monday, January 4th beginning at 8am. No appointments will be made before that. Smeykal says the side effects of this vaccine are much like what you would get if you got a flu shot.

On the subject of COVID-19 in Okeechobee County yesterday, it was once again a case of good news and bad news as the number of positive cases rose by 21 but thankfully the number of fatalities remained the same. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,387 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities are holding steady at 51. 2,366 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. 235 county residents have been hospitalized as that figure rose by two. 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.

As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department have reported 1,306,123 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,283,701 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 21,546 with 62,508 people hospitalized since March.

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 or the Center for Disease Control at

A Stuart area woman and a man from Puerto Rico are dead and several others are injured following a vehicle accident early Christmas morning in Palm Beach County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Stuart woman, who was 25 years old, was driving a sedan south on State Road 807 near Route 882 in Palm Springs shortly after four o’clock, while another sedan was heading west on 882 at the same time. For what FHP officers are deeming as unknown reasons, the Stuart woman did not stop at the red light, causing her vehicle to hit the second sedan head on. The impact sent the Stuart woman’s car in a southwesterly direction, through a tree line before stopping at a local business while the second vehicle rotated counterclockwise and hit a traffic signpost and came to a stop on a sidewalk. The Stuart area woman was transported to a local medical facility where she was later pronounced dead by medics. The driver of the second vehicle, a 23 year old woman from Lake Worth and her three passengers were also taken to a medical facility for treatment for their injuries. One of the passengers, a 23 year old man from Puerto Rico, died from his injuries. It’s under investigation. Due to Marsy’s Law, FHP is not releasing names of people involved in the accident.

On the arrest report:

41 year old Jose Reyes Espinosa of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for lewd and lascivious conduct on an eleven year old girl and domestic battery on the girl’s mother. His bond is set at $200,000.00 dollars.

30 year old Logan Ray Hobson of Okeechobee was arrested on a local capias warrant for trespassing. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

32 year old Glenda Nicole Shank of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of heroin. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.