News Cast 12/8

News Cast for December 8th:

Okeechobee County School Board members will be meeting tonight for the last time in 2020 and they will pass a resolution to honor Billie Jean Reynolds, who passed away last September, for her contributions to the school board during her 15 year tenure that began in 1967. The school board will also be discussing the policy of face masks for students and faculty members and the teacher salary allocation plan. The meeting will begin at six o’clock in the Freshman Campus Auditorium. Seating will be limited due to social distancing guidelines. The meeting will be streamed live via the Zoom application. Please contact the school board office or log on to http://www.okee.k12.fl.us/school-board-agendas-2020-2021 for instructions on viewing the meeting through Zoom.

During their last meeting, the Okeechobee City Council announced that Russ Cale, the man who was elected unopposed to succeed outgoing councilmember Wes Abney next month, resigned due to a personal indiscretion. That meant there would be a special election to determine who would eventually fill that seat and until that election was to be held later on in 2021, the city council would be operating with only four members. However, that will not be the case next month. Mayor Dowling Watford says according to the city’s certificate of election, a councilmember must serve until January 5th of next year or until a successor is elected. That means that Abney will remain on the council until then. Watford says he’s excited that the council will not start the new year one councilmember short and not just because it eliminates the potential problem of a tie vote on a council issue.

Meanwhile Abney, who had chosen not to run for another term on the city council to concentrate on his business and pending marriage, says he has absolutely no problem serving on the council for a little while longer.

Watford says because of the issues surrounding the arrival of a new elections supervisor, it will likely be until sometime in February or March when we’ll have a newly elected councilmember.

The road to hopefully attain high speed internet in Okeechobee County has begun. During their last meeting on November 25th, the Okeechobee County Commissioners voted unanimously to contract with Tampa-based Rapid Systems Corporation to conduct a broadband internet feasibility study in the county to determine if high speed internet is a possibility. Commission Chairperson Terry Burroughs says it’s time for Okeechobee County to “join the 21st century” with high speed internet access because internet providers here just don’t provide that type of access that’s sorely needed for residential, commercial or industrial purposes. This study will bring us to what is needed to move forward and how to get it done. Burroughs says it’s especially important now to try and obtain that coveted high speed internet access.

The study will cost about $25 thousand dollars and it will be funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funds.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County once again increased through the weekend while the number of fatalities remained steady. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,113 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, with that figure rising by 29 and the number of fatalities remained at 44. 2,099 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 214 as that figure rose by one through the weekend. 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 1,065,785 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,048,264 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 19,282 with 56,607 people hospitalized. Florida recently joined Texas and California as the only states with at least a million confirmed COVID-19 cases since March.

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. 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.

On the arrest report:

54 year old Stephanie Michelle Attewell of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of heroin and fentanyl and alprazolam without a prescription. Her bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.

30 year old Brian Daniel Corwin of Okeechobee was arrested on Glades County warrants for failing to appear in court to answer for past charges of driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He’s being held without bond.

54 year old James Evan Wilson of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

48 year old Juan Manuel Mata Junior of Okeechobee was arrested on Glades County warrants for failing to appear in court to answer for past charges of failing to leave information on property damage. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

62 year old Robert Louis Butterworth of Port St. Lucie was arrested for possession of fentanyl without a prescription with intent to sell. He was released after posting a fifty thousand dollar bond. 38 year old Juan Jose Rodriguez of Port St. Lucie was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, grand theft, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $28 thousand five hundred dollars