News Cast 12/9

News Cast for December 9th:

Last night it was quite a cold night, with temperatures dropping close to, but not quite freezing. That prompted officials from the Okeechobee County Emergency Management Division and the local chapter of the Red Cross to open up a cold weather shelter last night in the county. The shelter was located at the Douglas Brown Community Center, but a funny thing happened last night; no one showed up. Then again, according to Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal, it’s not all that unusual that these shelters are not frequented by people during a cold night in Okeechobee.

While Smeykal says it’s too early to tell, the shelter might be opened up again tonight because temperatures are expected to be just as cold tonight. If the shelter is open again tonight and you plan on staying there for the night, you must bring your own bedding materials and your own food. If it opens again tonight, it will be open beginning at seven o’clock and lockdown is at ten o’clock so you must be there before then to be allowed to stay. If no one shows up, the shelter will be closed. Keep listening to WOKC for any further updates on the opening of the cold weather shelter. It will be at the Douglas Brown Community Center located at 826 NE 16th Avenue. Smeykal says it’s the only place that would be used as a shelter in the county and it’s open to not only the homeless but also to those with problems with their home heating.

During a recent meeting of the Okeechobee County Commissioners, they received a progress report on the county’s jail expansion and renovation project. Joe Mrak, the Principal of Lehigh Acres-based Securitecture, the architectural firm that is in charge of the project, says schematic designs on the project are now underway and he and his representatives have met with the sheriff’s department and discussed the plans and made some refinements to them and they plan on meeting with the sheriff’s department twice a month and make revisions as needed. Mrak says the plans and designs for inmate housing pods are pretty much complete but the area that will require the most work is the existing building on the site that is the sheriff’s office, prison intake area and that it may be better to move the sheriff’s office to another existing building in the area that is not in use so workers can build around it.

Some buildings being suggested as a temporary home for the sheriff’s department include the old Alderman and the old driver’s license buildings respectively. Mrak says he and his staff are also beginning to meet with local agencies about permitting in case of any delays in the project. Construction on the new jail and renovations should begin in July.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County once again increased yesterday, albeit by only four, but the number of fatalities also increased by one. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,117 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities now number at 45. 2,103 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 216 as that figure rose by two. 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 1,073,770 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,056,065 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 19,378 with 56,906 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. 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 Clewiston man is in critical condition following a vehicle accident Sunday evening in Hendry County and a 30 year old LaBelle man is facing a host of charges as a result of it. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Clewiston man, who is 56 years old, was reportedly lying down on the shoulder of State Route 80 right near Hendry Isles Boulevard in Clewiston at around six o’clock when the LaBelle man, who was driving a pickup truck, moved to the Route 80 turn lane to yield to an emergency vehicle that was responding to an unrelated call. FHP officers say the LaBelle man then drove over the painted fog line and collided with the Clewiston man. The LaBelle man stopped his truck and walked away from the scene. The Clewiston man was transported to a nearby medical facility for treatment while the LaBelle man, who was eventually caught by law enforcement, was arrested for drunk driving, causing serious bodily injury, leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury and driving on a suspended license. He’s currently in Hendry County Jail awaiting bond. It remains under investigation. FHP is not releasing the names of the people involved in the accident due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

34 year old Jose Enrique Acevedo Alicea of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on charges of battery. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

22 year old Kevin Robert Oscarson of Okeechobee was arrested for fleeing and eluding law enforcement and resisting arrest after an attempted traffic stop and subsequent high speed pursuit. His bond is set at just over $15 thousand dollars.

62 year old James Henry Wright of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and damaging property and cocaine possession after a traffic accident and field sobriety test. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

37 year old Bruce Edward Bass of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to appear in court to answer for charges of providing false ownership of stolen property. He’s being held without bond.

25 year old Zavius Corderra King of Okeechobee was arrested for criminal mischief and introducing contraband into a detention facility. His bond is set at $3750.00 dollars.

50 year old William Keith Campbell of Okeechobee was arrested for withholding child support. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

35 year old Tanya Leigh Law of Okeechobee was arrested by police on local capias warrants for grand theft, cocaine possession and tampering with evidence. Her bond is set at $85 hundred dollars.

43 year old Rana Christine McKibbin Sizemore of Okeechobee was arrested on Glades County warrants for failing to appear in court to answer for charges of driving on a suspended license. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

34 year old Justin Troy Moore of Moore Haven was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

36 year old Julian De Jesus Sanchez of Lake Placid was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.