News Cast 3/24

News Cast for March 24th:

An Okeechobee man is dead and two others seriously injured following a vehicle accident Sunday afternoon in Okeechobee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 64 year old Bruce Barriault was driving a Ford Ranger westbound on Route 70, approaching NW 38th Terrace shortly after one o’clock at the same time a Chevy Camaro, driven by 22 year old Sabino Martinez, also of Okeechobee, was driving in front of Barriault. FHP officers say Martinez was slowing down to make a turn onto NW 38th Terrace but Barriault failed to slow down causing his vehicle to rear-end Martinez’s vehicle, which pushed it into the opposite lane, causing Martinez’s vehicle to be hit head on by an oncoming GMC Acadia SUV, driven by 43 year old Angelica Garica, also of Okeechobee. Barriault was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Martinez and Garica were transported to Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee for treatment. The cause of the accident is under investigation. FHP closed the road to traffic during the cleanup.

Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials met with county commissioners yesterday to discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county. As of yesterday, there are still no positive tests of the virus reported in the county. There are 17 cases of people who have been tested for the virus and thus far, 14 of those tests have come back negative while the other three are yet to be determined. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal discussed the possibility of alternative treatment sites in Okeechobee in the event of Raulerson Hospital getting overwhelmed with infected people that they need to be taken to other sites for treatment. Smeykal says more than likely the old surgical center, recently purchased by Raulerson Hospital, would be the place for it and Smeykal says it’s already set up for a pandemic event like this. Other sites that would be set up for this would be the Civic Center on Highway 98 and the Douglas Brown Community Center. Smeykal says this plan has been in place for the past ten years.

At last check, the closest areas to Okeechobee County that have cases of people who’ve tested positive are in Palm Beach, Martin and Osceola Counties. As of now, there are 1171 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state with a little less than 11 hundred of those being FL residents and the death toll is now at 14. Okeechobee is in a local state of emergency (LSE) as of last Wednesday, joining 63 other Florida counties and they’ve declared a Level 2 activation which is added personnel at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). All gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other places where large gatherings can happen are closed. School campuses remain closed until April 15th but online classes began yesterday. Restaurants are doing take-out orders and delivery only, with the exception of Brahma Bull Restaurant, Parrott Island Grill and Golden Corral which are closed at this time and not taking any orders. All bars, pubs and nightclubs also are closed until further notice. Property Appraiser and Tax Collector’s office are having people use their drive thru access at this time.

Raulerson Hospital is now at a Level 3 Lockdown and they are not allowing any visitors to patients at this time.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line is open and will be open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Saturday. This hotline will be manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. 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.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the virus at the County Health Department or at the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital. You cannot get tested for the virus at Lab Corp or Quest Diagnostics. Test results normally take three to seven days before they are released.

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 and essential. 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 hands, avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 50 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.

County commissioners and emergency management officials are set to meet again at four o’clock today in the Historic County Courthouse. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

A report of a vehicle fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters a week ago Monday afternoon. Crews were called to the 180 block of the Florida Turnpike shortly before six o’clock and arrived to find a reefer trailer that was completely covered in flames. Firefighters say the driver of the trailer uncoupled the cab from the trailer and he tried to put the fire out himself, but to no avail. Firefighters got the blaze extinguished in about two hours while using about 25 hundred gallons of water to put it out. No one was hurt. Total damage is estimated at $14 thousand dollars in both property and contents. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Indian River County firefighters assisted Okeechobee County fire crews in this incident.

Officials from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office says they are receiving reports of people dressing in white lab coats wearing masks and gloves knocking on resident’s doors, identifying themselves as representatives from the Department of Health or the CDC and want to test residents for the COVID-19 (Corona) virus.  These reports are stemming from the east coast in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. It must be noted that, REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE CDC OR DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH WILL NOT SHOW UP AT YOUR RESIDENCE UNANNOUNCED!!!  The CDC is not going door-to-door.  Scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis and are trying to rob people. If anyone comes to your home unannounced wearing a white lab coat, mask and gloves do not open your door and allow them entrance to your home.   If you have elderly family members please take a few minutes to make them aware of this.  Contact your nearest law enforcement agency if this happens to you.

On the arrest report:

38 year old James Michael Kendall of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on undisclosed past charges. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Joshua Sentell Henry of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $16 thousand dollars.

40 year old Joel Christopher Nettle of Okeechobee was arrested for breach of peace. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

31 year old Eugene Jermale Dennis Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on undisclosed past charges. He’s being held without bond.

35 year old Fortino Hernandez of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of methamphetamine, a controlled substance without a prescription, drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $8250 dollars.