News Cast for April 30th:
Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning in their regular meeting and, much like this past Monday’s Coronavirus meeting, this meeting will be conducted in-person. Commissioners will naturally be discussing the status of the Coronavirus in the county but they will also be getting a progress report on the Jail Expansion and Renovation Project from the architectural company hired to do the job and they will also discuss a draft for the interlocal agreement for fire services to the city. In keeping with the social distancing guidelines, there will be no more than ten people in the room during the meeting and people must be no less than six feet away from each other. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse and it’ll be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.
After weeks of Coronavirus induced shutdowns, the re-opening of the state of Florida will soon be underway. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced yesterday during a press conference that Phase One of the re-opening of the state will begin Monday and that will include restaurants and stores be allowed to re-open to allow a certain number of customers inside their doors. This means that restaurant workers will be able to bring in customers at a 25 percent capacity and outdoor dining will be opened, so long as tables are spaced six feet apart. DeSantis called for masks to be worn in face to face business. DeSantis says the Coronavirus has been a “formidable enemy” for everyone, especially the elderly and medically vulnerable and emphasized during this Phase One re-opening, our biggest obstacle is fear and we need to focus on facts and not fear.
As part of Phase One re-opening, schools will continue to do online learning, elective surgeries can resume, no visitors at long-term care facilities and places where large gatherings can happen such as gyms, movie theaters, bars, pubs, and nightclubs will remain closed. DeSantis received input from physicians, health care workers, small business owners and others in coming up with his Phase One re-opening.
The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County remains at ten as of last evening. Thus far, nine of the ten people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 33 to 76 with the median age of the patients being 56. Four of the patients have been hospitalized. Okeechobee County Health Officer Tiffany Collins says people who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and are going through the routine contact tracing.
There are now 33,690 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 32,801 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 1,268 with 5,589 people hospitalized. Those numbers also remain unchanged from late yesterday into last evening.
Officials from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have announced that it will begin re-opening several district managed lands beginning this morning for active recreation only. In re-opening them, the Water Management District officials say they will continue to follow recommendations from Governor DeSantis and others to minimize activities that result in large gatherings. Active recreational activities like hiking, biking, boating and fishing are allowed. Passive activities like picnicking, camping and gatherings of more than ten people are not permitted. For more information on re-opened District areas, log on to their website at SFWMD.gov/recreation. These areas are set to re-open at eight o’clock.
Select Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) managed lands in South Florida are also set to re-open today with limited public use. Log on to www.myfwc.com for more information.
To get an idea of what restaurants or other businesses are open or closed in Okeechobee County, please log on to our website at www.wokc.com.
Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the virus at the County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or at the Fred Brown Children’s Health Center. You must meet certain criteria before you can be tested and you need to make an appointment. If you’re not sure if you fit the criteria to be tested, please call the county health department and they’ll let you know for sure. These testing sites are available on weekends.
Hendry County residents can be tested at the Clewiston Center on the three hundred block of W.C. Owen Avenue in Clewiston and now the Florida Department of Health in Hendry County has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to be a collection site for COVID-19 testing. This will expand testing capabilities in Hendry and Glades Counties. Appointments can be made at the Clewiston Health Department on Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 noon at (863) 983-1408 and appointments can be made at the LaBelle Health Department on Fridays from 10 am to 12 noon at (863) 674-4041. Residents in both counties need to contact their healthcare provider for more information on the process.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County is expanding its ongoing COVID-19 testing for residents in Glades communities. Since last month, the Health Care District has offered testing on a walk-up basis with no appointment outside the C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinic at Lakeside Medical Center on the 39 thousand block of Hooker Highway in Belle Glade. Appointments are now necessary and you can do that by calling (561) 642-1000. Patients can access the drive-thru testing lane or you can park and walk up to the existing site. Individuals can be any age and don’t need to have symptoms to be registered and tested. Results will be sent by a Health Care District provider as soon as possible.
Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee remains on lockdown and they are not allowing any visitors to patients at this time.
The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Friday. This hotline is 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.
For Hendry County residents, you can log on to www.preparehendry.com for information on what’s being done and check out Hendry County’s Emergency Management Facebook page.
Hendry County officials are strongly advising residents to follow CDC guidelines, specifically the latest guideline to wear cloth face coverings while in public to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. These cloth masks should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured properly and allow for breathing. Please wash your hands before putting on the covering and before you remove it. These coverings should not be placed on children under the age of two.
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:
42 year old Earlene Hope De La Cruz Ochoa of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.
51 year old Sandra Ann Maddigan of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a local warrant for undisclosed charges. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.
18 year old Andre Sharad Smith of Orlando was arrested on several warrants from Lake County for burglary, grand theft and resisting law enforcement without violence. His bond is set at thirty thousand dollars.