News Cast 5/1

News Cast for May 1st:

Phase One of the re-opening of the state of Florida and businesses is expected to begin on Monday but it apparently doesn’t allow for several small businesses in Okeechobee. One specific business, Stafford Salon, was one that will not be re-opening as ordered by the state and that caused the salon’s owner, Angie Griffin, to speak to the county commissioners during their meeting yesterday. Referencing her need to pay bills and expressing her need to get back to work, Griffin says “this is crap,” when referring to the fact that hers and other small businesses cannot re-open while places like Wal-Mart have been open and continue to remain open.

Griffin came up with a plan for re-opening that included her employees wearing gloves and masks, but also keeping areas of her salon thoroughly clean.

Griffin’s plan continues with some other things her staff is doing. In response to Griffin’s appearance at the meeting, Commissioner David Hazellief suggested the county send a resolution to Governor Ron DeSantis, asking to allow the county to re-open all county businesses. It was approved unanimously.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County has grown to eleven as of last evening. The latest positive case is a man and he is reportedly a local resident. Thus far, ten of the eleven people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 33 to 76 with the median age of the patients being 61. 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 34,728 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 33,829 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 1,314 with 5,767 people hospitalized. These state numbers also remain unchanged from yesterday morning into last evening.

The Local State of Emergency was renewed for Okeechobee County during yesterday’s commissioners’ meeting.

Officials from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have announced that it began re-opening several district managed lands yesterday 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.

Select Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) managed lands in South Florida also re-opened as of yesterday 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 Coronavirus at the County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or by contacting Florida Community Health Centers at (863) 763-7481. There is no more COVID-19 testing 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.

Hendry County Sheriff’s deputies have a Clewiston teen in custody at this time on charges of attempted murder and more in connection with an incident that took place early last month. Deputies say the mother of 17 year old Jasheed Daquone Stephens brought her son to the sheriff’s office on April 20th and Stephens turned himself in on an outstanding warrant. Investigators say on April 5th, a 17 year old boy approached them and he told them he was stabbed in the face. He would drive himself to the hospital later where it was discovered he was actually shot in the face by Stephens, according to investigators. Reports say Stephens was asking to purchase a Play Station or X-Box gaming system and the victim told Stephens he could purchase it for $150 dollars. Stephens and the victim would meet later on to complete the transaction where Stephens pulled a pistol from his backpack and shot the boy in the head. Stephens was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, display of a firearm during a felony and robbery with a firearm along with the attempted murder charge. Stephens was being held at the Department of Juvenile Justice. It’s not known at this time if he’ll be charged as an adult.

On the arrest report:

43 year old Jennifer Denise Shirey of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery. Her bond has not been set.

47 year old Alex Colon of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a warrant for failing to pay child support. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

38 year old Gary Brandon Prebilsky of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct. His bond has not been set.

24 year old Kellee Elizabeth Smith of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, the controlled substances alprazolam and ecstasy without a prescription, drug paraphernalia and a concealed weapon following a traffic stop. She was released after posting a ten thousand dollar bond.

24 year old Andrew Kirk of Charleston, SC was arrested for cocaine possession. He was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.