News Cast 5/14

News Cast for May 14th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning and they will discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county and they will also look to proclaim this month as Mental Health Awareness Month in the county. Commissioners will also be looking to authorize County Airport officials to begin negotiations with a dairy for a lease agreement on airport property. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock and it’ll be held in person at the Historic County Courthouse. While the meeting is being conducted in the board room and open to the public, guidelines recommended by the Governor and CDC will be followed, meaning there will be screening at the door, limiting persons in the room, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. If the room is full, persons will wait outside and come in when someone leaves the board room. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Sticking with the county commissioners for a moment, they agreed to send a draft of the interlocal agreement for the providing of fire protective services for the city of Okeechobee to the city council during their last meeting. Initially, Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, who previously worked as a firefighter/EMT in Palm Beach County, says he was not in favor of such an agreement because it would not only possibly cause some city firefighter and EMT ‘s to lose their jobs, but the city would lose part of its identity that they’ve had since the city was founded. However, Culpepper says he’s now leaning toward such an agreement because it would potentially save the city some money and they can stop dipping into their reserves to balance their budget. Culpepper’s concerns lies with the unknown costs to the county if they take over the city’s fire protective services. Culpepper says this agreement might also be beneficial for the city in terms of future development and lowering the ad valorem tax. The draft of this interlocal agreement will be discussed between city officials at a future meeting.

A traffic stop to apprehend a wanted felon turned explosive Tuesday afternoon in Okeechobee County and resulted in the felon being shot by law enforcement. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s officials say deputies were conducting a traffic stop of a Ford Focus on the 39 hundred block of NW 36th Street just after 2:15 because the man in the car, 25 year old John David Brighton, was to be returned to jail after a court judge revoked his pre-trial release. Deputies say the car didn’t stop immediately, instead going two blocks before Brighton got out of the car and waved a pistol at on-scene detectives. Brighton ran, still pointing the gun at the detectives, who were then forced to shoot Brighton. Brighton was hit twice before he fell to the ground. Fortunately, no law enforcement officers were injured and Sheriff Noel Stephen says that is attributable to the training his officers have received.

Brighton is being treated for his wounds at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce. The case is under investigation. The incident shut down the road in that area for a few hours.

There’s some good news to report on the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County as they are down to 25 as of last evening. 24 of the 25 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 6 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 44. Five of the patients have been hospitalized. County Health Officer Tiffany Collins says people who have 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, Collins says other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for now include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of the sense of smell or sense of taste.

Also as of last evening, Martin County has 275 positive cases of the Coronavirus with six fatalities, Hendry County has 165 reported positive cases now with six fatalities.  Glades County has eight positive cases with one fatality, Highlands County has one hundred cases with eight fatalities, Osceola County has 586 cases with 16 fatalities and Palm Beach has 4,176 cases with 254 fatalities.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced state parks have reopened access to trails and some day-use areas last week, including some beach access with limited facilities. People must practice proper social distancing and limit group size to no more than ten people and stay six feet apart. More information can be found by logging on to www.floridastateparks.com.

Officials from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have re-opened several district managed lands 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 have also re-opened 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 Okeechobee County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or by contacting Florida Community Health Centers at (863) 763-7481. 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.

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.

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:

39 year old Daniel Lamar Tindall Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for grand theft of a motor vehicle. His bond is set at $35 hundred dollars.

29 year old Brittany Rachelle Drawdy of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of synthetic cannabis and tampering with evidence after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at seven thousand dollars.

29 year old Rebecca Sage Wasserman of Boca Raton was arrested for loitering and grand theft of a firearm. Her bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.