News Cast 5/18

News Cast for May 18th:

Last week, it was the barbershops and beauty salons, this week, some county offices in Okeechobee are re-opening. With the recent state directive in place, Okeechobee County government offices were given the green light to re-open today. County Commissioners voted unanimously to re-open the county offices at their last meeting on Thursday. While it may seem that the commissioners could re-open even if Governor Ron DeSantis did not approve; Commissioner Bryant Culpepper says that’s really not the case.

The Senior Center will not be re-opened at this time. Other county facilities still not re-opening include pavilions, Civic Centers, Ag-Center and Scott Driver. People entering re-opened government facilities must wear masks and keep a six foot separation from others.

A 29 year old Okeechobee man walked away with only minor injuries however a Belle Glade man was not so lucky as he unfortunately perished in a vehicle accident Friday morning in Martin County that involved at least three vehicles and forced a road closure in Okeechobee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Okeechobee man was driving a pickup truck north on State Road 15 just north of State Road 76 near Stuart a little after 6:15 when for unknown reasons he drifted into the southbound lane and struck a tractor trailer head on. The impact sent the pickup truck rotating clockwise, striking a sedan head on that was traveling southbound behind the tractor trailer and then overturning on the shoulder of the road. Meanwhile the tractor trailer also overturned after colliding with the Okeechobee man’s pickup. The tractor trailer driver, a 43 year old man from Belle Glade, was pronounced dead by on-scene medics. The driver of the sedan, a 40 year old Loxahatchee man, received minor injuries. The accident shut down traffic not only on Route 15 but also on the southbound side of Highway 441 in Okeechobee County for several hours. The accident is being investigated.

County Health Officer Tiffany Collins informed county commissioners at their meeting last week of a recent outbreak of the virus at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility. 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. County Commissioners also renewed the local state of emergency for another week.

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.

Along with the Wal-Mart parking lot on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 9am each day, 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.

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.

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.

This time last week, FL Governor Ron DeSantis extended Phase One Re-Opening of the state to include all beauty salons and barbershops. Some guidelines that salon owners must follow now include only serving those with appointments, 15 minutes must be allowed between appointments to disinfect the area and masks must be worn by employees at all times. Recently, Nicole Reid, News Director for our sister station WAFC in Clewiston, spoke with Rick Pope of Rick’s Barbershop in LaBelle. Pope says the new guidelines he and other barbershop and salon owners must now follow extend to after business hours too. The executive order for these businesses to re-open also says the owners should consider giving unworn masks to customers and all newspapers, magazines and other reading material that is normally touched by customers to be removed.  

On the arrest report:

36 year old Brandi Gillis Gomez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on undisclosed charges. She’s being held without bond.

32 year old Donald Wayne Johnson of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery and causing bodily harm to his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at $45 thousand dollars.

43 year old Abel DeLeon of LaBelle was arrested for fleeing and eluding law enforcement during a high speed chase. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.