News Cast 5/19

News Cast for May 19th:

Okeechobee City Councilmembers will be meeting this evening and they will be discussing the interlocal agreement proposed by the county commission regarding fire protective services in the city. The Council will also be looking to proclaim this week as National Public Works Week and they will also conduct the annual evaluation of City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca. The meeting will begin at six o’clock and the public will be permitted to attend the meeting but the seating will be very limited to keep in line with social distancing guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will also be held on live video broadcast. To view the meeting, log on to zoom.us/j/2459713294.

Speaking of the city council, at their last meeting they decided to do away with a proposed ordinance and came up with a new one. The original proposed ordinance was to move back the time that alcohol could be served on Sundays in the city from one o’clock in the afternoon to ten o’clock in the morning. There was to be a first reading on it but it was defeated and the proposed ordinance died. But the discussion wasn’t over, the new proposal is for the sale of alcoholic beverages to begin at seven o’clock each morning, seven days a week. Mayor Dowling Watford says the new proposed ordinance has a good chance of being approved despite the fact it will be different than the county’s recently approved ordinance of not allowing alcoholic beverages be sold until after ten o’clock on Sundays.

The idea for the new ordinance was brought up by Councilmember Monica Clark, who believes that we can’t distinguish between a day of the week because not everyone in the community are Sunday Christians. The first reading on the ordinance will take place at either tonight’s meeting or the June 2nd meeting.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is at 43 as of last evening. 42 of the 43 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 6 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 34. Five of the patients have been hospitalized. Of the 42 residents affected, 22 are men and 20 are women. 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.

There are now 46,442 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 45,208 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 1,997 with 8,304 people hospitalized.

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.

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.

Recently, officials at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) declared this week as Water Re-use Week in Florida. Libby Pigman of the Water Management District says April and May are typically the driest months of the year and it’s the time of heightened awareness of how precious our water availability is and what we can do to better conserve it. Pigman says besides taking shorter showers and flushing your toilets only when necessary, you can also limit your irrigation water usage.

Over the past two decades, SFWMD has allocated $109 million in funding to support 269 different water reuse projects.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Rudy Vasquez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving without a valid license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

29 year old Dadricka Laseira Riles of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine possession. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

30 year old Lonzo Keith Lunsford of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman. His bond is set at $30 thousand dollars.

44 year old David Scott Cook of Okeechobee was arrested by police for resisting an officer without violence. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

30 year old Donovan Donald Roberts of Okeechobee was arrested for leaving the scene following a traffic accident and causing damage to property, driving on a suspended license and reckless driving. His bond is set at $35 hundred dollars.