News Cast 5/20

News Cast for May 20th:

The draft of the interlocal agreement to provide fire protective services for the city of Okeechobee, which was proposed by county officials and brought before the city council was a topic of discussion at the city council meeting last night.  Mayor Dowling Watford says the council voted on making some adjustments before sending it back to the county, such as making the contract five years instead of three, selling the city’s fire department equipment instead of leasing it and paying a flat fee for each of the five years that would be equal to what the fire tax assessment would generate in the city. Another major issue the city wanted in the agreement is for city firefighters and EMT’s to be among the first ones considered for new jobs with the county should both departments merge. Unfortunately, Watford says that’s not likely to happen unfortunately because of the county’s bargaining agreement with the firefighter’s union.

Josh Bergstrom, a city firefighter and EMT and the Union President of Local 2918, says it’s vital for the city firefighters to be retained if the departments merge.

The issue will be discussed again at a future meeting between the city and county.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County has risen to 45 as of yesterday. 44 of the 45 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 22 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 46,944 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 45,684 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,052 with 8,494 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.

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.

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.

Glades County is now the latest county to have a testing site for the Coronavirus. Officials from the Florida Community Health Center for Hendry and Glades Counties announced that the local Department of Health will provide free COVID-19 testing in Moore Haven beginning this morning. Brenda Barnes of the FL Community Health Center in Hendry and Glades Counties says the testing will be done by appointment only and people wanting to be tested must be over the age of 18. Barnes says testing will be going on for essentially as long as possible today.

The testing will be done at the Glades County Health Department located on the one thousand block of Health Park Drive in Moore Haven. Testing will be available from ten o’clock until noon and then from one o’clock until three o’clock every Wednesday and Friday as long as supplies and staff are available. Call (863) 946-0707 for an appointment.

On the arrest report:

26 year old Brianna Maggie Aguilar of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on two counts of violating probation on undisclosed charges. Her bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

20 year old Javaris Jamar Frost of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine possession. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

39 year old Bryan Lee Adams of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

47 year old Candace Faye Burke of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft of someone over the age of 65. Her bond is set at ten thousand dollars.