News Cast 5/27

News Cast for May 27th:

The month of May is normally a month for proclamations and none is more important than Mental Health Awareness Month. Earlier this month, the Okeechobee City Council unanimously proclaimed this month as Mental Health Awareness Month during a recent video meeting. George Shopland, President and CEO of New Horizons of the Treasure Coast, who was on hand to accept the proclamation, says this is a time to keep mental health in the forefront of our minds as we live our lives. Shopland says it’s very important to realize that mental health affects everyone, not just “those people”.

Shopland says it’s important to move beyond the stigma of mental health awareness to get the needed help, specifically now with the Coronavirus. People can contact New Horizons of the Treasure Coast in Okeechobee at (863) 462-0040. People can also call the 2-1-1 Helpline for assistance if they cannot turn to family or a counselor for help.

While the Coronavirus has affected numerous businesses in Okeechobee County on a financial level over the last two months, some businesses will get some help if they’re located at the county airport. During a recent meeting, the Okeechobee County Commissioners voted unanimously to defer rent payments at the airport for those businesses that were affected by COVID-19. Airport Director Adam Hied says since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not allow the elimination of lease payments from these airport business owners, these payments will be deferred for 90 days if a business owner requests it from the airport and the deferral will be retroactive to March 1st. Hied says this action allows business owners to breathe a little easier and relieves them of at least one worry while being able to not just survive, but thrive.

Airport businesses have until December to apply for a deferral. Hied says a recent economic impact study at the airport showed total output was $30 million dollars.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is at 67 as of yesterday. 66 of those 67 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. Six of the patients have been hospitalized. Those 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, 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.

Several neighboring counties also experienced a rise in their COVID-19 statistics through the holiday weekend into yesterday. Martin County has 535 positive cases of the Coronavirus with nine fatalities, Hendry County has 337 reported positive cases now with 12 fatalities.  Glades County has 24 positive cases to go along with one fatality, Highlands County has 114 cases with eight fatalities, Osceola County has 662 cases with 18 fatalities and Palm Beach has 5,429 cases with 315 fatalities. There are now 52,555 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 50,916 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,259 with 9,482 people hospitalized.

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.

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:

25 year old John David Brighton of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for assault on a police officer and resisting arrest following a traffic stop and subsequent shootout with officers. His bond has not been set.

43 year old Tavares Latrez Whitehead of Okeechobee was arrested for passing forged checks with intent to defraud. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

55 year old Carrie Green of Okeechobee was arrested on an out of county warrant on an undisclosed charge. She’s being held without bond.

42 year old Phillip Ray Greenwell of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation, driving on a suspended license, resisting law officers and fleeing and eluding law enforcement following a traffic stop and subsequent high speed pursuit. His bond is set at $12 thousand 750 dollars.