News Cast for May 4th:
After weeks of Coronavirus induced shutdowns, the beginning of the re-opening of the state of Florida has arrived. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday during a press conference that Phase One of the re-opening of the state begins today and that will include restaurants and stores be allowed to re-open and allow a certain number of customers inside their doors. This means that restaurant workers will be able to bring in customers at a 25 percent capacity and outdoor dining will be opened, so long as tables are spaced six feet apart. DeSantis called for masks to be worn in face to face business. DeSantis says the Coronavirus has been a “formidable enemy” for everyone, especially the elderly and medically vulnerable and emphasized during this Phase One re-opening, our biggest obstacle is fear and we need to focus on facts and not fear.
As part of Phase One re-opening, schools will continue to do online learning, elective surgeries can resume, no visitors at long-term care facilities are permitted and places such as gyms, movie theaters, salons, bars, pubs, and social clubs will remain closed for the time being.
On Friday, Governor DeSantis announced state parks will reopen access to trails and some day use areas, including some beach access with limited facilities. People are asked to 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.
With the beginning of the reopening of the state and business today, the top two law enforcement officials in Okeechobee County, Sheriff Noel Stephen and Police Chief Bob Peterson, are asking for cooperation from residents during this time as businesses get back to serving the community. Stephen says it falls on local jurisdictions to enforce the state’s mandate on businesses and storefronts that are to remain closed and those that are open to maintain the social distancing rule. Stephen says patrols will be proactive in letting businesses know what they are permitted and not permitted to do and continued violations of the state’s mandates can lead to a notice to appear in court and possible jail time and that will just be the start. Stephen says it’s important for people to contact law enforcement if they see some business that might be in violation of the social distancing rule. The only exception here would likely be churches.
There are now 36,897 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 35,969 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 1,399 with 6,119 people hospitalized
Officials from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have announced that it began re-opening several district managed lands Thursday 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 also re-opened Thursday morning 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.
Investigators from the Hendry County Major Crimes Unit are currently investigating a homicide in the Harlem community in Clewiston. A shooting occurred at approximately 5:30 this past Tuesday afternoon on the twelve hundred block of Carolina Avenue. The shooting victim later succumbed to his injuries. Authorities are asking that anyone with any information please contact the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office as soon as possible. The name of the victim and circumstances leading to his death are not being released.
On the arrest report:
21 year old Elizabeth Eileen Shaw of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past charges of trafficking stolen property and giving false ownership information to a pawnbroker. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.
57 year old Robert Eugene Cook of Okeechobee was arrested for fraudulent use of someone’s credit card. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.
34 year old Jack Owen Albritton of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of trafficking stolen property. He’s being held without bond.