News Cast 5/5

News Cast for May 5th:

Okeechobee City Councilmembers will be meeting this evening and the agenda will be lengthy. Councilmembers will be looking to proclaim this month as Mental Health Awareness Month and Building Safety Month and present a longevity service award to a city police officer. The council will also look to approve a revised agreement with the Okeechobee County School Board on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program and approve a letter of commitment for the Hendry, Okeechobee and Glades Opioid Consortium. The meeting will begin at six o’clock and it will be held via live video broadcast. To view the meeting, log on to zoom.us/j/2459713294.

Speaking of the city and the council, residents have had access city council meetings through the Zoom application during the time of the Coronavirus but now they’ll be able to not only stream the meetings live but also go back and re-watch them after the pandemic is over by way of YouTube. Last week, City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca announced the launch of the city’s YouTube channel and live streaming access to council meetings on the city’s webpage as a way to get back to the “new age” and providing more transparency for government meetings and helpful information to the public during this time and beyond. The city’s new YouTube channel on their webpage isn’t the only new feature; there’s also a page on the city’s website dedicated to COVID-19 updates.

De Oca says during this Coronavirus pandemic, City Hall has been closed to the public but city offices are still open for business and that’s an advantage Okeechobee has over other communities.

Planning and zoning meetings will also be available online.

Unfortunately, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County did rise significantly over the weekend into yesterday. The number of positive cases is at 18 as of this morning. The latest four cases include an 87 year old woman, a 46 year old man, six year old boy and a 17 year old boy. 17 of the 18 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 6 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 50. Five patients have been hospitalized. Okeechobee County Health Officer Tiffany Collins says people who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and are going through routine contact tracing.

There are now 37,439 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 36,492 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 1,471 with 6,330 people hospitalized.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced state parks reopened access to trails and some day-use areas yesterday, 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.

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.

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.

An 18 year old Avon Park woman is dead and a 38 year old Punta Gorda man is in critical condition following a vehicle accident Sunday night in Highlands County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Punta Gorda man was driving a pickup truck west on East Main Street approaching North Marshall Road in Avon Park just after 11:15 when, for unknown reasons, drove across the eastbound lane and onto the grass shoulder. The truck then collided with several trees and ended up on the east shoulder of South Marshall Road. The Avon Park woman, who was a passenger in the truck, was killed in the accident. The Punta Gorda man was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The accident is under investigation. The names of the people involved in the accident are not being released due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

31 year old Joaquin Pinon Monzon of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for drunk driving and cocaine possession after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $35 hundred dollar bond.

29 year old Joseph Immanuel Chamberlin of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of resisting an officer without violence. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Octavio Reyes Delgado of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and driving without a valid license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a $1750 dollar bond.

33 year old Ashley Nicole Harden of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $35 hundred dollars.

31 year old Derrick Levi Clay of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of burglary. He’s being held without bond.

46 year old Allen Zollie Aldridge of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $18,250 dollars.