News Cast 5/6

News Cast for May 6th:

It’s time to open up Okeechobee County and county officials are imploring the state to do just that. Okeechobee County Commissioners approved a resolution at their meeting last week to request that county businesses that were not part of the state’s Phase One Re-Opening, be re-opened and that Governor Ron DeSantis accelerate that re-opening. Commissioner Terry Burroughs says it’s also important that business owners in town contact the state themselves and make the state understand what they’re going through.

Commissioner David Hazellief says it’s definitely past the time for county businesses to re-open.

City Councilmembers passed a resolution opting for the same thing during their meeting last night.

For the second time in as many weeks, Okeechobee County will have a place for people to receive food. Officials from the Treasure Coast Food Bank once again are working with county and city officials to open a food bank this morning once again at the Agri-Civic Center. Much like last week, Mayor Dowling Watford says this particular food bank will be by voucher only to select people in the community. People that are eligible will receive or have already received a robo-call telling them that they are eligible to receive from this food bank and they get a voucher so they can enter the food bank and receive food. Watford says this voucher system was a big reason why last week’s food bank was so successful and problem-free. Volunteers from Christ Fellowship will be on hand to help pack vehicles with food for up to 750 vehicles. Watford says last week’s food bank served nearly six hundred vehicles. It will begin at nine o’clock this morning and conclude sometime between 11 o’clock and noon.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is at 17 as of last evening. 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. 16 of the 17 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 6 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 52. Five of the 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 38,002 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 37,020 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 1,539 with 6,557 people hospitalized.

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

A 21 year old Okeechobee man walked away without a scratch but the same unfortunately could not be said for a Zephyrhills man following a vehicle accident Monday afternoon in Glades County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the Okeechobee man was driving an SUV southbound on State Road 78 in Buckhead Ridge at around 12:45 when he was coming up on a 54 year old man from Zephyrhills doing road construction work while on the southbound lane of Route 78 while riding a construction vehicle. The Okeechobee man could not stop in time before colliding with the man and his riding equipment. The impact sent the Okeechobee man’s vehicle into the guardrail before it came to a stop on the paved apron of Route 78. The Zephyrhills man was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Names of the people involved in the accident are not being released due to Marsy’s Law. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

18 year old Treshawn Tyrease Wiggins of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on a capias warrant for past charges of firing a projectile into a building. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

19 year old Jaali Vitari Thanars of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license, reckless driving and resisting arrest after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

73 year old Manuel Coto Martinez of Miami was arrested on multiple counts of animal cruelty. His bond has not been set.