News Cast 5/8

News Cast for May 8th:

The Okeechobee County Commissioners yesterday met once again with county emergency management officials and county health department officials to discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county. County Health Officer Tiffany Collins says ambulances and strike team nurses, along with National Guard members will be at the Okeechobee Health Care Facility for the second time in two weeks and they’ll also be at Grand Oaks to administer COVID-19 tests to staff and residents in both facilities. Collins says a thousand test kits have been ordered and increased testing should be available at some point soon, possibly next week. County Commissioners also voted unanimously to renew the local state of emergency in the county for another week.

The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County has risen to 22 as of last evening. The latest case is a male firefighter and EMT of the Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue Department. He tested positive for the virus on Monday. County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says he and the rest of the department are concerned for his well-being but otherwise doing alright and are prepared for this kind of situation (Franklin-Firefighter Tests Positive).

Other positive cases in Okeechobee include an 87 year old woman, a 46 year old man, a six year old boy and a 17 year old boy. 21 of the 22 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. 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. Collins also says along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other symptoms to watch out for now include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a new loss of the sense of smell or taste.

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

For Hendry County residents, you can log on to www.preparehendry.com for information on what’s being done and check out Hendry County’s Emergency Management Facebook page.

Hendry County officials are strongly advising residents to follow CDC guidelines, specifically the latest guideline to wear cloth face coverings while in public to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. These cloth masks should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured properly and allow for breathing. Please wash your hands before putting on the covering and before you remove it. These coverings should not be placed on children under the age of two.

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.

The official start of Hurricane Season is June 1st. However, this week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. With that, people in Okeechobee County are being reminded about certain things they need to do to prepare for it once a hurricane comes. Mitch Smeykal of the Emergency Management Center says preparing a disaster awareness kit is the key to better surviving a hurricane. The kit should include at least three days of water and food, flashlight, batteries, insurance paperwork, cellphone, battery charger for your car and some cash, among other items. Smeykal says to customize your disaster awareness kit according to your situation (Smeykal-Disaster Kit 1). Any other questions about hurricane preparedness should be directed to the Emergency Management Center.

On the arrest report:

43 year old Paula Rene Spigelmoyer of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of heroin. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

29 year old Javas Davon Jones of Okeechobee was arrested for cocaine trafficking and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $50 thousand five hundred dollars.

26 year old Gabriel Lee Chapman was arrested for violating probation on undisclosed past charges. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Daniel Lamar Tindall Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, synthetic cannabis and other controlled substances without a prescription after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $20 thousand dollars.

39 year old Lawrence Wendell Wolf of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and not having his registered license plate attached to his vehicle after a traffic stop. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

26 year old Jajuanza Ford of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

57 year old Johnny Ray Johnson of Okeechobee was arrested for methamphetamine possession. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

40 year old Martha Marie Vandiver of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a local warrant for grand theft and dealing in stolen property. Her bond is set at $75 hundred dollars.