News Cast 6/11

News Cast for June 11th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning and besides having discussions on the interlocal agreement for providing fire services to the city and the status of the Coronavirus in the county, they will also look to proclaim this month as National Homeownership Month and they will be presenting an award to Tom Leach, manager of senior services, for his work with seniors during the Coronavirus. The meeting will be held at the Historic County Courthouse beginning at nine o’clock and while it’s open to the public, seating will be limited due to social distancing guidelines. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the Okeechobee County Commissioners, at their last meeting they gave the green light to the Community Services Department to apply for a grant to help fund improvements at one of the long-standing facilities in Okeechobee County. Community Services Director Denise Whitehead says this grant, the 2021 Cultural Facilities Grant, will double the money already budgeted for these improvements at the Douglas Brown Community Center if they are fortunate to receive this grant. Whitehead says improvements needed there include the windows but before they can be addressed, wiring will be top priority.

Whitehead says the community services department already has a hundred thousand dollars budgeted for these improvements and they will be trying to get an additional hundred thousand dollars from the grant if they are chosen to receive it. It should be known in about a month or two if Okeechobee County was chosen for the grant.

Suicide, and recognizing the warning signs of someone entertaining thoughts of it, was a topic of discussion amongst the Okeechobee County School Board at their meeting on Tuesday night and they’ve taken some action. The school board voted unanimously to adopt a Suicide Prevention Policy for county schools. While most teachers are trained to deal with suicide prevention and recognize the signs, School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says anytime you can shed light on something like this, it’s a positive thing to be able to help prevent it from happening.

Kenworthy says this policy will better educate teachers and students alike to recognize the warning signs of suicide. It will go into effect at the beginning of the next school year.

The number of positive tests for COVID-19 in Okeechobee County has risen again. As of yesterday, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County has risen to 149. 148 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 0 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 34. 14 patients have been hospitalized. Thankfully there have been no fatalities. Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through the 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 sense of smell or sense of taste.

Most neighboring counties also experienced a rise in their COVID-19 statistics. As of yesterday, Martin County has 958 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 15 fatalities, Hendry County has 580 reported cases now with 19 fatalities, Glades County has 104 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County remains at 153 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 770 positive cases with twenty one fatalities and Palm Beach has 7,678 cases with 397 fatalities. There’s now an even 67,371 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 65,779 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,801 with 11,345 people hospitalized.

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 number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library 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 County Library phone number/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 Daniel Jordan Estey of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for strangulation and false imprisonment during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.

32 year old Sherrie Lee Stephenson of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

54 year old Linda Marie Stokes of Okeechobee was arrested on several counts of violating probation on undisclosed charges. She’s being held without bond.

63 year old Jorge Isaac Martinez Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated battery. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.