News Cast 6/12

News Cast for June 12th:

If you’re looking to get tested for COVID-19 free of charge, symptoms or not, today is your lucky day. During the Okeechobee County Commissioners meeting yesterday, Tiffany Collins of the County Health Department says there will be free walk up testing thanks to state emergency management officials who will be in town with their COVID-19 Mobile Lab Bus to administer the tests. The appearance of the Mobile Bus was made possible by Commissioner Terry Burroughs, who wrote an email to Jerry Moskowich, Executive Director of the Emergency Management in Tallahassee, who says there needs to be more Coronavirus testing here because he thinks rural counties like Okeechobee are overlooked.

The testing site will be at Okeechobee City Hall Park, directly across from City Hall and that was provided by City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca, who after discussions with the County Health Department and City Council, thought it was the best site due to the visibility.

The testing will begin at nine o’clock and continue until four o’clock. There are enough tests for five hundred people on a first come-first served basis. Results will be ready within 45 minutes. There will be free testing at the County Health Department on June 20th between 7am and 10am for those who cannot be tested today.

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 154. 153 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 0 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 33. 15 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 1,020 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 16 fatalities, Hendry County has 590 reported cases now with 19 fatalities, Glades County has 107 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 160 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 785 positive cases with twenty one fatalities and Palm Beach has 7,887 cases with 407 fatalities. There’s now 69,069 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 67,456 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,848 with 11,571 people hospitalized.

County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the local state of emergency for another week.

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.

While there have not been as many demonstrations on the intersection of Park Street and Parrott Avenue in Okeechobee as there were last week, the memory of the unjust death of Minnesota native George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day is still fresh in the minds of many. To that end, several of those who protested Floyd’s death in Okeechobee are coming together and transitioning from demonstrations to more organized events. Coty Polk, an Okeechobee resident who moved here from Palm Beach a few years ago, is one of the organizers and she says it’s now about reaching the black community, educating them and getting them involved in what she says is police reform; making sure the police department is “running on all cylinders” and getting a petition signed for officers to wear body cameras.

There will be a community outreach event this Sunday beginning at two o’clock in Flagler Park and there will be refreshments served.

The warmer weather is here and that means mosquito season is also here. With that, the Okeechobee Emergency Management officials announced yesterday that mosquito trapping will resume tonight. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says a contractor will be doing the trapping of mosquitoes at night, identifying the species of mosquito and reporting the results to the Emergency Management. Smeykal says with some people mostly still staying home because of COVID-19, it’s a good time to clean up areas around your home such as emptying birdbaths, pet water bowls, and draining the water from your garbage cans because they attract the mosquitoes. Smeykal says gutters are one area that tends to be overlooked but it’s very important to clean them.

Mosquito trapping will commence this evening beginning at ten o’clock. If you go out, use a repellent with the DEET chemical in it and prepare your pets as well. If you have an excess of mosquitoes, call Clarke Environmental at 1-800-203-6485.

On the arrest report:

25 year old John David Brighton of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for assaulting a law officer. His bond is set at $25 thousand dollars.

40 year old Kellie Estelle Chapman of Okeechobee was arrested for violating conditions of her pre-trial release from a previous domestic violence incident. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

20 year old Jorge Matthew Martinez of Okeechobee was arrested for domestic battery via strangulation. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

27 year old Montel R. Godwin of Tallahassee was arrested on an out of county warrant for an undisclosed charge. He’s being held without bond.