News Cast 6/16

News Cast for June 16th:

The Okeechobee City Council will meet once again this evening and they will present a retirement badge and certificate of retirement to longtime Okeechobee Police Detective Bill Saum and they will also be discussing the city’s draft economic development strategy and disaster resiliency plan. The meeting will be held in City Hall beginning at six o’clock. Due to social distancing guidelines, seating will be limited.

Speaking of the Okeechobee City Council, and the Police Department for that matter, during their last meeting, the councilmembers recognized one of the police department’s longtime employees. Terisa Garcia received an award for her 35 years of service to the department with a Longevity Service Award. The 61 year old Garcia has worked in dispatch, was a school crossing guard and records clerk and has been personal secretary to the police chief for the past 25 years. Garcia says she thought it was great to be recognized for her longtime service to the department and she says it was “hard to believe” that she’s worked for the police department for that long. Garcia says her original career path was to be an EMT and firefighter but a chance encounter with some Okeechobee officers she knew and lack of opportunities at that time for female firefighters sent her in another direction.

Garcia, an Okeechobee native, says she’ll miss the interaction with the members of the department the most when she retires at the end of the year. She plans on spending time with family and traveling, specifically to Niagara Falls.

If you’re a gambler, it’s time to rejoice because Seminole Brighton Casino is set to re-open today. After two-plus months of being closed due to the COVID-19, casino officials made the decision on Friday to re-open the casino today. Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and Chairman of Hard Rock International, says the obvious changes will focus on safety of guests and casino employees and make it a priority such as body imaging and thermal temperature testing, plexi-glass around gaming tables, and sanitizing stations and more. Allen says customers will also see a new department called the “Clean Team”.

Allen says while most businesses that have re-opened are operating under reduced hours, Seminole Brighton Casino will operate under its normal hours; 24/7. The casino re-opens today at noon.

The number of positive tests for COVID-19 in Okeechobee County rose once again throughout the weekend. As of yesterday, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 189. 188 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. 17 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. Okeechobee County Commissioners renewed the local state of emergency for another week during their Thursday meeting.

Most neighboring counties also experienced a dramatic rise in their COVID-19 statistics over the weekend. As of yesterday, Martin County has 1,218 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 18 fatalities, Hendry County has 650 reported cases now with twenty fatalities, Glades County has 116 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 172 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 848 positive cases with twenty one fatalities and Palm Beach has 9,015 cases with 429 fatalities. There’s now 77,326 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 75,388 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 2,938 with 12,015 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:

24 year old David Michael Powell of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for criminal mischief. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

25 year old Emily Elaine Brisbois of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. She was released after posting a $15 hundred dollar bond.

27 year old Jeffrey Lynn Griffin Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

36 year old Joshua David Roach of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $28,500.00 dollars.

24 year old Billy Jacob Allen of Okeechobee was arrested for obstructing without violence. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.