News Cast 6/19

News Cast for June 19th:

While the number of demonstrations in Okeechobee has diminished over the last couple of weeks, there’s still activity going on amongst people in the community getting the message out regarding Black Lives Matter. Some people gathered in Flagler Park for a community event last Sunday, getting the message out regarding the unjust death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. Okeechobee resident and nurse Amber Sewell, who helped organize the event, says despite the rain, about twenty people showed up for the event which included lots of refreshments as well as protests at the Parrott Avenue/Park Street intersection. While they got the message across, Sewell says it was not as good a turnout as she hoped, and she was rather disappointed that those who participated in the Peace, Love and Unity Fest in the park the day before didn’t participate in Sunday’s event.

Sewell says despite the rain and small numbers of people participating, the protesting went well with very few problems. There will be another event for Black Lives Matter in Flagler Park on Sunday afternoon, beginning at two o’clock.

Okeechobee County Commissioners met with Okeechobee County Health Department officials and Emergency Management to discuss the status of COVID-19 in the county. County Health Department spokesperson Tiffany Collins told commissioners that the total number of people who signed up to get tested for the Coronavirus last Friday in City Hall Park, via the state’s Mobile Testing Bus was 509, with 58 people testing positive. Collins says there will be another free testing period tomorrow morning at the County Health Department for those who couldn’t test last week. Collins also reported that Okeechobee County has a nearly 29 percent positivity rate for pediatric cases and that unfortunately ranks fifth in the state. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says that could be due to health access.

One piece of good news, so says Okeechobee County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin, can be found on supermarket shelves.

Commissioners voted unanimously to renew the local state of emergency. The free testing tomorrow at the County Health Department will be a drive-thru testing and it begins at seven o’clock in the morning and concludes at ten o’clock. Collins declined to comment.

Speaking of the Coronavirus, don’t look now folks, but Okeechobee County is over the double-century mark for positive Coronavirus cases.  As of yesterday, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 207. 206 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. 20 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 1,324 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 19 fatalities, Hendry County has an even seven hundred reported cases now with twenty-one fatalities, Glades County has 121 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at an even two hundred cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 926 positive cases with twenty two fatalities and Palm Beach has 9,854 cases with 450 fatalities. There’s now 85,926 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 83,854 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,061 with 12,577 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 now every Tuesday thru Saturday. 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 or the Center for Disease Control at

The end of slavery in the U.S., known as Juneteenth, will be commemorated with an Inaugural Freedom Walk in America’s Sweetest Town, Clewiston today. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Texas, and spread word that the war had ended. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — which had been declared Jan. 1, 1863. Jubilant celebrations followed the reading of the proclamation, which began a tradition that has lasted for 155 years, and continues to this day, celebrated in cities across America. The purpose of the Juneteenth Freedom Walk in Clewiston is to celebrate and promote change. According to a news source, those who have not yet done so, will be able to register to vote during the event. This event is open to anyone wishing to join. Families are welcome and encouraged. For more information about this event, please contact Dr. Janet Holmes Peeples at 786-245-1067.

On the arrest report:

35 year old Preston Gene Woods of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia and introducing contraband into a detention facility. His bond is set at $19,750 dollars.

44 year old Robert Lee Landress of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and failing to obey law officers after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

58 year old Mark Eugene Hoyle of Belle Glade was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon and use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol. His bond is set at $16 thousand dollars.