News Cast 6/23

News Cast for June 23rd:

Two Okeechobee men are dead and a 24 year old Okeechobee woman and a toddler are in serious to critical condition following a vehicle accident Saturday afternoon in Okeechobee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say a 28 year old local man was driving a pickup truck south on Route 710 approaching SE 52nd Street just before 5:30 at the same time a 20 year old local man was driving a pickup north on 710, also approaching SE 52nd Street. FHP officers say the driver of the first truck crossed the center line, right into the second truck’s path, causing the first truck to collide with the left front of the second truck. The impact sent both trucks to the east shoulder of the road. The drivers of both trucks were pronounced dead at the scene by medics. The driver of the second truck’s passengers, a 24 year old local woman and a one year old girl, were taken to area hospitals for treatment of serious to critical injuries. The accident is being investigated. The names of people involved in the accident are not releasable to the public due to Marsy’s Law.

Looks like the city of Okeechobee will be getting a makeover when it comes to their rulebook. During their meeting last Tuesday night, the city council discussed revising their city charter. Mayor Dowling Watford says the charter is basically a city rulebook depicting such things as how the council is elected, zoning issues, code enforcement and more. Watford says there is a definite need to update the charter, considering the charter hasn’t been updated since 1965. There will be a committee made up of city residents to discuss how this charter should be done and what should go into it. Watford says while anyone can be on this committee, the council will be looking a lot at people that have an understanding of city government and issues facing this city, but also business owners or people who have experience in that realm.

Once this charter is completed, it must be voted on by city residents via a referendum. More information on applying for this committee and what will be expected from committee members will be made known in a future meeting.

This past Thursday, members of the Okeechobee County Health Department and Emergency Management discussed the status of the Coronavirus in the county with commissioners and unfortunately there were some not-so-nice numbers to report. Okeechobee County went over the two hundred mark in positive cases and Okeechobee officially ranks fifth in the state in pediatric COVID-19 cases. But some good news came from the Parks and Recreation Department in the area of summer programs for kids which began last week. Community Services Director Denise Whitehead says the summer programs are doing quite well with the fully staffed summer day camp at the Okeechobee Civic Center reaching capacity. Whitehead says a new program she and her staff are excited about involves staff going to different parks around the area for fun and exciting programs kids can take advantage of.

Whitehead says there are also virtual programs available for those who are not comfortable about leaving their homes or going to day camp. For information on these programs, please contact the Parks and Recreation office at (863) 763-6950.

Speaking of the Coronavirus, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County has unfortunately risen again. As of yesterday, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 250 through the weekend. 248 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. 21 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 include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

Most neighboring counties also once again experienced a significant rise in their COVID-19 statistics. As of yesterday morning, Martin County has 1,582 positive cases of the Coronavirus with twenty fatalities, Hendry County has 763 reported cases now with twenty-two fatalities, Glades County remains at 142 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 238 cases with ten fatalities, Osceola County has hit the four figure mark with 1,080 positive cases and 23 fatalities and Palm Beach has 10,943 cases with 468 fatalities. And folks, we’ve now hit the six figure mark as there are now 100,217 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 98,047 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,173 with 13,119 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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

A report of a building fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters early yesterday morning. Crews were called to the three thousand block of NW 35th Avenue just before 6:30 and arrived to find the fire, which had started in the bedroom of the house. Investigators say the fire vented through the windows of one side of the building and there were three people inside. They were evacuated from the building so firefighters could fight the blaze, which they got under control in about three and a half hours. The cause of the fire and the amount of damages is not known at this time and are being investigated. No one was hurt.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Logan Ray Hobson of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

26 year old Brianna Katherine Fulwider of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of the controlled substance dilaudid without a prescription. Her bond has not been set.

74 year old Mark Clay of Okeechobee was arrested for leaving the scene of a traffic accident that involved damage to property. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

54 year old June Dawn Finch of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

21 year old Camryn Rae Cashwell of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing. She was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

19 year old Antonio Keith Bartell of Okeechobee was arrested by police on local warrants for possession of a concealed firearm at school and firing off a projectile. He’s being held without bond.

22 year old Jose Marcos Jimenez Slone of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault and battery during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

21 year old Artemio Mejia Martinez of Indiantown was arrested for violating probation on past charges of driving on a suspended license and underage possession of alcoholic beverages after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.