News Cast 6/26

News Cast for June 26th:

This past Wednesday night, Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen, along with County Commissioner Terry Burroughs, Police Chief Bob Peterson and Mayor Dowling Watford hosted a town hall meeting at the Douglas Brown Community Center to hear from residents about anything that was on their minds. One resident of Douglas Park who spoke was Kathryn Smith, who spoke of her frustrations with the septic tank she’s had for a long time and the need for a sewer system in the area; a welcome change specifically when it rains.

Commissioner Burroughs responded to that, saying the storm water issues have been addressed and continue to be addressed.

Other items that were discussed included the need for sidewalk improvements in the Basswood section and the concern over the growing number of traffic accidents on Highways 710 and 70. There will be another town hall meeting tonight at the Okeechobee County Civic Center on Highway 98 North beginning at 6:30.

This morning, some lucky people in Okeechobee County will be able to get some food free of charge. For the third time in as many months, officials from the Treasure Coast Food Bank will be in town to assist county and city officials in distributing food to as many as 650 vehicles. Mayor Dowling Watford says the Treasure Coast Food Bank has been coming for years to distribute food but with the ever-present Coronavirus, they’ll have even more to give (June 26th Food Bank 1). The food bank will be held at the Agri-Civic Center beginning at nine o’clock and conclude at eleven o’clock or noon. Volunteers from Christ Fellowship will be on hand to help pack vehicles with food. People that are eligible for this food bank have pre-registered. Members of the County Sheriff’s Department will assist with traffic control.

Tiffany Collins of the Okeechobee County Health Department spoke to County Commissioners during their regular meeting yesterday and gave an update on the status of the Coronavirus not just in the county, but also in the state and she revealed some sobering numbers. Collins says the United States ranks first in the number of positive cases and also in the number of deaths due to COVID-19. Florida ranks fifth in the number of positive cases statewide and Florida ranks ninth in the number of deaths from COVID-19. Okeechobee County however, is one of only seven counties in Florida that have no reported fatalities from COVID-19.  There will free COVID-19 testing tomorrow at the St. Stephen A.M.E. Church on the one thousand block of NE 16th Avenue beginning at ten o’clock, administered by the Florida Community Health Center. Collins says those that still need to be tested and can’t or don’t want to be tested here, might have to go a bit out of their way.

A total of 268 people took advantage of last weekend’s COVID-19 testing session at the County Health Department. Okeechobee County Commissioners renewed the local state of emergency yesterday for another week during their meeting yesterday.

Once again, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County has risen significantly. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 289. 287 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. 24 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 rise in their COVID-19 statistics. As of yesterday morning, Martin County has 1,673 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 23 fatalities, Hendry County has 810 reported cases now with 24 fatalities, Glades County is at 151 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 279 cases with 11 fatalities, Osceola County has 1,321 positive cases with 24 fatalities and Palm Beach has 11,840 cases with 486 fatalities. There are now 114,018 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 111,724 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,327 with 13,775 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.

For the second time in as many days, there will be mosquito control spraying in Okeechobee County. Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials say there will be mosquito control efforts inall areas of the county tonight, weather permitting. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says there will be spraying of adulticide, an insecticide designed to attack adult mosquitos and control their breeding. Smeykal says adulticide is approved and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but it’s probably best to stay indoors while the spraying is going on. If you do go outside, wear long sleeves, use a mosquito repellent with the DEET chemical in it and make sure your pets are prepared.

If the weather is not acceptable tonight, the spraying will take place during the early morning hours tomorrow. If you see your area with an excessive number of mosquitoes flying around, please call Clarke Environmental at 1-800-203-6485. Any further questions can be forwarded to the Emergency Management Center at (863) 763-3212.

On the arrest report:

23 year old Brianna Danielle Freeman of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on several counts of animal cruelty. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

20 year old Ricardo Morales of Okeechobee was arrested for culpable negligence to inflict harm and tampering with evidence. His bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.

27 year old Inez Perez-Mendez of Okeechobee was arrested for driving a vehicle without a valid license. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

19 year old Daniel Wayne Douglas of Okeechobee was arrested for animal cruelty. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

28 year old Ethan Lynn Gopher of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license for the second time after a traffic stop. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.