News Cast 6/30

News Cast for June 30th:

While it may be the last day of June, it’s important to remember that June is National Homeownership Month in the USA. Okeechobee County Commissioners proclaimed it so during a meeting earlier this month. Joy Jarriel, the coordinator for the State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) in Okeechobee was on hand to accept the proclamation and she says she was “very surprised and blessed” that the county has not only accepted this proclamation but also supported the SHIP program. Jarriel says this proclamation is a time for people to focus on communities and encourage home ownership for the good of that community.

Jarriel says the SHIP program is funded by the Florida Housing Commission and is to mainly help families with low incomes with purchase assistance programs, emergency repair programs and now a COVID-19 rent program to help those who cannot meet their rent payments due to lost wages from their employment.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County has not only risen past the three century mark, but we’re now over the three and a half century mark. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County rose to 360 through the weekend. 358 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 0 to 93 with the median age of the patients being 34. 26 patients have been hospitalized. Thankfully there have been no fatalities. Tiffany Collins of the Okeechobee County Health Department recently said in a press conference that those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through 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 1,979 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 25 fatalities, Hendry County has 938 reported cases now with 25 fatalities, Glades County is at 167 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 345 cases with 11 fatalities, Osceola County has 1,919 positive cases with 24 fatalities and Palm Beach has 13,711 cases with 503 fatalities. There are now 146,341 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 143,805 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,447 with 14,354 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 CVS Pharmacy in Okeechobee, 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

For the second time in just under a week, State Route 68, otherwise known as Orange Avenue in St. Lucie County, was the scene of a fatal accident Saturday evening. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say a 30 year old Port St. Lucie man was driving a sedan west on SR-68 approaching Rim Road in Port St. Lucie just before six o’clock when, for unknown reasons, he veered off the road and struck a guardrail and construction machinery on the north side of the road. On-scene medics declared the man dead from injuries he sustained in the crash. It’s under investigation. A similar accident claimed the life of a 20 year old Fort Pierce woman on Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce last Wednesday night. That accident is also being investigated. Names of the victims are not being released to the public due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

44 year old Susan Marlene Schoff of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for misusing the 911 system. Her bond is set at $250 dollars.

23 year old Angel Gustavo Ponce of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

25 year old William Dakota Lane Fulwider of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $26 hundred dollars.

56 year old Shelia Ann Bonham of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. Her bond is set at one hundred dollars.

31 year old Thomas Colby Fralix of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during his arraignment hearing on charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

28 year old David O’Brien Phillips of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

35 year old Bradley Justin Sheltra of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $27 hundred dollars.

44 year old Shannon Denzil Lucas of Winter Haven was arrested for drunk driving and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.