News Cast 6/4

News Cast for June 4th:

The issue of fire protective services once again found its way into the Okeechobee City Council’s last meeting Tuesday night. The draft of the interlocal agreement, previously accepted by the council, albeit with some suggested changes to it for the county commission to consider, will now be discussed among members of a task force to hopefully come up with a solution and stop the back and forth between the city and the county on this issue. Mayor Dowling Watford, who will be part of this task force, says he believes this move will make a difference. Longtime Okeechobee City resident Lawrence Phipps spoke at the meeting and while he says the departments shouldn’t merge, the issue should be part of a referendum in the next election.

Along with Mayor Watford, the task force will consist of County Administrator and Counsel Robbie Chartier and Wade Vose respectively, City Administrator and Counsel Marcos Montes De Oca and John Fumero respectively, County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs and a member of the Fire Department Union.

For the fourth time in a row yesterday, the intersection of Parrott Avenue and Park Street in Okeechobee was the site of another demonstration. Despite the rain-soaked day and the threat for more of the same, local residents, both adult and child, gathered at the intersection once again to protest the unjust death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. Okeechobee resident and nurse Amber Sewell, the demonstration’s organizer, says she’s glad the message has gotten out and brought the community together. She hopes it will allow for a chapter for Black Lives Matter be created here.

One who joined the protest for the first time yesterday, Cody Polk, who moved to Okeechobee a few years ago from Palm Beach, says this is the beginning of something real for our generation and it’s time to stand up against the unjustness (Wednesday Protest 2). There will be another demonstration this afternoon at the same intersection, Parrott Avenue and Park Street, beginning at 5:30.

Don’t look now folks, but the number of positive cases of the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is nearing the triple digit mark. The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is at 97 as of yesterday. 96 of those 97 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 6 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 34. Ten of the patients have been hospitalized. 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.

Several neighboring counties also experienced a rise in their COVID-19 statistics. Martin County has 729 positive cases of the Coronavirus with ten fatalities, Hendry County has 476 reported cases now with 17 fatalities, Glades County has 64 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 134 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 715 positive cases with twenty fatalities and Palm Beach has 6,477 cases with 359 fatalities. There are now 58,764 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 57,293 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,566 with 10,525 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 hotline 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. County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says while the hotline remains active, that will change soon (Franklin-COVID 19 Hotline Changes). The library 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 structure fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters early yesterday morning. Crews were called to the 32 hundred block of 33rd Terrace in Okeechobee shortly before three o’clock and arrived to find that it was a fire to the front porch area that was called in by a neighbor. Firefighters say the fire was burning an area of about four by four feet on a wooden porch and the homeowner was using a garden hose to cool off the area. Firefighters say the neighbor reportedly saw fire and smoke and ran to the house to wake everyone up. The homeowner then put out the fire himself with water from the garden hose. No one was hurt. Total damage is estimated at a thousand dollars. Firefighters left the scene shortly before four o’clock.  It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

45 year old Timothy James Burke of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of methamphetamine and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

22 year old Tyler Allen Holland of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

32 year old Joshua Valdez of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of heroin, drug paraphernalia and controlled substances without a prescription. His bond is set at $11 thousand dollars.

56 year old Lyman De Carlos Smith of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license for the third time after a traffic stop. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

43 year old Tanya Kay Stroner Parker of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.