News Cast 6/5

News Cast for June 5th:

Peaceful protesting continued Thursday evening in the center of downtown Okeechobee on the intersection of 441 and 70 despite the driving rain. The protests are a response to the unjust death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. Protest organizer and Okeechobee resident Amber Sewell says the protests will continue Friday and Saturday and culminate Sunday with a peaceful march through town.

Okeechobee resident Stevie Brantley has donated t-shirts to be handed out at the event and there will also be refreshments. Sewell says that while there has been positive feedback from a weeklong of protests, there have also been some negative feedback.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday reopened bars, movie theaters and other entertainment in 64 counties, announcing Florida’s move into Phase 2 of his three-step plan to restart the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes go into effect today, but don’t apply to the three hardest-hit counties in the state: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach in South Florida.

Under his executive order, bars will be able to open at 50% capacity indoors, and at 100% capacity outside with proper social distancing of 6 feet between tables. The reopening’s also include businesses such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and concert halls at 50% capacity, with social-distancing restrictions as well.

He said restaurants, retail and gyms, currently operating at 50%, could go to full capacity as long as they have the room to practice social distancing. Restaurants can serve at bars with chairs at least 6 feet apart, but bars will only be allowed to serve at tables, he said.

All persons in Florida are still encouraged to avoid congregating in groups larger than 50.

The Board of County Commissioners met Thursday Afternoon for their weekly meeting to discuss Covid-19 procedures as it affects Okeechobee County. Board Chair Terry Burroughs says that one important issue  the community faces is maintaining awareness while the state enters phase 2 of opening up.

Burroughs says it is important to stay vigilant with social distancing and other preventative measures against the Corona Virus.

Per the latest report Friday morning, The number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County has risen again with the number of positive cases reported at 122. 121 of those local residents and their ages range from 2 to 87 with the median age of the patients being 33. Twelve 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 810 positive cases of the Coronavirus with twelve fatalities, Hendry County has risen to 521 reported cases now with 17 fatalities, Glades County has 81 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 141 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 732 positive cases with twenty fatalities and Palm Beach has 6,859 cases with 363 fatalities. There are now 61,488 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 59,993 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,660 with 10,794 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 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.

The Treasure Coast Food Bank held another Mobile Pantry in Okeechobee last Tuesday, at the Ag Center. Approximately 650 vehicles were served with meat, milk, vegetables, and snack items. A special thanks to all the volunteers, the Ag Center staff, Okeechobee County Sheriffs Department and Fire Department, the Okeechobee County BOCC, and Christ Fellowship for coordinating the event. With a grant from USDA and additional donations from area farms and stores, the TCFB has been able to increase the number of food distributions throughout the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee.