News Cast 6/9

News Cast for June 9th:

The Okeechobee County School Board will be meeting this evening for the first time since the school year ended for students and they will consider adopting a policy as it pertains to suicide prevention and they will also recognize a number of teachers and administrative staff that will be retiring. The meeting will begin at six o’clock in the school board office but it’s not open to the public due to the COVID-19 concerns and caution. The meeting can be viewed by logging onto zoom.us. The meeting ID number is 930 4693 1253 and the password is 7vtUTV. Any further questions about participating in the meeting can be answered by contacting the school board office.

Okeechobee County experienced a significant rise in the number of positive tests for COVID-19 through the weekend. As of yesterday, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County has risen to 138. 137 of those 138 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. Twelve of the 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 now include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

Neighboring counties also experienced a rise in the COVID-19 statistics over the weekend. As of yesterday, Martin County has 917 positive cases of the Coronavirus with thirteen fatalities, Hendry County has 565 reported cases now with 18 fatalities, Glades County has 85 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 150 cases with nine fatalities, Osceola County has 749 positive cases with twenty one fatalities and Palm Beach has 7,329 cases with 373 fatalities. There are now 64,904 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 63,378 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 2,712 with 11,008 people hospitalized.

Phase Two of the re-opening of Florida began on Friday and that was coupled with rising numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 throughout the state, including Okeechobee County. County Commissioners met last Thursday to discuss the status of the virus in the county and what we need to do to protect ourselves. Commission Chair Terry Burroughs says despite the recent spike in positive cases in the state coinciding with the start of Phase Two, it’s not cause for great concern.

Burroughs says it’s important that people “stay vigilant” with social distancing and other preventative measures against the Coronavirus.

Hurricane Sheltering was a topic of discussion amongst Okeechobee County Commissioners during their last meeting and it’s become even more of a concern as Hurricane Season arrived and now with the ever-present Coronavirus. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal spoke with commissioners and he reported that the Red Cross and FEMA allowed for a 45 to 60 foot square foot space per family to allow for social distancing, down from 110 square feet of space should people need to be sheltered in the event of a hurricane. Buildings that would be used for hurricane sheltering, Osceola Middle School and Southern Elementary School, would not be able to house as many people as normal due to social distancing guidelines. However, Smeykal says if a shelter is your plan you need a new one because a shelter is not a plan, it’s a lifeboat.

Smeykal says Okeechobee Achievement Academy is being looked at as a possible hurricane shelter. Hotels were a consideration but there are not enough of them and they’re reserved usually for power company employees.

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 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.

On the arrest report:

40 year old Jessica Marie Sagers of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

19 year old Adan Magana Junior of Okeechobee was arrested on two counts of criminal mischief. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

27 year old Josue Borja Ayala of Okeechobee was arrested for misusing the 911 system. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

29 year old Logan Ray Hobson of Okeechobee was arrested for burglary. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

59 year old Wendell Gary Smith of Okeechobee was arrested by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers for operating a boat while intoxicated after being stopped in the Okee-Tantie area of Lake Okeechobee. His bond has not been set.