News Cast 7/1

News Cast for July 1st:

Yesterday morning, several residents and city officials gathered at the one hundred year old Centennial Park in Okeechobee to witness the groundbreaking ceremony of Phase 2 of the park. City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca says Phase 2 involves bathrooms, picnic tables, grills for barbecuing and pavilions to go along with the children’s playground that is already there. De Oca says there will also be something special added in to help people when they need their phones charged in a pinch.

De Oca says the Phase 2 features, which were paid for with a combination of state grants from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and city dollars, should be completed and in place before the end of July at the earliest and end of summer at the latest. He looks at this as a “good community project.”

This past Friday, for the second time in three days, the top officials in law enforcement and local government in Okeechobee County met in a Town Hall Meeting to give residents a chance to speak on issues of concern. The meeting was put together by Sheriff Noel Stephen and he was joined by Police Chief Bob Peterson, County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs and Mayor Dowling Watford, who all answered questions from the audience and those watching the live broadcast on Facebook. Stephen says he believes the town hall meeting went very well and it achieved what he wanted it to achieve; transparency and accessibility.

One question that came up in this meeting and Wednesday night’s meeting was the idea of law officers wearing body cameras. Stephen says it’s not a question of officers wanting to wear them, it’s a case of cost (June 26th Town Hall Meeting 2). Other issues brought up were large scale businesses coming to town and the future of WaWa gas station on Park Street. Friday’s and Wednesday’s meetings can be viewed in their entirety on the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County has not only risen well past the three century mark, but we’re now inching closer to the four-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 377. 375 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 93 with the median age of the patients being 34. 30 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 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 2,055 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 25 fatalities, Hendry County has 953 reported cases now with 25 fatalities, Glades County is at 175 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 350 cases with 11 fatalities, Osceola County has 2,026 positive cases with 24 fatalities and Palm Beach has 14,150 cases with 510 fatalities. There are now 152,434 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 149,781 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,505 with 14,580 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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

40 year old Tracy Wayne McKinney of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on battery charges for the second time. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

24 year old Mateo Eduardo Lopez Romero of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

32 year old Ronald Wayne Palmer of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

31 year old Christie Juracit Shockley of Okeechobee was arrested by police on several counts of possession of the drugs heroin, Legend and other controlled substances without a prescription and drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at $34,500.00 dollars.