News Cast 7/14

News Cast for July 14th:

The Okeechobee County School Board will meet this evening and they will look to approve a suicide prevention policy and they will also look at approving agreements with an outside construction group to repair and replace the roof at Central Elementary School. The meeting will begin at six o’clock in the school board office. The meeting will be accessible via zoom. Please check with the school board office for instructions on accessing the meeting through the zoom application.

This morning, once again, some lucky people in Okeechobee County will be the recipients of some free food, compliments of the Treasure Coast Food Bank. Officials from the Treasure Coast Food Bank will be in town to distribute food to two hundred vehicles on the north section of town at the Coquina Water facility, located on 242nd Avenue. While the food distribution events are normally held at the Agri-Civic Center, Assistant County Fire Chief Earl Wooten says this site was chosen mainly for convenience.

People participating have pre-registered and they will receive a call from the county telling them they are eligible. The food bank will begin at nine o’clock and continue until eleven o’clock or noon. Another food bank distribution will be held at the Agri-Civic Center on Saturday morning.

During last week’s Okeechobee County Commissioners meeting, the commissioners discussed the glaring lack of sites designated for free, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in the county. Okeechobee County residents and commissioners can now be happier knowing that there will be one by the end of the week. Officials from the local health department announced yesterday that there will be a free, walk-up COVID-19 testing site this coming Saturday. Commissioner Kelly Owens says she was “extremely pleased” that there will be free testing for a large number of people and it won’t have the restrictive conditions that most testing sites have in the community. Owens says she hopes having this free testing site will let the state know that there is a need here for more free testing sites and end the stigma that testing isn’t needed here just because Okeechobee is a small rural county.

Owens says the success of this testing site on Saturday will go a long way in getting more free testing sites here. The testing will take place at 1728 NW 9th Avenue beginning at 8:30 in the morning and will continue until four o’clock or until five hundred people have been tested, whichever comes first.

It was not a good weekend in Okeechobee County in terms of COVID-19 as we are now not only inching closer to the six century mark in the number of positive cases, but unfortunately we’ve also had our first fatalities from the virus. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is now at 566. 562 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 35. 48 patients have been hospitalized and now there’s been two reported deaths as a result of the virus in the county. 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 experienced increases in their COVID-19 statistics. As of yesterday morning, Martin County has 2,864 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 42 fatalities, Hendry County has 1,241 reported cases now with 29 fatalities, Glades County is at 209 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 557 cases with 13 fatalities, Osceola County has 4,442 positive cases with 31 fatalities and Palm Beach has 21,806 cases with 611 fatalities. There are now 282,435 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 278,667 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 4,277 with 18,498 people hospitalized.

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. Wal-Mart is no longer doing their drive-thru testing program.

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.

A trip through Okeechobee County turned out to be the last one for a 50 year old Palm Bay man this past Saturday evening. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man was riding a motorcycle eastbound on State Route 68, otherwise known as NW 160th Street, less than a mile east of Highway 98 at around five o’clock when he reportedly failed to negotiate a left-handed curve properly and ran off the road. The bike then went onto the grass surface and onto the right shoulder of the road before it overturned and collided with a fence post. The force of the impact ejected the man from the bike where on-scene medics declared the man dead. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

24 year old Angel Gustavo Ponce of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on undisclosed charges. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

31 year old Stesha Kay Lanham of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

32 year old Harrison George Eaton of Okeechobee was arrested for resisting arrest and contempt of court on undisclosed past charges. He’s being held without bond.

33 year old Katie Jean Suggs of Moore Haven was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $35 hundred dollars.