News Cast for July 15th:
Come next month, schools all over the state will be re-opening to students to begin the new school year as ordered by Governor Ron DeSantis and the Okeechobee County School Board met last night to discuss the best way to accomplish that while we’re still in the midst of COVID-19. The school board voted unanimously to have three options available for students: the first option is the traditional return to school buildings on August 10th, second option would be online learning under a mandatory meeting time schedule and the third is virtual online learning where you learn at your own pace. The school board approved the mandatory wearing of facemasks by students at school facilities. The board discussed and debated the facemask issue for more than four hours before finally coming to a decision. County School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says he didn’t think it would take that long.
The measure passed by a slim three to two vote. School Board member Melisa Jahner and Joe Arnold were the dissenting voices. Jahner says the underlying circumstances where a mask is going to be needed to be worn, specifically by kindergarteners and first graders, is going to be a problem.
Students opting for any of the two online learning choices must make it known to school officials by July 22nd. Interestingly, a recent survey shows 42.7 percent of parents want facemasks to be mandatory at school while 41.7 percent wanted masks to be encouraged but voluntary.
Okeechobee County is unfortunately inching closer and closer to the six century mark in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is now at 581 with two fatalities. 578 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. 52 residents have been hospitalized. 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.
There are now 291,629 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state since March and 287,789 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 4,409 with 18,881 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County remains under a state of emergency with the next COVID-19 status meeting tomorrow afternoon.
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.
While we may be in the middle of Hurricane Season, it hasn’t stopped brush fires from happening and a report of a brush fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters last Saturday evening. Crews were called to a home on the area of NW 284th Street just before eight o’clock and arrived to find three burning palm trees. Firefighters say the homeowner was trying to burn off the vines and it got out of control. Crews needed about an hour to get the fires controlled with no one getting hurt and no structural damages. It’s under investigation.
On the arrest report:
23 year old Billy Cecil Farr Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on previous undisclosed charges. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.
39 year old Katie Marie Kimbrough of Okeechobee was arrested for introducing contraband into a detention facility. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.
44 year old Fred Roland Mulroney of Okeechobee was arrested for criminal mischief. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.
36 year old James Bryan Timmons of Pompano Beach was arrested on two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and attempting to escape after he was found on Lock 7 while under the influence of heroin. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.