News Cast for July 16th:
It will be a very busy day today for the Okeechobee County Commissioners and other local officials. Commissioners will meet with the County Health Department and Emergency Management for a meeting on the status of the Coronavirus in the county and then they will meet with heads of county departments to listen to their budget plans. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating is limited due to the social distancing guidelines. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.
That won’t be all; commissioners up for re-election and others will be on hand later this evening for a candidates’ forum. This will grant candidates for those county offices that are up for grabs to chance to speak to the public one month before the primary election. One candidate is Jack Boon, who is going up against District 5 Okeechobee County Commissioner Kelly Owens. Boon, recently retired from the Okeechobee Police Department, says he’s running for commissioner because he’s been unhappy with how things have been working in the county lately and he wants the chance to do a better job. Boon says what is needed more than anything is better industry and also to find ways to retain and coerce young people to stay in Okeechobee and not leave the community. Other candidates who may be at the forum tonight include former Okeechobee County Court Judge Jerry Bryant, who is running for County Clerk against Sharon Robertson and local general contractor Mark Brandel, who is seeking the District 1 County Commissioner seat from incumbent David Hazellief. The forum will begin at six o’clock in the Freshman Campus auditorium. It will be broadcast on WOKC and streamed live on Facebook.
During their last meeting on July 7th, the Okeechobee City Council took the time to recognize one of the city’s longtime employees. Marvin Roberts received a 20 year longevity service award from the council, honoring him for his service to the Public Works Department. Roberts says there’s been ups and downs over his 20 year tenure with the city but overall it’s been great and he loves what he does and he currently serves as the Maintenance Foreman for the Public Works Department where he comes up with the work details for all the employees. Roberts says his favorite part of the job is being able to help people.
The 53 year old Roberts is an Okeechobee native and when he’s not helping to maintain the city’s traffic lights, roads and lawns, he is the voice of the Brahmans football team along with WOKC’s own Ken Keller; another job he loves to do. Public Works Director David Allen says Roberts is his “right hand man”, a compliment he takes to heart.
Closer and closer Okeechobee County gets 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 at 586 with two fatalities. 583 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. 53 county 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.
As of yesterday morning, there are 301,810 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state since March and 297,876 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 4,521 with 19,334 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County remains under a state of emergency until county commissioners decide to renew it during today’s meeting.
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.
For the second time in as many days, there was a brush fire that required the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters this past Sunday afternoon. Crews were called to the three thousand block of NE 52nd Drive just before one o’clock and arrived to find the fire but getting to the blaze to fight it proved to be a problem due to a canal blocking access. Firefighters had to ask permission from the neighbors to gain access to their ranches to get to the fire. Access was eventually given via the gate from a cemetery which they cut the lock to. Firefighters found the blaze moving slowly in some very thick vegetation. Department of Forestry fire crews arrived on scene and set up a fire line to contain the blaze which they did in just over an hour and a half. No one was hurt and no structure damages. It’s currently under investigation. County firefighters also fought a blaze to some burning palm trees on Saturday afternoon.
On the arrest report:
35 year old Jesse Dean Schisler of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to register as a sex offender in the county. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.
44 year old Sarah Olivia King of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft, giving false information to a law officer and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. Her bond is set at $13 thousand dollars.
47 year old Juan Manuel Mata Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of marijuana, Xanax, crack cocaine, synthetic cannabis, drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest following a traffic stop. His bond is set at $85 hundred dollars.