News Cast 7/28

News Cast for July 28th:

A house fire claimed the life of an Okeechobee woman late Saturday morning in Okeechobee County. Firefighters were called to the 19 hundred block of NW 7th Avenue shortly before noon and arrived to a single story home completely covered in flames and there was a lot of heavy visible smoke. Firefighters say there were still two people inside the home and were unable to get out. A search crew was called in to find the missing people. Firefighters began extinguishing the fire at the front porch to get into the house. They eventually got in as did the search crew and found two people, one of them a nine year old child and the other her grandmother, later identified as Lydia Entry, lying on the floor of the bathroom with their feet in the hallway. Firefighters removed the child, who had been in Entry’s arms when found, from the home. Entry ended up dying from injuries she sustained in the fire and her husband, Joe Entry, also found in the house, escaped with some minor burns. The girl suffered more severe burns and she is being treated at a burn center in Miami. Firefighters from both the city and county needed nearly five hours to get the fire extinguished. The fire completely destroyed the home and the cause of the blaze is under investigation. Total cost of the damages is not known at this time.

An Okeechobee man is in county jail at this time following an armed robbery attempt at a convenience store early yesterday morning. Sheriff’s investigators responded to the Town Star convenience store on the 39 hundred block of Highway 710 just after seven o’clock after the suspect, later identified as 37 year old Leroy Sheppard, forced the store clerk at gunpoint to give him money from the cash register. Sheppard reportedly fled the scene with $120 dollars he’d robbed from the store in his vehicle. The store clerk gave a description of Sheppard and his getaway vehicle to sheriff’s deputies and after a brief pursuit, Sheppard was pulled over and arrested. Sheriff’s deputies can be credited for their great work in this incident getting resolved quickly, Sheriff Noel Stephen says a resident who spotted Sheppard’s vehicle and where it was headed was the key to his quick apprehension. Stephen says that is a reflection of what we need to do as a society more often.

Sheppard was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, fleeing and eluding, resisting without violence, obstruction and reckless driving. The investigation in this case is ongoing.

During their regular meeting on Thursday, the Okeechobee County Commissioners got a status report on the COVID-19 situation in the county and from the aspect of paper goods availability, things are looking good. County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says the supply chains are stable and there are plenty of paper goods in supermarkets, with some spot outages and limited quantities on certain items here and there, but it’s looking better than before. Franklin then discussed the possibility of county paramedics being used for COVID-19 testing at free testing sites, which was brought to his attention by Department of Health officials. Franklin says that is something that will not be done because doing that would be a potentially major impact on Okeechobee County Emergency Management operations.

The next COVID-19 status meeting will be this Thursday at four o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse.

Okeechobee County has officially surpassed the eight hundred mark in 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 837 with two fatalities. 833 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 36. 70 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.

Also as of yesterday morning, Florida is well over the four hundred thousand mark in positive COVID-19 cases. There are 432,747 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state since March and 427,698 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 5,931 with 24,332 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County Commissioners officially renewed the local state of emergency for another week beginning last Friday.

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:

57 year old Brian Anthony Guzowski of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing on someone’s property. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

19 year old Jaali Vitari Thanars of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Duval County for previous charges of burglary. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Isaias Enrique Torres of Fort Pierce was arrested on two counts of contempt of court during his hearings on past charges of harvesting an endangered plant without a permit and trespassing. He was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.

55 year old Patrick Duncan Gammage of Arcadia was arrested by police for petit theft. His bond is set at $750 dollars.