News Cast 7/6

News Cast for July 6th:

This past Thursday, the Okeechobee County Commissioners met with the County Health Department and Emergency Management regarding the status of the Coronavirus in the county. County Health Department Spokesperson Tiffany Collins says the positivity rate in the county has gone over the ten percent mark and the Department of Health will be focusing on high risk individuals such as those over the age of 65 with symptoms, those with serious diseases, pregnant women and health care workers and first responders that are symptomatic. Collins also says they will be focusing on contact tracing investigations of those that are hospitalized with the virus and they will be doing what she calls “texting monitoring”.

Collins also says there is an alarming trend going on with something called “quarantine COVID-19 parties” around the state, similar to hurricane parties, something that needs to stop immediately.

The Urgent Care is still providing asymptomatic testing for those who need it for a small fee and Okeechobee still ranks sixth in the state in pediatric cases with just under 39 percent. Commissioners unanimously voted to renew the local state of emergency for another week, retroactive to last Friday.

Well folks, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County has now officially passed the four-century mark. As of Friday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is at 402. Four hundred 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. 39 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 experienced increases in their COVID-19 statistics. As of yesterday morning, Martin County has 2,208 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 28 fatalities, Hendry County has 1,021 reported cases now with 27 fatalities, Glades County is at 172 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 390 cases with 11 fatalities, Osceola County has 2,526 positive cases with 25 fatalities and Palm Beach has 15,324 cases with 536 fatalities. There are now 178,594 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 175,718 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,684 with 15,491 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 as of now.

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.

Investigators from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department are still working to identify the skeletal remains that were found last Tuesday off of Highway 27 in the eastern part of the county. Investigators say an employee at J.D. Thornton Nurseries in Clewiston found a skull that just popped out of the ground while he was digging with a tractor and as many as a dozen more skeletal bones were eventually found on the nursery’s grounds. Hendry County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Michael Rowan says it’s likely they were there for an extended period of time.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) officers are assisting Hendry County Sheriff’s investigators in determining the identity of the remains. Investigators say it’s too early right now to call this a homicide or suspicious death. If you have any information on this case, please contact the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department.

On the arrest report:

42 year old James Franklin Sellers of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill during a domestic dispute with his mother. His bond is set at twenty thousand dollars.

23 year old Harrison James Hemmis of Okeechobee was arrested on charges of battery, criminal mischief and escape from law enforcement following a domestic incident. His bond is set at $106 thousand dollars.

59 year old Lorna Pearl Gordon of Okeechobee was arrested for battery and resisting a law enforcement officer. Her bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

30 year old Rachel Marie Herndon of Okeechobee was arrested by police on numerous counts of violating probation on undisclosed charges. She’s being held without bond.