News Cast 7/9

News Cast for July 9th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning and they will have their weekly briefing on the status of the Coronavirus in the county and they will also discuss the future of fire protective services between the city and county of Okeechobee. Commissioners will also look to award a bid of just over two million dollars to local contractor Seminole Design-Build, Inc., for improvements on NE 39th Boulevard, otherwise known as Cemetery Road. The meeting will be held in the Historic County Courthouse beginning at nine o’clock. Seating is limited due to social distancing guidelines and the meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the county commissioners, at their last meeting, they voted unanimously to sell a small piece of land of the Agri-Civic Center to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Commissioner Brad Goodbread says this quarter acre sized area of land is road frontage of Highway 710 and it’s being done to eventually widen the road to four lanes to allow for better traffic flow. Goodbread says this was done via eminent domain and besides the county receiving just over $286 thousand dollars by the FDOT to purchase this land, FDOT also handles expenses.

Goodbread says the widening of the road, which is sorely needed to cut down on the high numbers of traffic accidents, should be completed in about five years. Commissioners will likely decide during budget time next week what they will do with the money they’ll be receiving for the land’s purchase.

A 16 year old Okeechobee boy is dead and a 15 year old Okeechobee boy and a 14 year old Okeechobee girl are each in serious condition following a vehicle accident early Friday morning in Okeechobee County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the 15 year old boy was driving a sports utility vehicle (SUV) west on NW 240th Street at around 2:30 with the 16 year old local boy and the 14 year old local girl as passengers when for some reason the 15 year old drifted off the road and onto the northern shoulder of the road. This caused him to overcorrect to the left, cross both center lines and rotate counterclockwise before colliding with a utility pole. The 16 year old boy was pronounced dead at the scene by medics and the 15 year old boy and 14 year old girl were taken to area hospitals for treatment. The accident is under investigation.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County is over the four and a half century mark. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is at 452. 450 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 93 with the median age of the patients being 35. 45 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 recently. As of yesterday morning, Martin County has 2,503 positive cases of the Coronavirus with 34 fatalities, Hendry County has 1,129 reported cases now with 27 fatalities, Glades County is at 189 reported cases with one fatality, Highlands County is at 457 cases with 12 fatalities, Osceola County has 3,302 positive cases with 30 fatalities and Palm Beach has 18,231 cases with 569 fatalities. There are now 223,783 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 220,492 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,889 with 16,758 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.

Last week, several agencies including Clewiston Police and Fire Departments, Golisano Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Worldwide and the Department of Children and Families were in Clewiston to participate in a demonstration to provide awareness for Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke awareness. Last year, 52 children died in hot cars, 53 in 2018. This year so far, there have been six. Another major concern is our pets, who are also in extreme danger of overheating. Nicole Reid, News Director for WAFC, our sister station in Clewiston, spoke with Aimie McLaughlin, events coordinator for Gulf Coast Humane Society, who says on a warm day, the temperature in a car can exceed 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows partially open. McLaughlin says although we live in a pet-friendly community, we should leave our pets home unless it’s completely necessary (McLaughlin-Safer at Home). Your pet can quickly suffer brain damage and die from heatstroke or suffocation. If your pet does become overcome by the heat, according to the ASPCA, bring its body temperature down by soaking the animal in cool water, making sure not to get the water into the mouth or nose and seek immediate veterinary care. For tips on pet safety, please visit www.aspca.org or your local humane society.

On the arrest report:

22 year old Lacy Mikahly Lynn Curtis of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of cocaine, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. Her bond is set at $10,500.00 dollars.

36 year old Stephanie Michelle Starcher of Okeechobee was arrested on an out of county warrant for violating probation on previous petit theft charges. She’s being held without bond.

46 year old Shawn Matthew Pyper of Okeechobee was arrested for child abuse and resisting arrest after a domestic incident and fleeing law enforcement. His bond is set at $11,500.00 dollars.

28 year old Alexander George Brock of Okeechobee was arrested on St. Lucie County warrants for charges of grand theft auto and felony petit theft. His bond is set at twenty thousand dollars.

47 year old Juan Manuel Mata, Junior of Okeechobee was arrested 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.

30 year old Hilliard John Gopher of Okeechobee was arrested on five warrants from St. Lucie County for previous undisclosed charges. His bond is set at $95 thousand dollars.