News Cast 8/20

News Cast for August 20th:

The status of the Coronavirus will be the topic of discussion once again this afternoon as Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet with County Emergency Management and County Health Department officials. The meeting will begin at four o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating will be limited due to the social distancing guidelines. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Following months of discussion, months of concern over student and teacher safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention summer vacation, Okeechobee County schools re-opened this past Monday to begin the new school year. School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says the day went remarkably well; students showed up that chose that option; eager to come to school and while there may have been some minor traffic issues, it was as good of an opening day of school as any. Kenworthy observed that the biggest surprise about the first day of school was COVID-or rather the lack of fear or anxiety about it.

Kenworthy also noted that with the mandatory wearing of face masks for students, no one seemed to have a problem with it, including younger students. There was a little under three thousand students who physically returned to schools on Monday, with the rest of them taking classes online through either Okeechobee Sync, which is online learning under a teacher’s set schedule or Okeechobee Virtual, which is online learning without any set schedule, which began yesterday. Maintenance workers will be working to keep the schools clean during and after school hours.

Once again, the people who represent the Treasure Coast Food Bank made another trip to Okeechobee County last week for a free food pantry to some lucky people and their vehicles and it was a rousing success. Okeechobee County Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says the food pantry had enough food to pack three hundred vehicles and it was held at the Agri-Civic Center which Franklin, and several others, say is the best place for this type event and that usually leads to its success.

The food pantry began at nine o’clock Friday morning and as many as 260 vehicles were packed with free food. Officials from the Treasure Coast Food Bank, Okeechobee Sheriff’s Department and others were on hand to assist in making sure it ran smoothly. There will be another free food pantry likely set for August 26th.

Okeechobee County has surpassed the eleven and a half hundred mark in positive COVID-19 cases and they’re not far from the twelve hundred mark. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,169 since March, with 12 fatalities. 1,165 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 38. 116 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, there are 584,047 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 577,891 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 9,932 with 35,200 people hospitalized.

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 or the Center for Disease Control at

A 77 year old Fort Pierce man is dead following a rather unusual vehicle accident Tuesday morning in Martin County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man was driving a sports utility vehicle (SUV) south on SW Amaryllis Avenue in Indiantown shortly after 10:30 at the same time a freight train was traveling west on the tracks parallel to State Route 710. FHP officers say the man tried to drive over the tracks as the train was approaching and the left side of the SUV was struck by the train. The impact from the collision caused the SUV to overturn and come to rest just south of the tracks. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

20 year old Robert Lamote Futch of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on multiple counts of violating probation on past charges of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and grand theft. He’s being held without bond.

40 year old Francisco Lopez Vazquez of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

25 year old Breane Marie Wheeler of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

62 year old Clarence Lee McDuffie of Fort Pierce was arrested for violating probation on undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.