News Cast 8/26

News Cast for August 26th:

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department officials are asking the public’s help in finding a missing Immokalee man who was last seen in the Okeechobee area earlier this week. 65 year old Jean Odney Alexandre was last seen with another man this past Monday picking palmetto berries somewhere on the prairie in the northwestern part of the county. The other man reportedly left Alexandre behind after a while. Alexandre was reported missing by Collier County Sheriff’s Department officials late Monday night who then contacted the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department. Jean Odney Alexandre is African-American and he stands five feet, seven inches tall and weighs 155 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. He was reportedly last seen wearing a white shirt, black jeans with a stripe on the sides and blue Nike tennis shoes with a white line on the soles. If you’ve seen or know of Alexandre’s whereabouts, please contact the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department as soon as possible, 863-763-3117. Search teams from as far as St. Lucie County are involved in the search. The other man whom Alexandre was last seen picking palmetto berries with has not been located.

Over the last six months or so, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced postponement or cancellation of sports seasons on all levels, including here in Okeechobee County. One area league that will be taking this year off is the Okeechobee Youth Football League. Good news is that coaches from that league have decided to start their own youth football league this year, called the Okeechobee Bulls Youth Athletic League (OBYAL). Community Services Director Denise Whitehead says coaches from the OBYAL approached her to schedule field time and discuss the program. It was brought before the county commissioners and they approved a measure to waive the fee requirements for this football league. Whitehead says it refreshing to see something like this happen in the community in the midst of the pandemic.

The league will soon begin practices on two fields across the street from North Elementary School and they will have tournament-style games at the field at the Sports Complex next to the county pool. The games will reportedly run through November.

The grant program that was developed recently to help businesses with financial recovery following state government-ordered shutdowns last spring is being extended. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act that provided grants to certain businesses that were forced to close during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is now available to help qualifying home-based businesses as well as waiters, waitresses and bartenders, who were likely affected more than most. Okeechobee County Commissioners approved the plan during their meeting last Thursday afternoon to offer grants to those businesses that lost income during the shutdown. County Commissioner Terry Burroughs says people and businesses that are applying for these grants need to understand the criteria that is expected of them, specifically providing a W-2 tax form in some instances.  Burroughs says while it provides a sort of sigh of relief for these other businesses and workers, it also opens the door to concern.

The county was allocated just over $1.5 million dollars in CARES act funding and it’s awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, please contact the Okeechobee County Economic Development Corporation.

Okeechobee County has a few more additions to 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 1,208 since March, now with 13 fatalities. 1,204 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. 125 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 605,502 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 599,176 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 10,580 along with 37,038 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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

A Lake Placid man is in critical condition following a vehicle accident Friday morning in Highlands County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man, a 64 year old resident of Lake Placid, was riding a motorcycle east on Lake June Road, west of Piney Point Drive in Lake Placid just after 9:20 when he failed to negotiate a left handed curve properly, causing him to go off the road and onto the shoulder. The bike then overturned onto its left side. The man was transported to a nearby medical facility for treatment. The accident is under investigation.

On the arrest report:

26 year old Jaime Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on local warrants for multiple counts of possession of inappropriate photos of children in sexual acts and the electronic transmission of the photos. His bond is set at $210 thousand dollars.

32 year old Rick Clayton Lyon Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon on public or residential property. His bond is set at $16 thousand dollars.

30 year old Luis Alvarez of Lake Worth was arrested for drunk driving for the third time in ten years with knowledge of it following a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at eight thousand dollars.