News Cast 8/4

News Cast for August 4th:

The Okeechobee City Council will be meeting this evening and it’ll be a relatively short agenda. Councilmembers will be hearing a presentation of the Flagler Park Master Plan by members of the Economic Council. The council will also look at rescheduling the November 3rd regular meeting because of the upcoming general election. The meeting will be held at City Hall beginning at six o’clock. Seating is limited due to social distancing guidelines. It will be broadcast via the Zoom application. Please contact the City Administrator’s office for directions on how to log on through Zoom.

Speaking of the Okeechobee City Council, during their last meeting on July 21st, they unanimously adopted a resolution to create the City of Okeechobee Citizens Charter Review Advisory Committee (CCRAC). Mayor Dowling Watford says this committee will consist of seven main members and one alternate member and they will be charged with creating a new charter for the city, which will be a rule book for city residents and officials to abide by. Councilmembers approved the creation of a new charter at a previous meeting because the present one is outdated and has not been revised since the 1960’s. Watford says a member of this committee needs to be either a resident or own property in the city of Okeechobee. While knowledge of the city’s operations, services, etc. is ideal for membership to the CCRAC, Watford says common sense is also a valuable trait for membership.

Members of the CCRAC will be chosen by the council; each councilmember will select one apiece and the remaining three will be voted on by the council. Members of the CCRAC will be chosen by next month.

There was some rain, a little bit of wind but in the end, not much at all from Tropical Storm Isaias. The weather system that grew into a tropical storm warning then a Category 1 Hurricane warning basically brushed the east coast of Florida and shifted off the coast, seemingly doing little to no harm to much of the state including Okeechobee. Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says this was a weaker tropical system to begin with and it’s difficult for those at the hurricane center to forecast something like this. The dry air from wind shear apparently affected the storm from gathering tropical moisture from the ocean that would strengthen the storm. Nevertheless, Smeykal says it was necessary to make the closings in the area and open up shelters and if nothing else, it was a good training for COVID-19 issues during a storm.

The state of emergency for Isaias that was enacted last Thursday will likely be cancelled by Thursday of this week and mobile COVID-19 testing sites will be re-opened either today or tomorrow.

Okeechobee County is not only over the nine hundred mark in positive COVID-19 cases, we’ve surpassed the nine and a half century mark. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is now at 958 and the number of deaths recently rose to six. 954 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. 86 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 491,884 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state since March and 486,384 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 7,157 with 27,366 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.

All COVID-19 testing sites in the county that have been shut down since the emergence of the state of emergency from Tropical Storm Isaias last week, will be re-opening sometime today or tomorrow.

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 22 year old Clewiston woman and a four year old boy are in serious but stable condition following a vehicle accident Friday morning in Glades County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the woman was driving a sports utility vehicle (SUV) northbound on US Highway 27 near Pearle Rhymes Lane in Moore Haven with her four year old male passenger just after eleven o’clock when she failed to slow down as the vehicle in front of her slowed down. This caused her SUV to rear-end the vehicle in front of her and sent both vehicles to the grassy median in the center of the road. The woman SUV driver was taken by ambulance to Hendry Regional Medical Center in Clewiston for treatment and her four year old passenger was airlifted to Saint Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach. The driver of the second vehicle, a 59 year old Clewiston man, was not injured. It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

34 year old Kassie Lynn Wilbur of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on battery charges. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

31 year old Glenda Nicole Shenk of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

57 year old Billy Joe Simpson of Okeechobee was arrested for petit theft and burglary of an unoccupied vehicle. His bond is set at three thousand dollars.

52 year old Carmen Stacy Barber of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and driving on a suspended license for over six months after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

18 year old Armando Blake Rodriguez of Okeechobee was arrested on four counts of dealing in stolen property. His bond is set at $40 thousand dollars.

57 year old Randy Edward Ammons of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

24 year old Bruce Lee Snell Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by police on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm during a domestic dispute. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

53 year old Patrick Eugene Steele of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

29 year old Blake M. Dill of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.