News Cast for September 11th:
Unusual as it may sound for a Friday, the Okeechobee County Commissioners meet this morning for the first time in September and they will be issuing proclamations to Yearling Middle School teacher Krista Stanley, as she was recently named Florida Teacher of the Year and also to officials from the Treasure Coast Food Bank as this month is being named Hunger Action Month. Commissioners will also be awarding a bid to an outside company for the additions and alterations project for Fire Station Number 2 and they will discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating will be limited due to social distancing guidelines and the meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.
Commissioners will meet again later this afternoon for a public hearing on the proposed millage rate and budget for this fiscal year. That meeting will begin at five o’clock, also in the Historic County Courthouse. That meeting will also be streamed live on the commissioners’ website and seating is limited due to social distancing guidelines.
Speaking of budgets, the Okeechobee City Council recently had their first of two public hearings on their proposed budget and millage rate and surprisingly, even in this time of the COVID-19, no one from the public commented on the proposed $4.34 million dollar budget or 7.6018 millage rate. However, Jennifer Tewksbury of the Economic Council of Okeechobee addressed the councilmembers and said they should concentrate on specific issues such as the overall general aesthetics of the city, code enforcement and following through on the interlocal agreement with the county for fire protective services. Okeechobee County Economic Development Corporation (OCEDC) member Frank Irby says the city should also take the $40 thousand dollars that it would normally give to the OCEDC and instead use it for the development of the city’s downtown parks. Irby says the parks are a great asset to the community and the city council needs to make it a focal point for people who live in or come to Okeechobee. Irby referenced a landscape architect the city recently contracted with who actually has a plan for those parks.
The city council will have their last public hearing on the city budget and millage rate on September 21st.
While we may have had some good weather recently, it’s important to realize that we are still in Hurricane Season and September is a critical month. With that in mind, now is the time to make sure your home is strengthened to withstand a hurricane or tropical storm. Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee County Emergency Management Center says your garage door is the most vulnerable part of your home and once that goes, the rest of your home will surely be next. Smeykal says to replace your garage door once every ten years or use a retro fit kit.
Smeykal says while using plywood and aluminum is a good solution for boarding up your windows, poly plastic and some fabrics work just as well and they are not as difficult to put up on your windows.
Once again there was a slight rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases for Okeechobee County to report but the good news is, the number of fatalities remains unchanged for the time being. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,295 since March which an increase of six new cases and the number of fatalities is holding steady at an even twenty. 1,291 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 39. 142 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.
Overall, as of yesterday morning, there are 654,731 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 647,318 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 12,326 and there have been 40,807 people hospitalized.
Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the Coronavirus by appointment only at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations.
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.
On the arrest report:
32 year old Jesse James Gonzalez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for contempt of court during his hearing on past charges of driving without a valid license. He’s being held without bond.
21 year old Edwardo Ciannelli Taylor Junior of Okeechobee was arrested on five counts of firing or throwing deadly objects or missiles at a building with the intent to harm someone. His bond is set at $125 thousand dollars.
42 year old Latrisha Lee Hunt of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession charges. She’s being held without bond.
23 year old Dwan Sharrod Marshall Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for starting a riot. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.
19 year old Tifton Dennis Allen Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past drug possession and grand theft charges. He’s being held without bond.