Monday, April 13th News

Kevin Kenny filling in for Nicole Reid.

As of Friday evening, still no change regarding the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County. There are five positive cases of the virus, with the most recent case coming in on Tuesday of last week. That makes three women and two men who have tested positive for the Coronavirus since April 3rd. Four of them are Okeechobee residents. The ages range from 33 to 74 with the median age of the patients being 61. Okeechobee County Health Officer Tiffany Collins says people who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. 168 people in the county have been tested thus far, with 163 of those tests turning up negative.

Martin County officials are reporting they have 115 positive cases of the Coronavirus with three fatalities, Hendry County has 15 cases, Glades County has four cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 47 cases with four fatalities, Osceola has 305 cases with five fatalities and Palm Beach has 1431 cases with 79 fatalities. There are now 17,968 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 17,448 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 419 with 2496 people hospitalized.

Since the day school buildings physically closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the school officials have not stopped when it comes to providing meals to students who need them. School District Superintendent Ken Kenworthy spoke at the county commissioners’ meeting last week and said there have been three community stops where people can drive through and pick up meals for their kids and there have been six bus routes going to different areas of the county to deliver food; a total of 26 stops. Kenworthy says for some students, these are the only meals they receive. He hopes that this also addresses the recent problem when it comes to the demand of milk and supporting dairy farmers (Kenworthy-Meal Plan 1). Kenworthy says by April 20th, people who receive meals for their kids will also be getting a breakfast.

All gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other places where large gatherings can happen remain closed at this time. School campuses still remain closed until May 1st at the earliest with online classes continuing. Some restaurants are doing take-out orders and delivery only. To get an idea of what restaurants or other businesses are open or closed, please log on to our website at www.wokc.com. All bars, pubs and nightclubs are also still closed until further notice.

Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials say that all outdoor county parks and recreation facilities and fields have posted signs advising people to avoid any mass gatherings. These areas include all playing fields, picnic areas, pavilions and bathrooms. 

As a reminder, the Okeechobee County Public Library, Parks and Recreation Rental Facilities, Swimming Pool, Agri-Civic Center and the Darrell Enfinger Sports Complex are closed to the public.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has closed public access to some district lands to protect public safety such as Kissimmee River Public Use Area, which covers Okeechobee, Highlands, Glades, Osceola and Polk Counties. Also closed is Hickory Hammock Wildlife Management Area in Highlands County. You can check with the water management’s website at www.sfwmd.gov regarding other closings.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the virus at the County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or at the Fred Brown Children’s Health Center. You must meet certain criteria before you can be tested and you need to make an appointment. WAFC recently sat down with Dr. Alejandro Miguel, Chief Medical Officer at Florida Community Health Center in Clewiston. He says the drive through testing is similar to your favorite drive thru burger joint, it just doesn’t taste as good (Dr. Miguel-Drive Thru Testing).  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. People can visit and be tested at these locations on weekends.

Raulerson Hospital remains on lockdown and they are not allowing any visitors to patients at this time.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm every Monday thru Friday.  This hotline will be 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 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.

For Hendry County residents, you can log on to www.preparehendry.com for information on what’s being done and check out Hendry County’s Emergency Management Facebook page.

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.

Okeechobee County Commissioners will have another meeting to discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county this afternoon. It will be done via video chat beginning at four o’clock this afternoon. You can view the meeting by logging on to the commissioners’ website or the county Facebook page.

A Vero Beach man is dead after a vehicle accident early Thursday morning in Indian River County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 53 year old Kelvin Thomas was driving a Ford Escape SUV south on 43rd Avenue just south of State Route 60 in Vero Beach a little after six o’clock when for unknown reasons, he lost control of the vehicle and struck a concrete barrier wall on the west shoulder. The vehicle then went across to the other shoulder before going into a parking lot then colliding with a wooden fence, then a tree before stopping. FHP Investigators say the area where Thomas lost control of his vehicle was in a construction zone. Thomas was taken to Indian River Medical Center for treatment where he later died from his injuries. The accident is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

49 year old Ronald William Feldpusch of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

36 year old Olger Alberto Cano-Castillo of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of drunk driving, public intoxication and trespassing. He was released after posting a two thousand dollar bond.

26 year old Travis Eugene Butts of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a local warrant for filing a false report of child abuse.  He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.