Monday, April 20th News

This past Tuesday night, the Okeechobee County School Board held their monthly meeting and with the Coronavirus running rampant and placing restrictions on social gatherings, the meeting was held via video conferencing, the latest group meeting in the county to be held this way. The school board then amended their meeting policy to allow for these remote meetings in the wake of the Coronavirus, whereas under previous guidelines, they were required to meet in person and allow people to be present to give their input. School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says this amended policy removes the requirement of having a quorum of board members physically present for meetings. This also goes true for attendees but Kenworthy says they have a way to participate in the meeting while following the new guidelines (Kenworthy-Board Meeting Changes 1). Kenworthy says this new method of meeting will most likely be the case for the next school board meeting on May 12th.

As of Friday evening, knock wood, still no change on the status of the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County. There are still five reported positive cases of the virus in the county, with three women and two men testing positive for it, with the last reported case nearly two weeks ago on April 7th. 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 are going through routine contact tracing. 233 people in the county have been tested thus far, with 226 of those tests turning up negative and two tests still not yet determined. Collins says 75 percent of the deaths in the state caused by the Coronavirus are happening to people over the age of 65.

Also as of Friday evening, Martin County officials are reporting they have 147 cases of the Coronavirus with four fatalities, Hendry County now has 31 cases, Glades County has five cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 66 cases with six fatalities, Osceola has 392 cases with five fatalities and Palm Beach has 2088 cases with 115 fatalities. There are now 24,753 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 24,066 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 726 with 3649 people hospitalized. At last check, Florida ranks eighth in the country in recorded deaths from the Coronavirus.

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.

All 4-H face to face events are cancelled until July 31st. This includes summer day camps. Record books are being created in a virtual format and are due on May 1st. Any questions can be forwarded to the extension office at (863) 763-6469.

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. 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. These testing sites are available 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 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 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.

Hendry County officials are strongly advising residents to follow CDC guidelines, specifically the latest guideline to wear cloth face coverings while in public to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. These cloth masks should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured properly and allow for breathing. Please wash your hands before putting on the covering and before you remove it. These coverings should not be placed on children under the age of two.

Chalo Nitka Grounds on 10th Street in Moore Haven will be having a food pantry on Tuesday, April 28th beginning at 10 o’clock. When you get there, just pop open your trunk; you don’t have to leave your vehicle. There will also be one on Thursday at Church of God, Inc., on South Estribo Street in Clewiston. Other food pantries can be found by logging on to www.feedingflorida.org

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.

The warmer weather is coming on and that means the mosquito season is also coming. With that, the Okeechobee Emergency Management officials have announced mosquito trapping has begun as of the week of April 6th. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says a contractor will be doing the trapping of mosquitoes at night, identifying the species of mosquito and reporting the results to the Emergency Management. Smeykal says with people mostly staying home because of COVID-19, it’s a good time to clean up areas around your home such as emptying birdbaths, pet water bowls, and draining the water from your garbage cans because they attract the mosquitoes. Smeykal says gutters are one area that tends to be overlooked but it’s very important to clean them (Smeykal-Mosquito Trapping 1). Mosquito trapping will usually be done on Monday and Tuesday nights. They’ll likely not be as many right now because of the dry conditions, but if you go out, use a repellent with the DEET chemical in it and prepare your pets as well. If you have an excess of mosquitoes, call 1-800-203-6485.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department officials say there will be some road closings scheduled for tomorrow. The 100 block of NW 6th Street and the 500 block of NW 5th Avenue at NW 5th Avenue and NW 5th Street will be closed to traffic because of repairs being done on sewers. They will be closed between eight o’clock in the morning and four o’clock in the afternoon. Motorists should plan alternate routes. Any questions can be forwarded to the Okeechobee Utility Authority (OUA).

On the arrest report:

18 year old Kyle Buddy Sage of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for criminal mischief. His bond is set at $250 dollars.

21 year old Logan Matthew-Selph Dunn of Okeechobee was arrested on a warrant from Glades County for violating probation on past charges of leaving the scene of an accident. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.

27 year old Montel Godwin of Vero Beach was arrested on two counts of resisting arrest with violence. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.