Thursday, April 16th News

Okeechobee County School students will have one less thing to worry about this year as they continue their at home learning. During their meeting on Tuesday night, school board members unanimously voted to eliminate semester and final exams as part of amending the student progression plan for this year according to County School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy. He says the student progression plan was built around standardized tests for this year and they were eliminated this year so it made sense to eliminate the semester and final exams. Kenworthy says without the added worry of studying for finals, students will likely rejoice but it doesn’t mean they should relax or stop working either (Kenworthy-No Final Exams 1). Kenworthy says students’ final grades will be based on what their work has earned them over these last four and a half months. They’ll still be taking some tests over the remaining weeks of the school year.

Still another day has passed and, 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 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 are going through routine contact tracing (Collins-Contact Tracing). 216 people in the county have been tested thus far, with 210 of those tests turning up negative and one test still not yet determined. Collins says 75 percent of the deaths in the state caused by the Coronavirus are people over the age of 65.

As of this morning, Martin County officials are reporting they have 140 cases of the Coronavirus with four fatalities, Hendry County has gotten three more positive cases, all women, raising their total to 26 cases, Glades County has five cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 64 cases with six fatalities, Osceola has 361 cases with five fatalities and Palm Beach has 1816 cases with 107 fatalities. There are now 22,519 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 21,865 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 614 with 3249 people hospitalized.

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. 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.

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.

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 meet again this afternoon with Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials to discuss the status of the Coronavirus in the county. The meeting will be done via video chat beginning at four o’clock and it can be seen by logging on to the commissioners’ website or the county Facebook page.

On the arrest report:

30 year old Edwin Javier Castro of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on battery charges. He’s being held without bond.

39 year old Bryan Lee Adams of Okeechobee was arrested for driving without a valid license, obstruction of justice, battery on a law enforcement officer and corruption by threat to a public servant after a vehicle accident and prior situation with his girlfriend. His bond is set at $12 thousand dollars.

29 year old Jarrod Wayne Hair of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing. His bond is set at $250 dollars.