Thursday, April 9th News

Kevin Kenny Filling in For Nicole Reid….

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning and it will serve a dual purpose; first they will be discussing amending land leases and building sales agreements the county made with Guatemala-based Bautech USA, Inc. and they will appoint Stefan Matthes of Fort Pierce-based Culpepper and Terpening to be the new county engineer. The commissioners will then meet with emergency management officials on the status of the Coronavirus in the county. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock and it will be broadcast live via video chat. To see the meeting, you can log on to the county website or the county’s Facebook page.

The latest information shows Okeechobee County has five positive cases of the Coronavirus. County officials say the newest case reported on Tuesday is a 66 year old woman resident with an unknown travel history.  That makes three women and two men who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the last week. 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, who spoke at a press conference on Friday, says people who tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through what is called routine contact tracing. Collins stressed the importance of protecting yourself and your loved ones by preventing exposure (Collins-Preventative Measures). Collins also recommends wiping down an area that has been touched with disinfectant.

Another issue has been the number of people who are still hoarding items at the grocery store. Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal recommends that people shop once every two weeks so the supply lines can catch up with the shoppers. Despite the pandemic, Smeykal says the supply lines for the most part are running smoothly (Smeykal-Food Supply Chain 1). Smeykal says as fast as the supplies come in, they’re going out the door.

As of now, Martin County officials are reporting they have 101 reported cases of the Coronavirus, Hendry County has 11 cases, Glades County still has four cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 37 cases with three fatalities, Osceola has 272 cases and Palm Beach has 1206 cases. There are now 15,698 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 15,234 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll is now at 323 with 2082 people hospitalized.

Any further information you may need to know during the stay at home order put into effect on Friday can be found by logging on to www.flgov.com. County commissioners unanimously approved the renewing of the local state of emergency in the county last week and at their meeting on Tuesday night, Okeechobee City Councilmembers also declared a local state of emergency in the city.

All gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other places where large gatherings can happen remain closed. School campuses 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 or at the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or at the Fred Brown Children’s Health Center on the two thousand block of US 441. Although, they may be moving their testing site so you’ll need to call to find out. You cannot get tested for the virus at Lab Corp or Quest Diagnostics. 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, 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. With this Friday being a holiday, the call center will be closed.

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 vehicle fire caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Sunday afternoon. Crews were called to an area on NW 304th Street a little after five o’clock and arrived to find a four wheeler covered in flames. Firefighters say the vehicle was stuck in a mud pit. Crews needed about an hour and 15 minutes to get the fire extinguished, while using about three hundred gallons of water. No one was hurt. Total damage is estimated at about four thousand dollars. It’s under investigation.

On the arrest report:

41 year old Andrew Jacob Stevens of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for resisting arrest without violence. His bond has not been set.

46 year old Thomas Neil Jones Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during his hearing on past charges of driving on a suspended license. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

45 year old Don Carlos Johnson the Second of Okeechobee was arrested by police on a local warrant for violating probation on past battery charges. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.