Tuesday, April 14th News

The Okeechobee County School Board will meet tonight but like most recent meetings in the county lately, this one will be via video chat. While school board members will be in attendance at the school board office for the meeting tonight, physical access to the meeting location at the school board office will be limited due to the Coronavirus. You can view the meeting by logging on to http://zoom.us. The meeting ID number is 381 975 572. The meeting will begin at six o’clock. For more information, please contact the school board office at (863) 467-5000. The agenda is available on the district’s website.

Speaking of Okeechobee County schools, with the Coronavirus situation being the way it is and school buildings closed, students have had to do their assignments through online learning programs at home such as iReady and Google Classroom. County School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy spoke at the county commissioners’ meeting last Thursday and says since the at home online learning program began for all 66 hundred students, it’s been a success, with parents giving good reviews about it through online surveys. Kenworthy did note however that there are concerns right now considering the at home learning program was only supposed to be for a few weeks when it began at the end of last month (Kenworthy-Online Instruction 1). Despite those concerns, Kenworthy says if school officials hold true to their at home learning plan, they will have the necessary instructional hours completed by the time school is scheduled to end on May 29th.

Another day has passed and still no change regarding the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County. It still remains 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 the necessary routine contact tracing. Meanwhile Collins has stressed the importance of protecting yourself and your loved ones by preventing exposure (Collins-Preventative Measures). Collins says 202 people in the county have been tested thus far, with 196 of those tests turning up negative and one test yet to be determined.

As of this morning, Martin County officials are reporting they have 129 positive cases of the Coronavirus with three fatalities, Hendry County has 22 cases, Glades County has five cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 61 cases with five fatalities, Osceola has 333 cases with five fatalities and Palm Beach has 1704 cases with 92 fatalities. There are now 21,019 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 20,394 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 499 with 2841 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.

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.

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:

20 year old Jennifer Janet Chavez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for battery on a law enforcement officer. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

26 year old Ronald Joseph Chandler the Second of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on undisclosed charges. He’s being held without bond.

28 year old Shane Adam Pahl of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

25 year old Israel Lopez of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving, driving without a valid license and resisting arrest. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

18 year old Antijuan Holmes of Okeechobee, an inmate in the county juvenile detention center, was arrested for battery on an officer and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $750 dollars.

29 year old Joseph Immanuel Chamberlin of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

51 year old James Rufus Vanover of Okeechobee was arrested by police for disorderly intoxication. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.