Tuesday, April 21st News

Okeechobee County managed to stave off another positive case of the Coronavirus for nearly two weeks but unfortunately, our luck ran out over the weekend. Officials from the County Health Department reported yesterday there were two more positive cases of the Coronavirus; one of them was a 76 year old woman reported on Saturday and the second, a 46 year old woman, was reported on Sunday. Both women are local residents. That now makes seven positive cases of the Coronavirus in the county since the first one was reported at the beginning of this month. Six of the seven people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from 33 to 76 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. 266 people in the county have been tested thus far, with 258 of those tests turning up negative and one test still not yet determined.

As of last evening, Martin County officials are reporting they have 152 cases of the Coronavirus with four fatalities, Hendry County now has 44 cases and they unfortunately suffered their first fatality from the virus, a 77 year old man from LaBelle. Glades County has five cases with one fatality, Highlands County has 71 cases with seven fatalities, Osceola has 410 cases with five fatalities and Palm Beach has 2260 cases with 122 fatalities. There are now 27,053 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state, with 26,329 of them being FL residents. The state’s death toll stands at 823 with four thousand people hospitalized.

The Coronavirus has affected virtually everything and everyone in the world but here in Okeechobee County, it’s affected the agricultural industry more than most. Lauren Butler of the 4H Extension Office gave an update on the beef cattle market lately and the beef count is not good. Meat processors in the Midwest have been experiencing their own shutdown with production having been slowed because they have had to change their production line to accommodate the six foot distance rule or shut down completely or intermittently because someone has been affected by the Coronavirus. Butler says another problem as of late has been the recent drought we’ve had; no rain, no grass (Butler-Beef Production Problem 1). Butler says not to panic because the food supply is there; it’ll just take a bit longer to get to the supermarkets. Once this pandemic is over, Butler says it’s advisable to indulge (Butler-Beef Production Problem 3). Poultry and pork industries have also been affected.

All gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other places where large gatherings can happen remain closed at this time. School campuses still remain closed now until the end of the school year as ordered by Governor Ron DeSantis on Sunday 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.

Hendry County residents can be tested at the Clewiston Center on the three hundred block of W.C. Owen Avenue in Clewiston and now the Florida Department of Health in Hendry County has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to be a collection site for COVID-19 testing. This will expand testing capabilities in Hendry and Glades Counties beginning today. Appointments can be made at the Clewiston Health Department on Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 noon at (863) 983-1408 and appointments can be made at the LaBelle Health Department on Fridays from 10 am to 12 noon at (863) 674-4041. Residents in both counties need to contact their healthcare provider for more information on the process.

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 even 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.

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department officials say there will be some road closings scheduled for today. 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).

A Fort Pierce man and woman are dead and a second Fort Pierce woman is in serious condition following a single vehicle accident early Friday morning in St. Lucie County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 42 year old Devaurius Wyche was driving a Volvo S60 sedan southbound on South 25th Street near Oak Alley in Ft. Pierce just after 2:45 when for unknown reasons, he drove off the road and onto the shoulder. He then hit several trees and a wooden light pole before the vehicle came to a stop. Wyche and his front seat passenger, 33 year old Virginia Brown, were pronounced dead at the scene by medics. The back seat passenger, 38 year old Carmelo Saucedo, was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries. It remains under investigation.

On the arrest report:

34 year old Bobby Lynn Shears of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for robbery by sudden snatching, petit theft, criminal mischief and four counts of battery and domestic battery. His bond is set at $65 hundred dollars.

29 year old Kristy Lynn Valladares of Okeechobee was arrested for criminal mischief. She was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

39 year old Daniel Markese Nesby of Okeechobee was arrested for battery. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

25 year old John David Brighton of Okeechobee was arrested for manufacturing synthetic cannabis, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $20,500 dollars.

20 year old Victoria Isabel Garcia of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. She was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

39 year old Jason Edward Gillis of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of synthetic cannabis and drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.

28 year old Adolfo Ayala Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving and damaging property after an accident. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.