County to switch to virtual meetings

OKEECHOBEE — Commissioner Kelly Owens was not allowed to enter the meeting room for Thursday’s Okeechobee County Commission session. She was turned away at the door after failing the screening.

“I had gotten sick last week with a fever. Basically, I had a case of the flu,” the commissioner explained in a telephone interview after the meeting. “I have been fever free for almost a week, but I didn’t meet all of the qualifications. When I got there, the first question I was asked by the screener was ‘Have you been sick in the last 14 days and had a fever?’ I answered ‘yes’ and I wasn’t admitted.”

The commissioner retired to her office in the courthouse and attended the meeting by phone.

During their March 26 meeting, the commissioners reviewed an online virtual meeting platform which they will use for future meetings, until the COVID-19 crisis is over. County staff have been testing the program for several days.

Commissioner Owens said she is pleased with the plan for virtual meetings, which will allow the commissioners to participate via computer from home. “Three of our county commissioners are over the age of 65,” she said, which makes them at high risk should they contract the virus. She said her husband is also over 65 and has other health issues, so she is especially careful as well.

“We are living in unusual circumstances, and it is important for us to be as proactive as we can be,” she said.

Commissioner Owens said she has participated in other virtual meetings in the past. These are common for business people. “It’s not something new,” she said. “It’s very well managed. I think it is a very responsible and proactive way for us to continue business.

“It’s important for us to take care of each other,” she said.

The Okeechobee County Commission will meet on Monday, March 30, at 4 p.m. for updates on the COVID-19 emergency. The virtual meeting will have each of the meeting participants’ online feeds in small boxes along the top of the screen, and a larger box at the bottom of the screen that will switch to show the person who is speaking.

The public can watch the meeting online and will have the option to ask questions.

The county website is at

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