COVID-19 outbreak reported in Okeechobee juvenile detention facility

Editors note: This story was updated at 8 p.m. May 14 with the ages of those who were added to the FDOH Dashboard as cases confirmed May 13.

OKEECHOBEE — The number of COVID-19 positive cases in Okeechobee County jumped from 25 on May 13 to 32 on May 14,according to the data reported on the Florida Department of Health Dashboard.

“We have an outbreak at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility we are currently working,” Tiffany Collins of the Okeechobee Health Department explained at the May 14 meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners.

She said so far there have been 996 COVID-19 tests in Okeechobee County. Six people have been hospitalized.

Ms. Collins said there was some fluctuation in the reported numbers this week. In some cases, the person was initially assigned to the Okeechobee County list because they were tested here. “When we do contract tracing we have to move the person to the individual’s county of residence,” she explained.

Ms. Collins said Okeechobee County is in the first phase of the governor’s plan to reopen businesses. She said barber shops and salons are allowed to open with some requirements.

She said drive-thru testing will be available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7 to 9 a.m. for those who meet the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requirements and for those who are in high risks groups even if they do not have symptoms.

Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee County Emergency Operations Center said COVID-19 concerns will impact the plans for shelters during hurricane season.

“We are going to be dealing with COVID. We know that,” said Mr. Smeykal. He said the county does not have enough space in the shelters to allocate the state’s recommendations for square footage per person in the shelters.

“We have come up with some strategies for Okeechobee,” he said. “One of them is segregating the high-risk population.” He said those over the age of 65 will be in one shelter and younger people in a different shelter. Mr. Smeykal said there will be screenings at the shelters as people arrive and masks will be issued. “When they are in the shelter, they have got to wear that mask unless they are eating,” he said.

He said for Hurricanes Irma and Matthew they sheltered more than 1,000 people, but only about 200 people came to the shelters during Dorian. “The difference was the messaging from the governor,” he said.

According to the FDOH website, positive cases of COVID-19 in Okeechobee County include:

• April 1: 41-year-old male (tested in Tampa but has permanent address in Okeechobee County);
• April 2: 33-year-old female;
• April 4: 74-year-old man (non-resident, does not have permanent address in Florida, was tested in Okeechobee County);
• April 6: 61-year-old female;
• April 7: 66-year-old female;
• April 17: 76-year-old female;
• April 19: 46-year-old female;
• April 21: 62-year-old female;
• April 23: 48-year-old female;
• April 26: 52-year-old female;

• April 29: 61-year-old male;
• April 30: 27-year-old male;
• May 2: 18-year-old male;
• May 2: 52-year-old male;
• May 3: 6-year-old male;
• May 3: 87-year-old female;
• May 3: 17-year-old male;
• May 5: 33-year-old male;
• May 6: 33-year-old female;
• May 6: 44-year-old female;

• May 7: 22-year-old male;
• May 7: 28-year-old female;
• May 7: 50 year-old female.
• May 9: 34-year-old female;
• May 10: 6-year-old male
• May 13: 65-year-old female
• May 13: 15-year-old male;
• May 13: 58-year-old female;
• May 13: 18-year-old male;
• May 13: 16-year-old male;

• May 13: 16-year-old male; and,
• May 13: 18-year-old male.

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