Many local businesses to remain open

No curfew, boat ramps open

OKEECHOBEE — The executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis asking Floridians to stay home does not mean most local businesses will have to close on April 3.

According to information shared at the April 2 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, the long list of businesses considered “essential services” include grocery stores, banks, real estate offices, grocery stores, propane sellers, pet boarding businesses and more.

“There are many, many businesses that do remain open for essential travel,” said County Administrator Robbie Chartier.

Landscaping businesses are on the “essential” list, she said.

“Nail salons and hair salons are closed,” she noted.

Because so many businesses are still allowed to be open, the county commissioners decided not to provide special letters for those traveling to and from work.

“There’s no way we can provide travel certificates to everyone who would qualify,” said Commissioner David Hazellief.

County staff would be writing letters all day, agreed County Attorney Wade Vose.

Sheriff Noel Stephen said he is not in favor of special letters or placards because there are so many people who are considered essential employees, there is no way to get them all a letter. In addition, it is too easy for the “bad guys” to counterfeit any kind of paperwork or sign.

He said when a curfew was in effect after a hurricane there was some type of confidentiality to that placard that is placed the dash. The current situation is not the same.

He said if deputies see something suspicious, they will pull people over and ask questions to verify who they are and where they are going.

The sheriff said Okeechobee County does not have a curfew and he does not plan to institute one unless there are problems. He said he would come back to the county commission before putting a curfew in place.

A curfew is premature at this point, he said. “If we start having our citizens congregate, if we start having thieving, we need to have a curfew.”

In other business, the county commission agreed to leave the boat ramps open as long as boaters obey the rules to maintain the required 6-foot physical distance space on land and the 50-foot space Florida Fish and Wildlife requires between boats on the water.

Some counties have closed boat ramps, said Mrs. Chartier. “With our boat ramps, we don’t have the congregating out in the water and the boat flotillas.”

The county commissioners also agreed to allow the Okeechobee KOA campground to remain open so long as they enforce the social distancing requirements.

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