Okeechobee COVID-19 positive rate up to 9.2%

OKEECHOBEE — As COVID-19 testing increases in Okeechobee County, a higher percentage of those tested are getting positive results.

As of June 25, the county’s positive rate had risen to 9.2 percent, with 289 positive and 3.151 tests. The State of Florida’s positive rate is 6.5%.

At the June 25 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, Tiffany Collins of the Okeechobee Health Department said the county has had 26 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Ms. Collins said so far 113 antibody tests have been given to Okeechobee County residents and only four were positive.

She said the county has the third highest positive rate in the state for pediatric cases. In Okeechobee 35.2% of those under the age of 18 who have been tested for COVID-19 were positive.

So far, the county is one of seven in the state to have no COVID-19 deaths. Currently, 3% of those who tested positive in the state have died. Nationwide, with more than 2 million cases, the death rate is at 5.12%. The United States currently has the most cases of COVID-19 of any country in the world, as well as the most deaths related to the virus.

Ms. Collins said her office has received a lot of complaints from people who say the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 website is not working properly. The problem is not with the website, she said, but with browsing history “cookies” on their computers. “Please make sure you clear your cookies so you can see updates daily,” she advised.

Okeechobee County will continue to expand testing, said Ms. Collins. “The point of expanding testing is to identify COVID-19 in our community and isolate it.”

On June 12, the mobile StatLab tested 509 people in one day, she said. Of the 58 positive cases, 48 were new positives and 45 of those were Okeechobee County residents. She said some of the county’s cases were initially incorrectly assigned to Miami-Dade County’s list due to the lack of contact information collected on the day of the visit.

She explained that once someone tests positive, all subsequent positive and negative tests for that person are not added to the FDOH dashboard numbers.

She said anyone who was tested that day who has not yet been contacted with their results from the StatMobile Lab is advised to be retested. Ms. Collins said the StatLab bus was in Indiantown on June 13 and some Okeechobee County residents who missed the June 12 visit in Okeechobee were tested there. Unfortunately, StatLab also reported the Indiantown tests as Miami data, she added.

On Saturday, June 20, free testing was available at the Okeechobee County Health Department. Ms. Collins said they tested 268 individuals in three hours. All of the results are not yet back, she said, but so far 28 tests were positive, including 17 new positives. Two of the positives are from another county.

Free COVID-19 testing will be available Saturday, June 27, at New St. Stephen A.M.E. Church, 1050 N.E. 16th Ave. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church will also give out free face masks to the public at that time.

She said the testing will be will be drive-up or walk up, and they will have the capacity to test 300 individuals. The testing is free and open to anyone who wishes to be tested.

Florida Community Health Centers (FHCH) are providing daily testing in Indiantown as well as testing on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Pahokee. She said Okeechobee County residents can be tested there and the results will be reported to Okeechobee County.

“As far as FCHC why do Okeechobee residents have to go to Indiantown or Pahokee?” asked Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs. “Why can’t they have testing in Okeechobee?”

Ms. Collins said FCHC in Okeechobee is considering it. Testing takes time away from other services, she explained.

Walmart continues to offer COVID-19 testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7 to 9 a.m. Testing is for adults who meet CDC and state and local guidelines on who should be tested, including first responders, health care providers and others with symptoms of COVID-19 and those in high-risk groups without symptoms. That testing site requires an appointment through Quest’s MyQuestTM online portal and app, online at MyQuestCOVIDTest.com, which screens and schedules appointments for those individuals that meet medical eligibility. Ms. Collins said Walmart has not seen a lot of people requesting tests and may cut back on the number of days testing is offered.

The governor’s executive orders now require staff of long-term care (LTC) facilities to be tested every two weeks. Ms. Collins said the state will send the test kits to the LTC facilities and they will do self testing on site.

“All three of our LTC facilites in Okeechobee have been proactive and have gotten all of their staff tested,” he said. LTC facilities in Okeechobee include Okeechobee Health Care Facility, Grand Oaks and Hospice.

The health department has provided thousands of masks to local business and organizations for distribution to the public.
There are a lot of places to pick up a free cloth mask, she explained.

Cloth face coverings distribution sites include:

Cloth face coverings distribution sites include:
• Okeechobee Public Library, 206 S.W. 16th St.;
• Okeechobee Parks & Recreation, 1718 N.W. Ninth St.;
• Senior Services, 1690 N.W. Ninth Ave.;
• Okeechobee City Hall, 55 S.E. Third Ave.;
• Chobee Grocery, 805 N.E. 13th Ave.;
• Okeechobee Clerk of Courts, 312 N.W. Third St.;
• Our Village, 17-3 S.W. Second Ave.;
• Morgan’s Furniture, 707 S.W. Park St.;
• Piper’s Screen Printing, 120 S.W Seventh Ave.
• Okeechobee Health Department front desk, 1728 NW Ninth Ave.;
• Okeechobee Clerk of Courts, 312 NW Third St.;
• Okeechobee Extension Office, 458 US-98;
• Chamber of Commerce, 55 S. Parrott Ave.;
• Career Source, 207 SW Park S.;
• Welcome House, 242 US-441;
• Pat’s Floral Design, 210 N Parrott Ave.;
• Okeechobee County Historic Courthouse lobby, 304 NW Second St.;
• My Aunt’s House, 111 N.E. Second St.;
• OUA, 100 SW Fifth Ave.;
• Suncoast Medical, 412 NE Park St.;
• Urgent Care, 305 NE Park St.;
• East Coast Migrant Head Start, 305 NE Park St.;
• Douglas Park Neal Store, 820 NW Park St.;
• La Fiesta, 1774 State Road 70
• La Placita, 1002 NW Park S.;
• El Bravo, 802 E. North;
• La Azteca, 619 E. Park St.;
• Radio Fiesta and WOKC, 3936 SE 18th Terrace;
• Brennen Eye Care, 710 S Parrott Ave.

“The two most important things you can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community are use the face covering and maintain 6 feet of social distancing,” she said.

“A lot of the Florida senators and representatives have talked to governor about making masks mandatory in Florida,” said Chairman Terry Burroughs.

“I sat and talked to two doctors yesterday. The doctors basically say wearing a mask is one way to help from spreading this particular virus,” he continued.

Chairman Burroughs said the average age for COVID-19 in Okeechobee is 33 years old. “You young people, you think you are invincible,” he said. “You need to step up.”

The chairman said Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) officials are visiting Okeechobee County and will close restaurants and other businesses that are not meeting the state regulations for social distancing.

He said if the state Alcohol Beverage Control (ABT) officials come in and see people crowded close together at a bar ,“that bar is going to lose their license,” he warned. “Some folks on the coast lost their licenses yesterday,” he said.

He said they have noted 151 of the cases in Okeechobee County are people of Hispanic origin. “We are trying to get information out to Hispanic community about social distancing and the masks,” he said.

“This is serious,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to be sick in our community.”

As of June 25, Okeechobee County had 289 persons test positive for the COVID-19 virus with 9.2% of the 3,151 tests conducted testing positive. Okeechobee County cases range in age from 0 to 87. About 55% of the positive cases are Hispanic, according to the FDOH report. The median age is 33. Twenty-six people have been hospitalized.

Complaints about businesses that fail to meet COVID-19 guidelines can be made on the DBPR website at myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/emergency or call 850-487-1395.

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