Precautions urged as businesses reopen

As Lake Okeechobee communities begin to reopen businesses that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials are urging residents to continue to maintain social distancing, cover their noses and mouths with a cloth mask or bandanna in public, and frequently wash their hands to slow the spread of the virus.

Okeechobee, Hendry and Glades counties started the first phase of the plan to reopen the state on May 4. Palm Beach County moved into the first phase on May 11.

The number of COVID-19 positive cases in the Lake Okeechobee area continues to grow. In addition, more long-term care facility residents and staff members have been found to be COVID-19 positive, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The FDOH report on the number of long-term care facility residents who are currently positive, how many have been transferred from the facility to hospitals or other facilities and how many staff members have tested positive is updated daily. The state report on deaths in long-term care facilities report is updated weekly.

Okeechobee County: 996 tests, 28 positive
In Okeechobee County, there have been 996 tests, with 28 positive, 966 negative and two results pending, as of the May 12 report. Those who tested positive range in age from 6 to 87 years old.

Okeechobee Health Care Facility in Okeechobee had one resident currently COVID-19 positive, one transferred and three staff members who tested positive, according to the May 12 report.

So far, Okeechobee County has not had any COVID-19 deaths. Six people have been hospitalized. The county has a positive rate of 2.8% of those tested.

Hendry County: 1,039 tested, 159 positive
The May 12 FDOH update shows tested in Hendry County, with 159 positive and 880 negative for a 15.3% positivity rate. About 82% of the positive cases in Hendry County are in Clewiston.

Six people have died in Hendry County related to the COVID-19 virus. Thirty have been hospitalized. Ages of those who tested positive range from 1 to 101 years.

Five residents of long-term care facilities in Hendry County have died, related to the COVID-19 virus. The May 8 report shows three Clewiston Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility residents who were COVID-19 positive have died. It also indicates that in LaBelle, two Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center residents who were COVID-19 positive have died.

As of May 12, Clewiston Nursing and Rehabilitation had nine residents currently COVID-19 positive, 12 positive residents transfered and 14 staff members who tested positive. Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center had nine residents currently positive, three transferred and seven staff members who tested positive.

Glades County: 95 tested, 8 positive
Glades County had 95 tested with eight positive for a positivity rate of 8.4% as of the May 12 report. Three people have been hospitalized. One has died. Age range of those who tested positive is 30 to 89.

Palm Beach County: 43,369 tested, 4,093 positive
Palm Beach County had 43,369 tested with 4,093 positive, for a positivity rate of 9.4% as of the May 12 report. Ages of those who tested positive ranged from 0 to 104. In Palm Beach County, 688 people have been hospitalized, and 245 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

Glades Health Care Center in Pahokee had eight positive COVID residents, five residents transferred and 22 staff members who tested positive as of the May 12 report.

The 33430 ZIP code (Belle Glade) has 232 positive cases; the 33493 ZIP code (South Bay) has 78 positive cases; the 33476 ZIP code (Pahokee/Canal Point) has 65 positive cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expanded the testing criteria. For testing information in your area, contact:
• Okeechobee County Health Department: 863-462-5800;
• Hendry/Glades Health Department: 863-674-4041;
• Palm Beach County Health Department: 866-779-6121.

The drive-thru testing center at Lakeside Medical Center, 39200 Hooker Highway in Belle Glade, is open Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to noon. For an appointment call 561-642-1000. Walk-in testing is also available for those who do not have cars. Anyone may be tested even if you do not have symptoms.

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