News Cast 12/16

News Cast for December 16th:

This past Saturday morning, Okeechobee County was the site for another food pantry and once again it was a rousing success. Representatives of the Treasure Coast Food Bank once again paid a visit to Okeechobee County, as they have so often these past several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, and presented some holiday food for people who needed it. Mayor Dowling Watford says this food pantry, which was held at the Agri-Civic Center as usual, serviced about three hundred families, an event that was originally set to service 350 families. Watford says it’s been such a rousing success over and over again these past several months because of two things; people and environment.

Watford says despite the rain, volunteers came together to make this food pantry a success. Barring a last minute change, this was the last food pantry in 2020. There will be more scheduled food pantries in the county come next year.

On the subject of COVID-19 in Okeechobee County, it’s a double case of bad news as the number of positive cases as of yesterday unfortunately rose again and fatalities also rose by two. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,199 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities now number at 49. 2,185 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from infant to one hundred with the median age of the patients being forty. 223 county residents have been hospitalized. Remember, Tiffany Collins of the County Health Department says those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Collins says the health department will continue to focus on contact tracing investigations of those that are hospitalized with the virus and they will be doing what she calls “texting monitoring”.

Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste. As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 1,143,794 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,124,742 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll surpassed the twenty thousand mark as there are now 20,082 deaths with 58,612 people hospitalized. Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight and four every Monday thru Thursday and eight to two on Fridays. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, or just bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations. If you have any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121. Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more. If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at or the Center for Disease Control at

On the arrest report:

40 year old Thomas William McGill Junior of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for possession of methamphetamine, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and resisting arrest. His bond is set at $55 hundred dollars.

27 year old Raheem Marquis Matchett of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of battery by strangulation. He’s being held without bond.

37 year old Michele Elizabeth McCorts of Okeechobee was arrested for cruelty to animals. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

46 year old Michael Edward Marshall Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of property fraud. His bond has not been set.

59 year old Edwin Berle Rucks Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for violating an ordinance regarding dog ownership. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

59 year old Kurt Johnson of Okeechobee was arrested on a Martin County warrant for failing to pay child support. His bond is set at just under $11 hundred dollars.

26 year old Andrea Leigh Hatfield of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of grand theft and two counts of claiming false ownership of items to a pawnbroker. She’s being held without bond.