News Cast 12/17

News Cast for December 17th:

Indian River State College (IRSC) had their commencement ceremony yesterday and while that is normally a special occasion, it was made even more special when it was announced that the college was the recipient of a $45 million dollar donation from MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. IRSC Media director Suzanne Seldes says it was “amazing” and she and other IRSC officials were delighted to receive this very generous donation from the now former Mrs. Bezos. Seldes says IRSC was one of 365 organizations that were chosen to receive a donation from Scott, and the donations were made based on those organizations operating in communities facing high-projected food insecurity from the pandemic, high local poverty rates, high measures of racial inequality and low access to philanthropic capital. Seldes says this money will be to support access and outreach to the populations that Scott would like IRSC to pay attention to, something they’ve always done.

Seldes says IRSC officials are ready to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work on using this money effectively for the good of the college. It’s the largest one in the college’s 60 year history.

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) decided on who would be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Those that will likely receive it first will be residents of long-term care facilities, first responders and health-care workers and people over the age of 65. After that, it will eventually become available to the general population. With that, Okeechobee County law enforcement, emergency management and other county and city officials met in a special workshop Tuesday morning to determine the best course of planning for the distribution of the vaccine when it’s finally available for the general population. Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says there will be some type of dispensing done, such as a walk-up closed pod or a drive thru-pod for people someplace in the county for those wanting the vaccine. Smeykal says the drive-thru dispensing pod will most likely be done at the Agri-Civic Center, where people will stay in their vehicles as they’re being vaccinated, much like when they go there for a food pantry.

Smeykal says the vaccine is safe and once you receive it, it will not cause you to get the COVID-19 virus. The vaccine will likely not be available to the general population until next spring at the earliest.

On the subject of COVID-19 in Okeechobee County yesterday, the number of positive cases rose once again but fortunately, the number of fatalities remained the same. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,215 recorded positive cases of the Coronavirus since March and fatalities are still numbering at 49. 2,200 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. 225 county residents have been hospitalized with that figure rising by two. Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. 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 1,155,335 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,136,024 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll surpassed the twenty thousand mark as there are now 20,204 deaths with 58,969 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:

28 year old Logan James Francis Watt of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for committing domestic battery by strangling. His bond is set at $75 hundred dollars.

49 year old Shelly Ann Goist of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of felony petit theft. She’s being held without bond.

26 year old Evin Shiva Robertson of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

26 year old Andrea Leigh Hatfield of Okeechobee was arrested on a local capias warrant for grand theft and violating probation on several past counts of second degree petit theft. Her bond is set at $75 hundred dollars.

30 year old Logan Ray Hobson of Okeechobee was arrested on two counts of trespassing. His bond is set at $15 hundred dollars.

37 year old Judy Faye Louise Anderson of Okeechobee was arrested for grand theft auto. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

30 year old Yanel Garcia of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. Her bond has not been set.

48 year old Charles Joseph Acquaotta Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

42 year old Adam Scott Mowery of Okeechobee was arrested on two counts of contempt of court for failing to appear to answer for charges of driving on a suspended license. He’s being held without bond.

49 year old Thomas Dale Carroll of Okeechobee was arrested by police for driving on a suspended license for the third time after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.