News Cast 9/17

News Cast for September 17th:

People needing to go to the Okeechobee County Courthouse for any reason will likely have to postpone that visit for a while. Officials from the 19th Judicial Circuit Court announced yesterday that beginning this morning until further notice, the County Courthouse will be closed due to one of the courthouse personnel testing positive for the Coronavirus. Patty Harris, the Trial Court Administrator for the 19th Judicial Circuit Court says the courthouse is reverting back to Phase 1 and that means the courthouse is closed to the general public and the courts are reducing in person contact to absolute essential; meaning face to face contact will be conducted only if it’s constitutionally required and all other proceedings will be done remotely if the availability is there. There will be no trials of any kind, jury or otherwise. With this news, Harris says the overall mood of courthouse personnel is a mixture of disappointment but also resiliency.

Those who have court appearances must contact the Okeechobee County Court Clerk to see if their scheduled appearances have been rescheduled or delayed before coming to the building. The courts will be closed for at least two weeks and possibly longer.  Any further questions can be directed to the county court clerk’s office. Their number is 863-763-2131.

The Okeechobee County Airport will be getting some much needed improvements thanks to a recent grant they received. During a recent meeting, the Okeechobee County Commissioners gave their blessing for the airport to receive grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) totaling nearly six hundred thousand dollars to design and construct an automated weather observation system and to improve one of the airport’s runway and lighting system. Okeechobee County Airport Director Adam Hied says the weather system was badly needed because the current one is well past its time and usefulness. Hied says the runway and lighting work design should begin shortly and go up for bid over the next several months and the new weather observation system should be ready by the end of the current year.

As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County went up again as we now stand at 1,357 cases since March but the number of fatalities also rose by one as we now stand at 22 deaths. 1,353 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 39. 157 county residents have been hospitalized. 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.

Overall, as of yesterday morning, there are 671,201 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 663,234 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 12,939 and there have been 41,851 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County Commissioners will be meeting this morning to discuss the status of the Coronavirus with members of the County Health Department and the County’s Emergency Management Department. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock and it will be held in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating will be limited because of social distancing guidelines. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the Coronavirus by appointment only at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. 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, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm now every Tuesday thru Saturday. This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. 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 floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

37 year old Jacquelyn Marie Miller of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on an out of county warrant for violating a pretrial agreement. She’s being held without bond.

48 year old Juan Manuel Mata Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for robbery by sudden snatching, burglary, petit theft, false imprisonment by threat, resisting arrest and fleeing law enforcement. His bond is set at $12 thousand dollars.

58 year old Robert Eugene Cook of Okeechobee was arrested on petit theft charges. He was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

30 year old Lindsey Byrd Sauls of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on past charges of driving on a suspended license. She was released after posting a one thousand dollar bond.

37 year old Jesse James Lyng of Okeechobee was arrested for committing felony battery and resisting arrest without violence. His bond is set at eight thousand dollars.

20 year old Abigayle Rhea Ericson of Okeechobee was arrested on charges of robbery by sudden snatching without a weapon. Her bond is set at five thousand dollars.

24 year old Korvette Mamie Billie of Moore Haven was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on past charges of possession of the controlled substance known as hydromorphone without a prescription. She’s being held without bond.