News Cast 9/14

News Cast for September 14th:

This past Friday was the 19th anniversary of the events of 9/11 that forever changed the world, not just the United States of America. Coincidentally, the Okeechobee County Commissioners had their regular meeting on that Friday and Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, a US Navy veteran and former firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) in Palm Beach County, led the commission and those in attendance in a moment of silence to honor those people who lost their lives on that fateful day. Culpepper says it was a day of such tremendous impact on our country and an attack on our freedoms and it should stand as a reminder that we must always remain vigilant.

The terrorist attacks resulted in the deaths of nearly three thousand people and over 25 thousand people injured and long-term health concerns, not to mention millions of dollars in damages. The local VFW Post 10539 offered free hot dogs to first responders Friday afternoon and Okeechobee Shrine Club hosted a special event to first responders Friday night to honor those lives lost on 9/11.

During their last meeting, the Okeechobee City Council took the time to proclaim the month of September as Hunger Action Month in the city. Representatives of the Treasure Coast Food Bank were on hand to accept the proclamation, which was unanimously approved by all members of the council. Luis Rivera of the Treasure Coast Food Bank says this is the time and a good way to acknowledge people who have food issues right now and it’s time to get the word out and show support for those who may not know where their next meal is coming from. Rivera says it’s especially important now because we’re still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People can show their support by wearing the color orange which symbolizes awareness of Hunger Action Month. There will be another food pantry at the Agri-Civic Center hosted by the Treasure Coast Food Bank later this month.

The number 1,313 stands for a few things such as two unlucky numbers together, the house number on Mockingbird Lane where the TV’s “The Munsters” live and now it also stands for the state of COVID-19 statistics in Okeechobee County. As of Friday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,313 since March and thankfully the number of fatalities is still holding steady at an even twenty. 1,309 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. 144 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.

Okeechobee County Commissioners renewed the local state of emergency for the county for another week. It went into effect on Friday morning.

Overall, as of Friday morning, there are 658,381 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 650,922 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll now stands at 12,502 and there have been 41,021 people hospitalized.

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 every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock 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 or the Center for Disease Control at

A Clewiston man is being treated for serious injuries following an accident Thursday afternoon in Hendry County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man, who is 34 years old, was driving a sports utility vehicle (SUV) east on County Road 835 near Route 27 in Clewiston a little after four o’clock at the same time a truck tractor was heading south on Route 27 approaching 835. The Clewiston man tried to make a left turn at the intersection of Route 27 and 835 and his SUV ended up being t-boned by the truck tractor. The impact sent the SUV onto the shoulder and overturned while the truck tractor went through the median and collided with several signs before finally stopping on the shoulder. The SUV driver from Clewiston was taken to a nearby medical facility for treatment. The truck tractor driver, a 68 year old man from Pembroke Pines, was not injured. It’s under investigation. Names of people involved in the accident are not releasable to the public due to Marsy’s Law.

On the arrest report:

48 year old Corey Terrell Johnson of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for petit theft. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

45 year old Michael Lee Graf of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on undisclosed past charges. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

29 year old Laron Savonte Mitchell of Okeechobee was arrested on several counts of firing objects into a building or a vehicle. His bond is set at $175 thousand dollars.

29 year old Clinton Austin Girtman of Okeechobee was arrested by police for trespassing on someone’s property after being warned before. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.

23 year old Jerold Lehigh Barlow of Okeechobee was arrested by Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

34 year old Christopher Charles Lein of Fort Pierce was arrested on St. Lucie County warrants for kidnapping, domestic violence and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bond.