Bruce Dart

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

(This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 16, to add a response from Derek Pate, Director of the Center for Health Statistics at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.)

The Tulsa Health Department said Thursday it would be making changes to the way it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations after determining the Oklahoma State Department of Health data it previously relied on was inaccurate.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Younger students will be allowed to return to in-person classes next month following a prolonged all-virtual start to the Tulsa Public Schools year caused by troubling local rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The Tulsa Public Schools board came up with its own plan for students to come back to school. Over the course of a seven-hour meeting, they settled on pre-K and kindergarten students returning on Nov. 9 and attending Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be distance learning days.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Local officials on Tuesday painted a dire picture of the weeks and months to come if COVID-19 infection and hospitalization trends don't improve in the Tulsa area.

"Currently, our 14-, 30- and 60-day trends are all showing an increase. Our 7-day rolling average is also increasing. Our 7-day rolling average is above where we were in mid- to late-July, just before our biggest spike in cases," said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department.

City of Tulsa

The annual "Don't Bug Me" flu awareness campaign from the Tulsa Health Department and Hillcrest HealthCare System has returned, as officials stress the importance of preventing the spread of the flu at a time when COVID-19 is already impacting hospital capacity.

Tulsa Health Department

The Tulsa Health Department has introduced a new, color-coded COVID-19 alert map, which Director Dr. Bruce Dart says is meant to help inform residents of the Tulsa metro of up-to-date risk levels in their communities.

"I think the more knowledge they have about where risk truly is allows them to follow recommendations and follow guidelines to keep themselves safe, and that's really what we're after," Dart said at a Monday press conference.

City of Tulsa

The Oklahoma State Medical Association on Wednesday issued a letter in support of amending Tulsa's mask ordinance to require masks for children 10 years and up.

Oklahoma State University

As some colleges and universities across the country have become hotbeds for new COVID-19 outbreaks since welcoming students back to campus for fall semester, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday stressed that students at Oklahoma institutions should remain on campus if they become infected.

Facebook / City of Tulsa Gov

At a Thursday press conference, local officials said concern is growing alongside COVID-19 infections as more Tulsa County children catch the novel coronavirus.

"In the 5-to-17 age group, there were over 100 cases last week," Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said, adding that some in that age group were hospitalized.

Twitter / @realdonaldtrump

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s former state epidemiologist warned that President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa in June could lead to as many as nine deaths and 228 new cases of COVID-19, according to documents released Wednesday.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

One day after Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, called for all municipalities in Tulsa County to introduce a mask mandate similar to the city of Tulsa's to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials in some of those cities and towns showed no indication they plan to take the guidance.

"We have discussed it, and the Bixby council is not willing to pass a mask mandate at this time," said Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

(This story was updated at 5:02 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27th, to include additional information from the Tulsa Health Department on settings connected to COVID-19 infections.)

Following newly released documents from the White House coronavirus task force recommending that the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County implement more stringent measures to combat the pandemic, local officials on Thursday stressed local expertise and knowledge are more targeted and relevant than the federal suggestions.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Following the leak of a report showing the White House considers Oklahoma a “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and is privately urging the state’s government to institute far stricter measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, such as a statewide mask mandate and the closure of all bars, local officials are expressing considerable frustration that they’re being kept in the dark about federal recommendations.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The head of the Tulsa Health Department says threats have been made against his life as a result of public health recommendations he's made over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Should schools reopen? Should we be playing (or practicing) team sports right now? And which type of mask is the safest one to wear? On this edition of ST Medical Monday, we speak about these and other matters with Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department. Dr. Dart, who last appeared on our show back in March, offers an update on COVID-19 in our community at present.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

It was an exclusive meeting.

After abundant anticipation of a visit to Oklahoma by Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force since President Trump announced it earlier this month, at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa on Sunday, she was kept separated from the public, the media, and even the director of the Tulsa Health Department.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County continues to see "widespread virus" in the community, as delays in testing contribute to difficulties in properly responding to the pandemic, according the Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

At a press conference Tuesday at Tulsa Police Department headquarters, Dart said that testing laboratories are "swamped," leading to numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health that may be less useful due to being dated.

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

Despite recommendations from the Trump administration that the state of Oklahoma implement far stricter restrictions to combat the coronavirus, a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that they're just that -- recommendations.

"The Governor’s office followed up after the Task Force’s latest report and the White House confirmed that these are not mandates and that the State is not out of compliance with any federal orders," said Baylee Lakey, the governor's communications director, in an emailed statement.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Updated Aug. 4, 12:05 p.m. to correct "Cox Business Center" to "Cox Business Convention Center."

One month after their controversial booking of President Trump's 6,000-person reelection rally, representatives of the BOK Center and the Cox Business Convention Center in downtown Tulsa are expressing worry over how hard it is to keep events on the schedule.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County officials said local coronavirus numbers remain troubling, but they hope the recently adopted mask mandate can slow or reverse the trends.

"Are we plateauing in cases as the governor indicated we might be in Oklahoma? In Tulsa County, we are not -- we are continuing to surge," said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, in response to a reporter's question.

"We're continuing to see a higher percent of daily positives than we would like. It's telling us the virus is widespread in our community and the prevalence is extremely high," Dart said.

Center for Public Integrity

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and a spokesperson for Tulsa Health Director Dr. Bruce Dart said neither of them had received communications from Gov. Kevin Stitt or the federal government regarding a recently uncovered White House document dated July 14th recommending that the Tulsa metropolitan area take stricter steps to combat the coronavirus.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Mayor G.T.

Twitter / @realdonaldtrump

Tulsa came up in Thursday's White House press briefing.

"The health department director in Tulsa has said President Trump's rally there likely contributed to a big surge in coronavirus cases in the area. Does the president now regret holding that rally?" said The Guardian's David Smith.

"So, we have not seen data to reflect that, and no, we do not regret holding the rally," said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With COVID-19 infection rates soaring both in Tulsa County and statewide, Mayor G.T. Bynum struck a familiar note at a Wednesday press conference, exhorting Tulsans to wear masks while also maintaining that he does not believe a policy requiring them is currently necessary.

"The reason we haven't done it yet to date is because we have not been told that there is just no other option and we have to do it," Bynum said.

Bynum has previously said he would implement such a policy if advised to do so by Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County on Wednesday again broke a record for most new confirmed COVID-19 infections reported in a single day, and, as the spread continues to worsen, officials said they are discussing the possibility of making the wearing of masks mandatory and enforceable by law.

Twitter / @TulsaPolice

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Wednesday had choice words for Tulsans who refuse to follow public health guidelines during the current rise in coronavirus infections.

"If Tulsans are not willing to take that kind of responsibility to protect one another, then don't be surprised when you see your numbers increase," he said, after describing how few people he sees wearing masks in the city. "We have a responsibility to protect each other through this, through responsible behavior in our daily lives."

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — For most mayors in deep-red states like Oklahoma, the prospect of hosting the first rally for President Donald Trump in months would be a delight. It would showcase the city on an international stage and draw revenue for local businesses that have been shuttered for months amid the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Sen. James Lankford

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) spoke with KWGS News' Chris Polansky on Monday, June 15th, about police reform following last month's killing of George Floyd, Black Tulsans' outrage over President Trump's initial Juneteenth date for a Tulsa rally (and his role in getting it changed), whether he thinks the rally should continue despite warnings from local and federal public health experts, and whether he intends to wear a mask to the rally.

Full transcript:

Tulsa officials on Friday said the city and county are ready to follow the state into phase three of a reopening plan on Monday.

As of Friday, Tulsa County had 983 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, 158 active cases and 51 deaths. Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Doctor Bruce Dart said the county's case trend is almost flat and hospitalization rates are trending up but remain manageable.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he does not have the same concerns proceeding to phase three as he did going into phase one, however, because the main benchmark is hospital capacity.

Though the reopening of Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa came sooner than Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart would have liked, both men announced Thursday that the current data concerning COVID-19 support moving into the next stage of reopening.

Libby Billings courtesy Libby Billings; Thomas Hunter courtesy Oklahoma Restaurant Association

Following prolonged mandated closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with the blessings of both Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and a reluctant Mayor G.T. Bynum, Tulsa restaurants will be permitted starting Friday to welcome guests back to eat in their dining rooms.

Not too many are seizing that opportunity, though.

"Absolutely not," said restaurateur Libby Billings, whose downtown Tulsa eateries include The Vault, Roppongi, and Elote. 

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