COVID-19

Courtesy Keystone Lake Jellystone Park.

With many Oklahoma families feeling cooped up after months of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, some local campgrounds are popular destinations for Memorial Day weekend.

Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts' two locations in Oklahoma, in Mannford and Eufaula, say they're ready to safely welcome a sold-out crowd this weekend.

"We have about 85 campsites rented for the weekend," said Beth Ryan, owner and operator of the Mannford site, on Keystone Lake. Ryan said the park is going to great lengths to keep people safe.

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

When Catoosa High School announced it would be one of the few Tulsa-area high schools to hold a traditional, in-person graduation ceremony for its seniors, it said it would reference Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and remove anyone not following a list of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday morning his pick for a new interim director of the State Department of Health.

Col. Lance Frye, a Tulsa resident, is currently serving as the State Air Surgeon of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, a role he said he will continue in during his time as health commissioner. Frye is also an OB/GYN and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

"Col. Frye is the right leader at the right time," Stitt said in his announcement from the Capitol on Friday.

JailExchange.com

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is moving more than 140 healthy inmates from a county jail that reported it was ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.

Inmates at the Comanche County Detention Center who had two consecutive negative coronavirus tests are being moved to state facilities, the department said.

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

Catoosa High School seniors will be some of the first Tulsa-area students to be graduating via a traditional, in-person commencement ceremony since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the school community sent on Wednesday, Catoosa High Principal Josh Brown confirmed that the ceremony would take place at the school's football stadium on Thursday evening (or this weekend, if weather forces a postponement). 

Tulsa's tourist industry is hoping a major event recently booked for Expo Square in July could be the start of the economy's revivial. 

The week-long National Junior Angus Show will bring thousands of visitors and $2.5 million to Tulsa, according to Ray Hoyt, president of Tulsa Regional Tourism.

"We're excited about the whole opportunity to kickstart the tourism aspect of what's going on in the community," Hoyt said.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dozens of people rallied at the state Capitol on Monday, complaining that their state unemployment claims aren’t being processed.

Most of those who gathered on the Capitol’s south steps were self-employed and complained of glitches with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s website, waiting on hold for hours to talk to an agent and not getting promised call backs.

C-SPAN

Seeking to mark out a middle ground between unmitigated spread of the coronavirus and an overzealous public health response, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said he believes that measures like social distancing and wearing masks have been effective across the country because of—not despite—their being optional.

www.fallscreek.org

Saying they couldn't safely host their typical 50,000+ campers safely amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoma Baptists announced Monday that their Falls Creek Youth Camp would be canceled for the 2020 summer season.

"With a heavy heart, and after extensive consultation with pastors, lay leaders and information from public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel," said Hance Dilbeck, Oklahoma Baptists' executive director-treasurer, in a statement.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House narrowly approved a bill on Thursday to strip some power during health emergencies from mayors and other local officials.

The bill would make several changes to the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act, conferring broad authority on the governor and others during health emergencies if the Legislature agrees.

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.

Facebook / @OklahomaAg

Blayne Arthur, Secretary of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, spoke with KWGS about a new amendment to Governor Kevin Stitt's coronavirus executive order, the COVID-19 outbreak at a pork plant in Guymon, and what her department is doing to try to maintain the food supply chain.

Facebook / @OklahomaDOC

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend special medical parole for 12 inmates determined to be at elevated risk from the coronavirus pandemic.

At a virtual meeting of the board on Wednesday morning, Steven Bickley, the body's executive director, explained how the specific inmates ended up on the docket. 

"The agency received a letter from [Oklahoma Department of Corrections] Director [Scott] Crow on Friday, May 1st, recommending 14 inmates for medical parole," Bickley said. "That is authorized by him under statute."

KWGS File photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Hundreds of people stood in line Tuesday waiting to enter a casino in central Oklahoma that has been allowed to reopen with social distancing restrictions and sanitation safeguards in place to protect against a resurgence of the coronavirus.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Collections to Oklahoma’s main government operating fund missed projections by 44% last month, the biggest shortfall in modern history, state finance officials said Tuesday.

Postponing the income tax deadline from April to July, plummeting energy prices and the coronavirus-related shutdown of businesses across the state amounted to a “threefold economic gut punch,” said Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Steve Harpe.

Instagram / @TulsaCountyOK

Tulsa County has begun awarding nearly $114 million in federal funds it received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. 

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Oklahoma has surpassed 4.500 and with two more deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Sunday reported 4,589 cases, an increase of 99 from Saturday. The number of actual infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without showing symptoms. The department said there have now been at least 272 deaths due to COVID-19.

Facebook / @ClarkForNorman

Facing accusations of religious discrimination from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and U.S. Attorney Timothy Downing, Norman Mayor Breea Clark on Friday announced that she would amend the city's order meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 and allow places of worship to hold in-person services sooner than she originally intended.

Facebook / @AlliedPlasticOKC

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma City plastic supplier company has been receiving thousands of orders for custom-made protective barriers from businesses reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Health officials say four more people in Oklahoma have died  from the coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths to 270.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says that the number of confirmed positive cases in the state increased by 66, for a total of 4,490.

The number of actual infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without showing symptoms.

With Tesla founder Elon Musk using Twitter as a platform to threaten to pull his company out of California due to his disagreement with the state's measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt saw an opening on Saturday.

"Oklahoma is open for business," the tweet from the governor's official account reads. "We're doing it safely, responsibly and based on the data in our state. @ElonMusk, let's talk!"

"P.S.," the tweet concludes, "Route 66 would make a great place for a test drive..."

Instagram / @CityOfTulsa

Despite the City of Tulsa's financial belt-tightening, the Parks and Recreation department doesn't foresee major interruptions in maintenance and capital projects.

At a virtual meeting of the Tulsa Parks & Recreation Board on Tuesday, Anna America, the city's parks director, said parkgoers don't have to worry.

On this edition of StudioTulsa, we meet immunologist Dr Eric Fajgenbaum, a researcher on the fairly rare disorder, Castleman's Disease. A survivor of this lymphatic condition himself, Fajgenbaum has devoted his work to discover how FDA-approved drugs can be repurposed to effectively fight Castleman's. 

Our guest is Matt McCarthy, MD, a bestselling author, assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell, and staff physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he also serves on the Ethics Committee. He's the author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic," which was originally released last summer. Kirkus Reviews called the book "a riveting insider's look at the race to find a cure for antibiotic-resistant infections, one of the most pressing challenges in modern medicine....

Facebook / @CottonElectric

According to a trade association, rural electric cooperatives provide power to 1 in every 8 Americans, and the industry faces dire numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated loss of $7.4 billion in revenue.

For Cotton Electric Cooperative, which powers 22,000 meters across eight Oklahoma counties from its headquarters in Walters, that could spell trouble.

Facebook / @OfficialFtSill

Speaking on a livestream town hall, Fort Sill's seventh such event throughout the coronavirus crisis, Commanding General Kenneth Kamper said Tuesday that, as much as he might want to get back to normal on post, it just isn't time yet.

"I want to lift it as much as you want it lifted," Kamper said, in response to a question about when and whether Fort Sill leadership is considering ending a ban on travel outside a 60-mile radius from the installation. 

But, he added, it's too early, and data from nearby places confirm that.

Instagram / @tulsazoo

Moving forward, Tulsa Zoo President and CEO Terrie Correll and other zoo professionals may be wise to be careful what they wish for.

"Every zookeeper's dream is to have the zoo to yourself," Correll said Tuesday during a virtual meeting of the City of Tulsa's Parks and Recreation Department, "and we've got it now."

Closed since mid-March due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the zoo has faced its share of difficulty , Correll said.

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This story was updated at 2:17 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5th, to reflect a response received after publication from Sean Livengood, who is both the mayor of Guymon and a Seaboard Foods employee. Livengood declined comment.

A pork processing plant in Guymon, Okla., is reporting an outbreak of COVID-19 among its plant workers, the latest plant across the country to be struck with cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Google Street View

The Tulsa Board of County Commissioners announced that a resolution limiting public access to the Tulsa County Courthouse due to the coronavirus pandemic will expire on Monday, May 3rd, with a phased reopening beginning the morning of Tuesday, May 4th.

Actual courtrooms, housed physically in the building but under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, will remain closed, but some county services and departments housed in the building, like the county clerk, assessor, and treasurer, will begin to receive the public.

Tulsa City Hall

Furloughs affecting about 1,000 municipal employees, meant to help mitigate lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic, will begin in Tulsa this Friday.

Michelle Brooks, communications director for the City of Tulsa, said the average Tulsan won't see much in the way of reduction in services, and no reduction at all in emergency services. 

"This does not impact public safety: our police, fire, 911, our utilities services," Brooks said. "Citizens are not going to see an impact there."

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