COVID-19

Logan County Health Department

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Thursday it was investigating an alleged incident in Logan County where a trans woman was denied a COVID-19 vaccine.

Advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma tweeted, "Hey [OSDH] why is Logan Co Health Department turning away a trans woman trying to get a vaccine and telling us to take it up with the state?"

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday he believes allowing the city's COVID-19 mandatory mask ordinance to expire at the end of this month, as is currently planned, is the right move.

"Our hospital capacity is not in danger any longer," Bynum told reporters Thursday morning at an in-person press conference at City Hall, the first held that way in months, since COVID-19 briefings were moved all-virtual due to the severe surge in infections this winter.

Oklahoma National Guard

Public health experts and state officials said Tuesday they hope the news of the federally recommended pause in administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine increases the public's confidence in the safety of the vaccines, given the low incidence rate of the possible adverse side effect of blood clots and the rapid response from regulators.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday opened applications for financial assistance for funeral costs incurred as a result of COVID-19.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families. At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus," the agency said in a statement.

Individuals are able to receive up to $9,000 per funeral, with a maximum of $35,500 for people who incurred the cost of multiple funerals.

Tulsa Police Department

The Tulsa Police Department dedicated and unveiled a memorial to Ofc. Jerad Lindsey on the grounds of their training facility on Sunday.

TPD Chief Wendell Franklin and Mayor G.T. Bynum were among the officials in attendance at the ceremony for Lindsey, who also chaired the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The department said in a statement that Lindsey's is the 41st monument at the Tulsa Police Officers' Memorial, which recognizes dead officers from 1917 to present.

Oklahoma Watch

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A union complaint about whether an Oklahoma meatpacking plant is doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus could test the industry’s response to the pandemic because Seaboard Foods says it is following recommendations from the government and trade groups. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With the Oklahoma State Department of Health announcing Wednesday that non-Oklahomans are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the state system, the Tulsa Health Department said Thursday they're up to the job.

"We are happy to be administering the vaccine, really, to anybody who wants it, whether they are Oklahoma residents or those that are residents of another state but for some reason are in Oklahoma," said Ellen Niemitalo, THD clinical services manager.

"We're just excited to be able to administer the vaccine to anyone who is wanting it," she said.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

Add "eyesight" to the list of things possibly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jean Hausheer, a Lawton ophthalmologist and past-president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said on a Tuesday Zoom press conference hosted by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition that a recent paper in the American Journal of Ophthalmology looked at a potential link between the increase in screen time and decrease in outdoor activity in kids due to the switch to remote learning and myopia (nearsightedness).

Tulsa Health Department

Oklahoma's COVID-19 case reporting and test positivity rate may not accurately reflect the current state of the pandemic due to a decline in the number of tests being performed, a leading expert said Wednesday.

"Our testing is coming down significantly," Dr. Jennifer Clark said during a weekly virtual presentation given as part of the OSU Project ECHO initiative, for which she serves as subject matter expert.

Ad Council / COVID Collaborative

A new national PSA campaign is targeting communities like Republicans and white evangelicals, who have lower confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines. OU Health chief of infectious diseases Dr. Douglas Drevets spoke with Public Radio Tulsa's Chris Polansky about the "It's Up To You" campaign.

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PUBLIC RADIO TULSA: I was hoping you could start by just telling me a little bit about the campaign and what makes it important for Oklahoma.

Community Health Connection

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced just under $64 million in funding will be divided and awarded to 21 community health centers in Oklahoma as part of President Biden and congressional Democrats' American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package.

The Tulsa Health Department announced Wednesday that individuals seeking to be vaccinated against COVID-19 now have three additional locations to choose from.

The department's James O. Goodwin Health Center, Central Regional Health Center and North Regional Health and Wellness Center are all now taking appointments via the state's vaccinate.oklahoma.gov portal, with vaccinations beginning there on Monday.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

While Oklahoma appears to be trending well in terms of COVID-19 infection and vaccination rates, public health experts and officials are warning that things could change without vigilance.

"Listen, everyone -- the pandemic is not over yet," said Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, an epidemiologist and professor at the OU Health Sciences Center who formerly served as Oklahoma's state epidemiologist, on a Tuesday press briefing held virtually by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition. "We have not dropped to levels of transmission that are sustainable, that we can control."

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Republican Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma's first congressional district says that generous, pandemic-inspired unemployment benefits are harming American children.

"My childhood was marred by dependence on government aid that motivated my stepdad to stay at home rather than work," Hern said, appearing virtually at a hearing of the House Worker and Family Support Subcommittee on Wednesday, March 24. "My siblings and I bore that burden."

Twitter / Cyndi Munson

The Oklahoma House on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution condemning hate crimes, hateful rhetoric and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

House Resolution 1015 was authored by Asian American Rep. Cyndi Munson, an Oklahoma City Democrat.

OU Health Physicians

With COVID-19 vaccinations now open to all Oklahomans 16 and older, public health experts say doctors will play a vital role in overcoming remaining hesitancy among patients. 

"Every survey we do, the most trusted individual is a physician or their medical provider," said Mendy Spohn, administrative director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health's District 8, which covers parts of southern Oklahoma. 

Rental Realities

The Biden administration announced Monday morning that the moratorium on evictions implemented to protect renters in danger of becoming unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended through the end of June. 

"The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021 is now extended through June 30, 2021," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

University of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Several universities in Oklahoma say that for now they will not require their students to get a COVID-19 vaccine before coming back to campus in the fall.

Rutgers University in New Jersey was one of the first universities in the nation to put in place a vaccination mandate for its students when it made the announcement last week.

Facebook / Turning Point USA

Appearing before a packed, almost entirely maskless crowd of young conservatives in an Edmond ballroom on Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt boasted about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are about freedom in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt told an applauding crowd at an event hosted by national conservative organization Turning Point USA. "[I am] one of only nine governors that did not shut down, that did not do mask mandates."

U.S. Department of Education

The work of Tulsa Public Schools in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and developing plans for safe instruction was recognized by the federal government Wednesday.

The district was highlighted by the U.S. Department of Education at a virtual "National Safe Schools Reopening Summit" hosted by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, alongside school districts in New York, California and Ohio.

Contact Tracing Investment Yielded No COVID-19 Insights, Report Finds

Mar 25, 2021
Paul Monies / Oklahoma Watch

Updated March 25, 7:20 p.m.

Oklahoma’s boost to its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts led to no insights and was marred by technology problems and a failure to collect the proper data, a new legislative report finds.

Oklahoma spent more than $6.7 million to centralize its COVID-19 contact tracing last summer at the Shepherd Center in Oklahoma City. The state used temporary workers from Express Services Inc. to staff the call center, which had its own coronavirus outbreaks among employees at times.

Screenshot by Dr. George Monks

A change in the way COVID-19 data is being reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health is causing issues for some in the public health sphere, with some saying it's impeding their ability to track the virus's spread.

"I think we're a bit blind right now," said Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID officer for OU Health, discussing the state switching over from daily to weekly updates for some data on a Tuesday press conference hosted by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition. "I'm not happy that we're not reporting county, city and ZIP code level data right now.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

About two-thirds of Oklahoma prison workers and just under half of the inmates have opted not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the state Department of Corrections, a sign that vaccine hesitancy remains high and some facilities may not reach the immunity threshold necessary to prevent future outbreaks. 

Courtesy Cherokee Nation

Following in the footsteps of some other Oklahoma tribes, the Cherokee Nation announced Thursday it will now schedule vaccination appointments for anyone who wants one, regardless of their Tribal citizenship status or even what state they live in.

“Our Cherokee Nation health team was extremely successful in ensuring we reached our most vulnerable populations, including Cherokee elders and first responders, when our first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in December,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement.

OU Health

OU Health officials, health care providers, members of the clergy and musicians from the Oklahoma City Philharmonic gathered at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City Thursday night for a ceremony marking one year since the first reported COVID-19 death in the state.

On the hospital campus, a candle was lit for each of the 7,644 Oklahomans reported killed by the virus since March 18, 2020, when 55-year-old Tulsa pastor Merle Dry became Oklahoma's first known fatality of the pandemic.

Cherokee Nation

The first confirmed COVID-19 death in Oklahoma -- that of 55-year-old Tulsa pastor Merle Dry -- was reported on March 18, 2020. 

A Cherokee citizen, Dry was remembered along with 106 other Cherokees known to have been killed by the virus at a Thursday ceremony in Tahlequah exactly one year after he became the first fatality.

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools is making plans for funding expected under President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, a top official told NPR Tuesday.

Mayor David Holt

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The mayor of Oklahoma’s largest city publicly received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday and urged others in the state to do the same.

“With most Oklahomans now eligible, I want our residents to hear the message that there is no need to delay your pursuit of the vaccine any longer,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said in a statement after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to arrive at the state's prisons, but some advocates for the incarcerated say the state's rollout for that population is lacking.

Osage Nation / Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center

The Osage Nation is among the latest Oklahoma tribes to begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults who want it, Native and non-Native alike.

"We want to ensure our Native people are vaccinated, but we have a lot of neighbors that we live side-by-side -- community members, friends, family members, coworkers that are non-Native," Osage Nation Health Services chief operations and compliance officer Laura Sawney said. "So in order to ensure that we're saturating all of our Native communities, that includes non-Natives."

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