White House coronavirus task force

The Trump administration is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to increase efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma as the state's pandemic numbers grow worse.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Voting access proponents staged a press conference Tuesday, saying Tulsa County and the Tulsa County Election Board aren't doing enough to communicate that early voting will take place over three days at ONEOK Field this year due to COVID-19, instead of the traditional early voting locations at the Hardesty Regional Library and the Election Board building on North Denver.

Got Mask? Oklahoma / Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association is renewing the group’s call for a statewide mask mandate as the number of people hospitalized due to the coronavirus has reached record levels.

KWGS News file photo

As Oklahoma continues to break records for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates, the Oklahoma Hospital Association is pleading with the public to keep the state's health care system from being overwhelmed.

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.

Youtube / Oklahoma State Department of Health

Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are both expressing concern over Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt's announcement last week that the state's public health lab will be moved from Oklahoma City to Stillwater, using a combination of state funds and federal coronavirus relief funding.

In a Monday press release, Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) said he would be filing legislation to keep the lab in the state capital and "question[ed] if this is the best use of CARES Act funds."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Martinez said he first heard about the plan on the news.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Over seven months into Oklahoma's experience with the novel coronavirus, public health researchers say the state is falling far short of adequate levels of COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

White House coronavirus task force

One week after the release of a White House coronavirus task force report stating that many of Oklahoma's recent COVID-19 deaths were preventable, which provoked a response from a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt disputing that as an "editorial opinion," a new report recommends the state ramp up its coronavirus response or risk further deaths.

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.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Calling it as much about protecting your community as yourself, especially as flu season arrives during a global pandemic, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum received flu shots at a Tuesday press conference and urged Tulsans to do the same.

Facebook / Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is responding to a COVID-19 outbreak inside the county jail, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

TCSO communications director Casey Roebuck said at a press conference that of a total population of 1,158 inmates being held as of Tuesday, 84 were actively infected with the novel coronavirus. 21 more were considered recovered, and six staff members were also infected. Roebuck said there have been no hospitalizations, but that inmates had received medical treatment in-house.

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation announced Friday its plans to open a meat processing facility in Tahlequah funded at least partially with federal coronavirus relief money.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, beef and other meat sources were harder to supply to elders through emergency food distributions, and opening a meat processing facility will help sustain foods for Cherokee citizens and bring in jobs and agricultural opportunities for the tribe," the tribe said in a written statement.

Kevin Stitt campaign photo

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have hit their highest points recently throughout the Midwest, where the growth in new cases has been the worst in the nation.

But that’s not the message coming from a number of Republican governors in the region, who are working to find silver linings in the ominous health data as outbreaks surge in their states.

KWGS News File photo

WACO, Texas (AP) — An increase in positive COVID-19 cases at Baylor and concerns of an outbreak have led to the Bears’ scheduled home game Saturday against No. 7 Oklahoma State being pushed back nearly two months. 

The Big 12 Conference announced Sunday night that the game has been rescheduled for Dec. 12. That move came three days after Baylor announced a pause in football activities to evaluate recent positive tests for COVID-19.

Credit Shane Bevel Photography

A doctor at Saint Francis Health System has died, reportedly of COVID-19.

"We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of our colleague Dr. Giancarlo Piano," Saint Francis said in a Saturday statement. "He was a well-respected member of the medical staff and known for his kindness and compassion."

"We pray for the heavenly repose of his soul and that his wife and sons be surrounded by love and the healing presence of Christ during this time of mourning," the statement concludes.

Twitter / @GovStitt

(This story was updated on Fri., Oct. 9, at 2:52 p.m. to include comments from Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum received after publication.)

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

As the pandemic took hold in Oklahoma and restrictions on everything from restaurant dining rooms and schools were put in place, Oklahomans began seeing their doctors virtually instead of in exam rooms at a rate exponentially greater than last year.

According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, between March and June of 2019, 11,941 telehealth visits were conducted. In the same period in 2020, visits skyrocketed to 337,415. 

White House coronavirus task force

In its most recent weekly report for Oklahoma, Vice President Mike Pence's White House coronavirus task force said that not all of the Oklahomans who succumbed to COVID in recent weeks had to die.

"Community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths," the report reads. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt's office released a statement saying he "vehemently disputes the editorial opinion" in the task force's report and said the same language is in several states' most recent reports.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist on Monday presented a plan that would allow at least some in-person instruction for district students beginning next month, as long as the COVID-19 outbreak does not substantially worsen.

At a virtual meeting of the TPS Board of Education, Gist listed three options for moving forward beginning Nov. 9.

Oklahoma House of Representatives

The executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League, which advocates at the Capitol on behalf of municipal governments and their interests, said Friday the state legislature's next session could be contentious over issues of whether emergency powers should rest with local versus state government.

"My fear is that we are going to be in a defensive stance on our ability to function during an emergency," OML's Mike Fina told a virtual meeting of the Coalition of Tulsa Area Governments. "No doubt there are going to be several bills challenging that."

Oklahoma National Guard Tech. Sgt. Kasey Phipps

Oklahoma's nursing homes will be eligible to receive facility-specific weekly trainings and a federally-funded stipend as part of a program through the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences' Project ECHO initiative.

"The nursing homes have the highest morbidity and mortality rates currently," said Dr. Joseph Johnson, OSU Project ECHO's medical director. "This particular program will hopefully decrease that, and give them an incentive to release some of their staff for participation that can impact changes within our 77 counties."

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Citing continued spread of COVID-19, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Thursday that visitation is suspended at all state correctional facilities.

"This unfortunate, albeit necessary, action quells a potential source for viral infection and spread," the agency said in a statement.

White House coronavirus task force

This week's report for Oklahoma from Vice President Mike Pence's White House coronavirus task force says Oklahoma continues to outpace nearly every other state in the country for new infections and test positivity rate, but that the Tulsa metro has exited the highest risk category for the first time since mid-July.

Google Maps Street View

The former juvenile justice center on Gilcrease Museum Road, which has offered daytime services for Tulsans experiencing homelessness since earlier this month, has expanded to offer overnight accommodations to those in need, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Monday.

KWGS News File Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain has become the first state trooper in Oklahoma to die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Capt. Jeffery Sewell, 58, of Atoka died Saturday at a Denison, Texas, hospital where he had been treated for the virus for about three weeks, OHP spokesperson Sarah Stewart said Tuesday.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The Tulsa County Election Board is prepared to send out and get back a record number of mail-in ballots for the upcoming November election, by far the biggest contest since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"We have mailed out as of today about 47,000. We are expecting to mail out all told between 100,000 and 130,000 absentee ballots. That is a five fold increase, and potentially a little more, over anything we’ve ever done historically," said Gwen Freeman, the election board's secretary, at a Monday press conference.

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.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

In a 6-1 decision, the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted at a special meeting Monday evening to extend Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist's contract by one year, from 2023 to 2024.

The vote followed a lengthy executive session, and no remarks regarding the decision were made by board members during the public portion of the meeting. Board member Jennettie Marshall was the sole vote against the extension.

Facebook / Stillwater Public Schools

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Stillwater Public Schools students and their families are suffering personal and financial hardships as a result of the district’s distance and remote learning plan enacted because of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of parents allege in a lawsuit filed Monday.