Governor Stitt

White House coronavirus task force

The latest White House coronavirus task force report for Oklahoma, dated Sunday but released by the state health department Wednesday, shows the state climbing the rankings to have some of the worst numbers in the country for two COVID-19 metrics.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

In response to growing numbers of both COVID-19 infections and deaths possibly caused by the virus across its prison system, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Tuesday new measures meant to get outbreaks under control.

"Every time I learn of a new case, it really makes me sick," said Scott Crow, director of the agency, at a press conference with Gov. Kevin Stitt at the Capitol, "because this is extremely important."

"A positive case makes me sick, but an inmate death even makes me sicker," Crow said.

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.

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The union representing grocery and retail workers is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to implement a statewide mask requirement.

United Food and Commercial Workers Oklahoma representative Fitz Jennings told lawmakers during an interim study this week the workers they represent are among the lowest-paid and most likely to be exposed on the job.

Jennings said things are generally good in cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City that have instituted mask requirements, but in other places where only employees must mask up, customers aren’t doing their part.

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

In a Thursday press conference at the Capitol, Gov. Kevin Stitt acknowledged that hundreds of Oklahomans continue to be admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, but touted advancements in medical treatments for those who become infected.

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.

White House coronavirus task force

The latest report for Oklahoma from the White House coronavirus task force once again recommends a statewide mask mandate, points to Arkansas as a model for virus response, and warns that nursing home policies and procedures must be altered to keep residents safe.

Stuart Ostler / Oklahoma Capitol

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has denied Gov. Kevin Stitt’s request it rehear a case in which the court ruled gaming compacts he signed with two tribes were invalid.

The court denied Stitt’s request Monday without comment.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Several Oklahoma House Democrats requested a legal opinion Monday on Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to spend federal coronavirus relief funds to send students to private schools.

Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group requested a formal opinion from state Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Stitt faced criticism in July when he announced his plan to spend $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to allow Oklahoma families to access $6,500 in funds for private-school tuition.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Office of Gov. Kevin Stitt

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday named a former classroom teacher and CEO of an education reform group as his new secretary of education. 

Every Kid Counts CEO Ryan Walters will replace Secretary of State Michael Rogers, who stepped down from the education position last month, citing his workload.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The White House task force on the coronavirus is no longer recommending a statewide mask mandate in Oklahoma, according to the report released Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The report, dated Sunday, instead recommends a mask mandate in urban areas and in counties where students and teachers in public schools have tested positive for the virus. 

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Hundreds more women incarcerated at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft have tested positive for COVID-19 since the state initially reported a major outbreak there last week.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said that, as of noon on Thursday, 721 women had active cases of the disesase caused by the novel coronavirus, with three hospitalized. The facility houses around 900. Eddie Warrior is a minimum-security facility, with open dormitory-style housing units.

Governor's office

Gov. Kevin Stitt has been nothing if not consistent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: a statewide mask mandate is not on the table for Oklahoma.

"Mandating something statewide is something that we just don't believe in, or I personally don't believe in," Stitt said Tuesday at a press conference in Stillwater.

In recent weeks, Stitt and his cabinet have begun more frequently acknowledging that mask mandates have been effective when implemented by local governments, but that it should be a decision made on the community level.

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said on Tuesday that she considers it unacceptable that a sizeable number of Oklahoma school districts have declined to require masks as they reopen for in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Park Service

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt recommended three Native Americans and two Black Oklahomans as national heroes who should be considered for inclusion in a new National Garden of American Heroes.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is extending a statewide emergency declaration.

Stitt's announcement Friday ensures Oklahoma voters can cast absentee ballots in November without having their ballots notarized or witnessed by two people.

Because the state of emergency will be in place within 45 days of the election, voters who cast their ballots by mail will only need to include a photocopy of their photo identification or their voter registration card.

Tom Holland-Wikimedia

Oklahoma House Democrats on Thursday called on Gov. Kevin Stitt to set up a new state COVID task force.

The minority caucus wants a bipartisan group led by public health experts that regularly briefs the public, including on recommendations it makes to the governor.

An existing governor’s task force that has met since March does not appear to meet those criteria.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The latest report from the White House coronavirus task force on the status of Oklahoma's battle with COVID-19 shows certain trends worsening and the Trump administration continuing to call for Gov. Kevin Stitt to implement a statewide mask mandate.

Twitter / Joy Hofmeister (@joy4ok)

Weekly reports the state has been receiving from the White House coronavirus task force since June, newly released by Gov. Kevin Stitt, paint a clearer picture of the federal view of Oklahoma's COVID-19 pandemic response.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Department of Interior has given tacit approval to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent agreements on tribal gambling with two Oklahoma-based Indian tribes.

The compacts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians were “deemed approved” by the federal department after a 45-day review period expired Thursday.

The new compacts would increase the fees the tribes pay on certain electronic games from 6% to as high as 13% if the tribes build casinos in new locations authorized under the deal.

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.

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission

Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked the federal government to provide an additional $300 in unemployment benefits for out-of-work Oklahomans.

The governor’s office submitted a grant application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If approved, Stitt said FEMA will fund the $300 per week benefit, and Oklahoma will fulfill the 25% state match through existing unemployment benefits.

Twitter / @UofOklahoma

A sorority house at Oklahoma State. The Sooners football team. The faculty and staff of Broken Arrow Public Schools.

All have been sites of recent coronavirus outbreak "clusters." As more districts and universities bring students back to school buildings and campuses, epidemiologists and other public health experts are worrying that Oklahoma's trends in new infections, which have been slowly tacking downward in recent days, could change course.

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.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education is the latest member of the governor’s cabinet to announce his resignation.

Secretary of State Michael Rogers told the governor this week that he plans to resign from his positions as both Stitt’s secretary of education and his chief policy negotiator.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Gov. Kevin Stitt has consistently opposed mandating masks on a statewide level to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, citing issues of individual freedom, but on Thursday he said he does believe that local-level mask mandates throughout Oklahoma are at least partially responsible for a recent downward trend in new infections.

Gov. Kevin Stitt named on Thursday a new chief of staff and added a chief policy advisor.

Bond Payne, the co-founder and chairman of Heritage Trust Company and the vice chairman of Argent Financial Group, replaces Michael Junk as chief of staff. Junk announced late last month he was stepping down so he could return to working in Tulsa and spend more time with his family.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Gov. Kevin Stitt visited Tulsa to announce more than $30 million in federal relief funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, will be headed to the city. 

"Mayor Bynum and his team at the city of Tulsa have done a great job coming up with innovative ways to use this money to continue to fight COVID-19, support local businesses and help educate our children," said the governor, who did not wear a mask at the press conference despite the recommendations of his own health commissioner and a mask ordinance passed by the Tulsa City Council.

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