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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oklahoma hits another pandemic milestone Saturday: 1 year since the state's first case of COVID-19 was publicly announced.

On March 6, 2020, Gov. Kevin Stitt joined then-State Health Commissioner Gary Cox, Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to announce a man in his 50s who had recently traveled to Italy was the first Oklahoman with a confirmed case of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. 

Oklahoma State Department of Health

State health officials shared more good news Friday on the COVID-19 vaccination front.

"Now that there are three vaccines available and our overall supply is steadily increasing, we are ready to open up vaccine appointments for the remaining priority groups outlined in phase two of our state’s vaccination plan," Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed said during a virtual media.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Friday 917 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 427,558.

Tulsa County had 102 of Friday's cases. Its total now stands at 71,329, second to Oklahoma County's 81,462.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, rose from 641 to 648. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13. It has remained under 1,000 since Feb. 19.

Tulsa County's seven-day average fell from 92 to 87, its lowest point since June 18. The record is 647, set Jan. 9.

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools officials this week announced a bevy of expanded initiatives meant to support students as the district looks ahead at a post-pandemic world.

“As we shift into post-COVID teaching and learning, we have an exciting opportunity to think differently about the ways that we serve and support Tulsa children and families,” TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said in a Thursday statement.

Friday's top stories:

• Matthew Hall, the getaway driver in the shooting of two Tulsa Police officers last summer, was found guilty by a Tulsa County jury on Thursday.

• Tulsa officials say they don't believe it wise to lift the city's mask ordinance yet.

• Experts say COVID-19 could continue to kill Oklahomans well after the pandemic officially ends.

Sen. Jim Inhofe

Oklahoma U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a late Thursday statement expressing strong disapproval of a request from the U.S. Capitol Police to keep thousands of National Guard troops stationed there to continue defending the building after January's deadly insurrection.

U.S. Central Command, Department of Defense

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma man was sentenced to more than three years in prison for illegally smuggling firearms to the Middle East to help fight the Islamic State there, according to federal prosecutors.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Oklahoma City Zoo employee was sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to trafficking stolen Galapagos tortoise hatchlings, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Norman Public Schools learning coach Jessica Eschbach is the 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced the award Thursday in a virtual ceremony. 

In a video, Eschbach recognized her fellow teachers for their hard work over the past year and reminded them there’s much more ahead.

Roland Leach / U.S. Air Force

Oklahoma is now a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and hospitalizations and new cases keep falling, but health officials are urging people not to get complacent.

Improving trends are not going to change current public health advice on masks.

Updated March 4, 7:40 p.m.  

A Tulsa County jury on Thursday convicted a man accused of being the getaway driver after the shooting of two Tulsa police officers last summer.

In a verdict announced shortly before 4 p.m., the jury found 29-year-old Matthew Hall guilty on two counts of being an accessory to a felony. The jury recommended 12 years in prison on both counts out of a maximum 22.5 years.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

Health care and public health experts predict the disease caused by the novel coronavirus may end up being a cause of death for Oklahomans long after whatever marks the official end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's a lot of people who didn't die who have a lot of chronic health conditions that are going to be going on forever," said Dr. David Chansolme, medical director of infection prevention at INTEGRIS Health, at a Tuesday virtual press briefing held by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition. 

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

As a few Catholic leaders across the country express hesitation or outright disavow the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the head of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said Thursday that the church encourages Oklahoma Catholics to get any of the currently approved vaccines as soon as they can.

World Health Organization

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Thursday 895 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 426,641.

Tulsa County had 122 of Thursday's cases. Its total now stands at 71,227, second to Oklahoma County's 81,276.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, fell from 677 to 641. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13.

Tulsa County's seven-day average fell from 117 to 92. It's the first time the average has been below 100 since Oct. 29. The record is 647, set Jan. 9.

Woodward Fire Department

WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) — A fire tore through an Oklahoma home early Wednesday, killing six people, including several children, officials said.

One boy managed to escape the blaze after the first firefighter at the scene heard a voice from inside the home and managed to knock an air conditioner from a window with the help of a bystander, said Todd Finley, the fire chief in Woodward, a city of roughly 12,000 people about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City.

Thursday's top stories:

• The state has begun publishing the CDC COVID-19 death count, which is based on death certificates and far higher than the figure previously provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. According to the CDC, more than 7,000 Oklahomans have been killed by the virus.

• A verdict is possible Thursday in the trial of Matthew Hall, accused getaway driver in the slaying of Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson.

Justice for Julius

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The evidence implicating an Oklahoma death row inmate whose case has drawn national attention is overwhelming and his application for a commutation is filled with “demonstrable falsehoods,” Oklahoma County’s top prosecutor wrote in a letter this week to the state’s Pardon and Parole Board.

Pxfuel

A regional economic indicator shows strong growth continuing in a nine-state area that includes Oklahoma.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index hit 69.6 in February, its highest since October and second-highest since April 2004. Numbers above 50 on the 0–100 scale indicate economic growth. Creighton University Economist Ernie Goss said that mark comes as the economy is still another 3% to 4% below pre-COVID levels.

File Photo

Oklahoma House Republicans passed a bill on Wednesday to prohibit any government entity from closing churches during an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Bill 2648 would deem such orders a "substantial burden" on religion, an attempt to render them unconstitutional. Courts have tied the term to forcing someone to violate their religious beliefs. The bill says that finding would apply even if an order applies to non-religious establishments. 

Broken Arrow City Council

At a meeting repeatedly disrupted by anti-mask hecklers, the Broken Arrow City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday evening to adopt a non-binding resolution simply encouraging residents to wear masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Craig Thurmond, long opposed to a mandatory mask ordinance as well as to a similar non-binding resolution brought previously, cast the tie-breaking vote to pass the measure.

NIAID-RML

Updated March 4, 11:42 a.m.  

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Wednesday 747 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 425,746.

Tulsa County had 99 of Wednesday's cases. Its total now stands at 71,105, second to Oklahoma County's 81,082.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, fell from 684 to 677, its lowest since late August. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13.

Chickasaw Nation

The Chickasaw Nation has begun offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments to educators and their families, regardless of tribal citizenship.

KWGS File Photo

Updated March 3, 6:38 p.m.

The trial for a man charged as the getaway driver in the June 2020 shooting of two Tulsa police officers started Wednesday.

Matthew Hall, 29, faces two counts of being an accessory to a felony. Prosecutors allege he drove David Ware from the traffic stop in east Tulsa where Tulsa Police Ofc. Aurash Zarkeshan and Sgt. Craig Johnson were shot and that Hall helped get rid of the gun that was used.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Oklahoma public health experts say despite encouraging COVID-19 trends, weakening restrictions would be a very bad decision at this time.

• The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed one of a number of bills brought this session to further restrict abortion care in the state.

• Tulsa Public Schools has partnered with a nonprofit for administration of a rapid testing program for students and staff.

Updated March 3, 12 p.m.  

Oklahoma House Republicans passed a bill on Tuesday to add another layer of abortion restrictions in the state.

House Bill 1904 would add a requirement that providers be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. State law currently requires providers be licensed physicians.

The author, Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay), was candid in debate.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Public Schools is partnering with a nonprofit to keep track of results from its rapid COVID-19 testing program and report them to participating students and staff.

The TPS Board approved an agreement with the nonprofit Project Beacon for a platform that can send results to district employees or students participating in the voluntary testing program. Its BinaxNOW system could not do that.

File Photo

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed its version of school open transfer legislation, identical to what the House passed last week.

Senate Bill 783 allows students up to two transfers per year outside of the district they live in, though district boards of education can deny their application for disciplinary problems or attendance issues. The legislation requires regular reports on denied transfers.

Housing Solutions Tulsa

Becky Gligo, executive director of homelessness nonprofit organization Housing Solutions Tulsa, said responding to last week's stretch of life-threatening cold was an all hands on deck situation.

"We had about 30 people out 'round the clock for almost a week, bringing everybody who would go with them inside," Gligo said.

"Nobody, for about five straight days, had more than two hours of sleep at a time," Gligo said. "It was just constant, and the weather was extreme, and the pressure of knowing this was life or death was extreme."

Public health experts say Oklahoma's COVID-19 numbers are trending in the right direction -- but mitigation measures are more critical than ever.

"There's going to be a temptation to relax our mitigation strategies, maybe not mask as much," said Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, University of Oklahoma professor and former Oklahoma state epidemiologist, during a virtual press briefing held by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition on Tuesday.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday 111 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 424,999.

Tulsa County had seven of Tuesday's cases. Its total now stands at 71,006, second to Oklahoma County's 80,870.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, fell from 719 to 684. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13.

Tulsa County's seven-day average dropped from 123 to 117. The record is 647, set Jan. 9. Oct. 29 was the last time the seven-day average was below 100.

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