Local & Regional

The Jenks City Council abruptly canceled a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening, called for the purpose of voting to extend the city's mask mandate, due to an unspecified threat.

NIAID-RML

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Wednesday 2,686 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 379,110.

Tulsa County had 483 of Wednesday's cases. Its total now stands at 62,297, second to Oklahoma County's 73,512.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, jumped from 2,579 to 2,679. The average, however, has stayed below 3,000 for nine days. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13. Oct. 5 was the last time the seven-day average was below 1,000.

Sen. James Lankford

Oklahoma Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, both Republican, voted Tuesday against proceeding with a Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Lankford and Inhofe were on the losing side of a 55-45 vote on a procedural point of order raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to declare the trial of a former president unconstitutional.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist says she's "hopeful" students could return to in-person learning sooner than the currently scheduled date of March 22nd.

• While new infections and hospitalizations from COVID-19 appear to be trending downward, children 5-17 are making up a greater and greater proportion of new cases than ever before.

Office of Attorney General

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Tulsa-based company accepted a $2.1 million deposit from the State Department of Health to purchase masks but then failed to deliver or refund the money to the state, Attorney General Mike Hunter alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Hunter filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County against PPE Supplies, LLC and its owner, Casey Bradford.

The suit claims the health department made an up-front deposit of $2.1 million for 1.2 million masks, but that Bradford failed to deliver. When the agency canceled its orders, they say Bradford only refunded about $300,000.

KWGS News

Oklahoma needs more revenue if the state is going to thrive.

That was the theme of Oklahoma Policy Institute Budget and Tax Senior Analyst Paul Shinn’s presentation at the think tank’s annual budget summit on Tuesday. Shinn said Oklahoma’s already lower-than-average tax revenues have plummeted over the past 20 years, taking some of the shine off a projected $8.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, half a billion more than this year’s budget.

Oklahoma Watch

Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to outsource management of Oklahoma’s expanded Medicaid program to a for-profit company cleared a procedural hurdle on Tuesday.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board approved on Tuesday spending up to $2.1 billion on contracts next fiscal year with managed care organizations, or MCOs. The 6–3 vote came after public comment from representatives from a handful of health organizations, all of them opposed.

PickPik

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against Gov. Kevin Stitt in another gaming compact lawsuit brought by the state’s top Republican lawmakers.

The court issued a ruling finding Stitt did not have authority to strike agreements offering sports betting and other new provisions with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kialegee Tribal Town in July without legislative approval.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

Children aged 5 to 17 make up a higher proportion of new COVID-19 infections in Oklahoma than at any time in the pandemic so far, a phenomenon one expert says is worth monitoring.

"It looks like about 14% of the positive cases are happening in school age children, and that's the highest it's ever been," said Dr. David Kendrick, founder and CEO of MyHealth Access Network and professor of medical informatics at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, on a Tuesday press conference held virtually by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition. 

World Health Organization

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday 1,571 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 376,424.

Tulsa County had 325 of Tuesday's cases. Its total now stands at 61,814, second to Oklahoma County's 73,174.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, nearly held steady, rising from 2,577 to 2,579. The average has stayed below 3,000 for eight days. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13. Oct. 5 was the last time the seven-day average was below 1,000.

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools students could return to their classrooms sooner than planned.

"I feel very hopeful that we can return our students to in-person learning at a date that's earlier than the one that we currently have, and I know that the members of the board would want that as well as soon as we are able to," TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said at a Monday meeting of the TPS Board of Education.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Tulsa Health Department officials said Monday they’re keeping up with a request by the state to use COVID-19 vaccine allocations within seven days, but supply constraints continue to restrict efforts.

• The fight over outsourcing management of Oklahoma’s expanding Medicaid program looms large over the upcoming legislative session.

U.S. General Services Administration

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday ordered a Muskogee man arrested for allegedly taking part in the storming of the U.S. Capitol this month to be released on $10,000 bond.

Tom Holland-Wikimedia

A state House budget committee took a keen interest on Monday in the funding K–12 schools are getting outside of state appropriations.

During the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s budget presentation, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was asked about more than $120 million in coronavirus relief funding that went to schools. She said that funding must be drawn down as reimbursements, and schools are largely using it to add teachers and reading specialists. But the funding has not been distributed equally.

Mike Simons / Tulsa World

Tulsa Health Department officials said Monday they’re keeping up with a request by the state to use COVID-19 vaccine allocations within seven days, but supply constraints continue to restrict efforts.

THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said they're managing supplies conservatively as a result.

The fight over outsourcing management of Oklahoma’s expanding Medicaid program looms large over the upcoming legislative session.

During a budget hearing Monday for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Greg McCortney (R-Ada) asked CEO Kevin Corbett about $217 million in estimated reserve cash the agency has from increased federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtesy

The PGA Championship is headed back to Southern Hills next year, the Oklahoma course that gets its eighth major championship earlier than expected after the PGA of America cut ties with former President Donald Trump.

Department of Defense

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Monday 1,763 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 374,853.

Tulsa County had 344 of Monday's cases. Its total now stands at 61,489, second to Oklahoma County's 72,919.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, fell from 2,587 to 2,577. The average has stayed below 3,000 for seven days. The record of 4,256 was set Jan. 13. Oct. 5 was the last time the seven-day average was below 1,000.

Livestream / Broken Arrow City Council

The city of Broken Arrow is declining to condemn a video presentation given during public comment at their Tuesday council meeting which linked the wearing of masks to prevent COVID-19 with the Holocaust. 

Monday's top stories:

• Oklahoma appears to be performing well in vaccine distribution relative to other states, but herd immunity to COVID-19 is still a long way's off.

• The state health department says it plans to distribute vaccine equitably and ensure communities of color get access.

Oklahoma National Guard Tech. Sgt. Kasey Phipps

 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma health officials plan to work with retailers and faith leaders in minority communities across the state to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health plans to unveil vaccine dispensing sites in minority communities across the state in the coming weeks, Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Friday.

Mike Simons / Pool photo

As of Friday, just eight states and the District of Columbia had higher COVID vaccination rates per 100 people than Oklahoma.

That information is according to Bloomberg’s global tracker, which shows Oklahoma is also in the top 10 for the percentage of doses it’s used.

But there’s still a long way to go.

TCC

Tulsa Community College’s early college program is growing by two districts.

TCC has announced EDGE, which stands for “Earn a Degree, Graduate Early,” will be offered in Broken Arrow as well as Tulsa public schools in the fall. Eighth graders apply now for the program, in which students take college classes starting in 10th grade and earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma

A Muskogee man is in custody at the Muskogee County Jail in connection with a federal warrant issued for his alleged role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Jail officials confirmed Saturday morning that Andrew Ericson, 23, was being held after being arrested Friday by federal law enforcement.

Ericson is charged with unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. The warrant was issued on Jan. 20 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui of the District Court for the District of Columbia.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday invited leaders of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma to begin formal negotiations related to last year’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal sovereignty.

Stitt said in a statement he will welcome the leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations to begin discussions “to address and resolve the potential issues that have arisen” as a result of the ruling. Stitt didn’t say when those discussions might begin.

The top-ranking member of the Oklahoma Senate has filed legislation that would allow public bodies to resume virtual meetings.

President Pro Tem Greg Treat’s Senate Bill 1031 would reinstate provisions of the Open Meeting Act that expired in November, leaving them in place until the governor’s pandemic emergency declaration expires.

Treat (R-Oklahoma City) said he’d like the legislature to fast-track the bill.

Pixnio

The head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is hopeful they can start vaccinating inmates against COVID-19 in mid- to late February.

DOC Director Scott Crow floated that timeline to the corrections board this week. Prisons and other facilities have signed up to be vaccine providers and will get shipments directly from the state.

Agency spokesman Justin Wolf said they do not know exactly when doses will start arriving, but the logistics are being worked out.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth

Recent lab results may confirm what epidemiologists have suspected: The more transmissible strain of the coronavirus that originated in the United Kingdom is in Oklahoma.

A research lab found mutations in test samples from Oklahomans consistent with the United Kingdom variant. State Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must confirm the results under different testing protocols before the strain’s presence is made official.

Tulsa City Hall

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Thursday that applications are open for up to $6.5 million in grants for nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Department of Defense

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Friday 2,946 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 365,992.

Tulsa County had 513 of Friday's cases. Its total now stands at 60,142, second to Oklahoma County's 71,058. Tulsa County became the second in the state to break 60,000 total cases.

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