Local & Regional

Instagram / Downtown Coordinating Council

A consulting firm hired in 2019 by the City of Tulsa to develop a plan for a restructuring of downtown management has recommended the creation of a new, independent entity.

Representatives of Colorado-based Progressive Urban Management Associates, or PUMA, presented their strategic plan at a Tuesday virtual meeting of the Downtown Coordinating Council, a body that currently reports to, but only makes recommendations to, the mayor. Under the consultancy's plan, the DCC would be abolished and replaced.

NIAID-RML

Updated Aug. 6 2:10 p.m. to correct Tulsa County's seven-day average. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Wednesday 17 new deaths from COVID-19, the second-highest total to date.

One death happened in the past 24 hours. Two were men 50 to 64 years old. The rest were adults 65 or older. 

Two Tulsa County women were among the reported deaths, and the county's total increased to 103. Six deaths occurred in Oklahoma County, which leads the state with 107. COVID-19 has officially killed 583 Oklahomans since March 18.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • Despite evidence to the contrary, Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to claim Oklahoma is doing better in handling the COVID-19 pandemic well, and is months ahead of other states.
  • Dr. Bruce Dart, Tulsa Health Department director, says the percent-positive rate of tests conducted by THD is "extremely high," and is reiterating his call for schools not to open this month for in-person learning due to the risk of transmission.

Pxfuel

Things are looking up for manufacturers in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma.

For July, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index reached its highest level since March 2019, 57.4, up more than seven points from June. Numbers above 50 on the 0–100 scale indicate growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said those two months in positive territory came after three months of contraction.

Courtesy

Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to say Oklahoma is handling the coronavirus pandemic well and is months ahead of other states.

During the Tulsa Regional Chamber State of the State on Tuesday, Stitt compared the state’s hospitalization numbers from earlier in the pandemic to now.

“You know, on March 30, we had 560 people in the hospital being treated for COVID across the state of Oklahoma. Yesterday, we had 504 people in the hospital with capacity well above that,” Stitt said.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County continues to see "widespread virus" in the community, as delays in testing contribute to difficulties in properly responding to the pandemic, according the Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

At a press conference Tuesday at Tulsa Police Department headquarters, Dart said that testing laboratories are "swamped," leading to numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health that may be less useful due to being dated.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

It's he-said-they-said between Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and key stakeholders in the Greenwood District, as the conflict continues over whether or not the unauthorized "BLACK LIVES MATTER" mural on Greenwood Avenue can remain.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday 15 additional deaths from COVID-19, the most in a single day since April 21 and tied for third-most over the course of the pandemic.

One death happened in the past 24 hours. Nine of the 15 deaths reported Tuesday were adults 65 or older, four were adults between 50 and 64 years old, and two were adults between 18 and 35 years old.

None of the deaths was in Tulsa County. Four happened in Oklahoma County, which now leads the state with 102, one more than Tulsa.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Because of the severity of the local COVID-19 outbreak, the Tulsa Public Schools board voted 6-1 for an all-virtual first nine weeks of school.

Tulsa Public Schools’ 39,000-plus students will not go back to their classrooms until at least November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The TPS Board on Monday night approved 6–1 Superintendent Deborah Gist's recommendation to start the year Aug. 31 with nine weeks of distance learning.

Gist invited health experts to the largely virtual board meeting to share their knowledge about the coronavirus. Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart told board members he’s a big supporter of education.

Governor's office

Oklahoma will spend $15 million from its share of federal coronavirus relief funding toward establishing Community HOPE Centers across the state to help families in areas where schools are not open full time.

Gov. Kevin Stitt made the announcement Monday at Templo de Alabanza in Oklahoma City, which will be the site of the first Community HOPE Center.

Templo de Alabanza Operations Director Rachel Ramirez said as soon as she heard local schools wouldn’t bring students back until at least November, she knew something needed to be done.

File photo

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a brief on Monday asking the state Court of Criminal Appeals for guidance on cases affected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v Oklahoma.

Tulsa County Sheriff

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Child Predator Unit arrested a 26-year-old man they believed was a local teacher in a sting operation.

The sheriff’s office said Aaron Hernandez sent lewd pictures of himself to and discussed sex with an undercover deputy posing as a 14-year-old girl on the apps Whisper and Snapchat. Hernandez was arrested Monday morning when he reportedly went to meet the teen to have sex with her.

OSU

Oklahoma has another new state epidemiologist during the coronavirus pandemic.

OSU veterinary professor Jared Taylor has been tapped as an epidemiology consultant for the State Department of Health.

Interim State Epidemiologist Aaron Wendelboe’s contract expired Friday. He was named to the post in late March after former State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed was reassigned.

Taylor was made OSU’s epidemiologist at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and worked with Wendelboe on a presentation to Governor Kevin Stitt in April.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation

First it was turnpikes, now rural stretches of interstate in Oklahoma are getting higher speed limits.

A total of 399 miles along I-35 and I-40 will get 75 mph limits posted in the coming months.

"A comprehensive engineering study was completed for these locations in accordance with Department of Transportation rules, regulations and policies. We have a commitment to safety," said State Traffic Engineer Chad Pendley.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The city of Tulsa announced Monday that it intends to follow through on its plans to remove the Black Lives Matter painting on the roadway of North Greenwood Avenue

The unauthorized street painting, completed in the lead-up to Juneteenth and President Trump's visit to Tulsa, was a subject of discussion at a Tulsa City Council committee meeting last week, where it was  concluded it would be removed due to not having a city-issued permit, and potentially opening the doors to legally having to allow any other painted messages.

Century Foundation

An analysis of federal Department of Labor statistics found that, under a coronavirus relief plan proposed by Senate Republicans, Oklahomans would see the steepest average cut – 57% – in combined state and federal unemployment payments.

Food and Drug Administration

Updated Aug. 4, 11:50 a.m. to correct state's seven-day average for Monday.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Monday 377 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 38,602.

Before Monday, the state was seeing an average of nearly 1,100 new cases a day over the past week. Case totals fell from 1,244 on Saturday to 494 on Sunday. The last time the state saw a dramatic decline in new cases, July 23 to 24, more than a dozen labs suddenly started reporting test results from the past month.

Twitter / @OUMedicine

Hospital leaders say Oklahoma’s doctors and nurses are feeling the strain of the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of elevated hospitalizations.

"The constancy of preparedness and concern of coming to work in this environment takes a tremendous toll," said OU Medicine President and CEO Chuck Spicer in a Friday virtual town hall hosted by Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla).

Dr. Kersey Winfree, Vice President of Operations for SSM Health Saint Anthony, said there can be a mental health component to diagnoses when providers test positive for the virus, a not-uncommon occurence.

Twitter / @RepKendraHorn

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, Oklahoma's lone Congressional Democrat, said that while the two parties in Congress don't see eye-to-eye on much, there is some level of consensus on what should be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

"The areas that I think there is strong, bipartisan agreement is in the need to continue to fund research — research on vaccine development, treatment, PPE and other critical resources for our health care community, as well as funding for state and local governments, because we know the toll," Horn said on a virtual town hall event on Friday.

Monday's top stories:

  • Congress has yet to reach an agreement on a new coronavirus relief package, even after federal unemployment payments expired last week. Oklahoma's lone Congressional Democrat, Rep. Kendra Horn, has suggested the $600-a-week payments could be too generous.
  • As hospitalizations from COVID-19 continue at high levels, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are feeling the physical and emotional strain.

Courtesy

Students marked their entries into medical school on Friday in a white coat ceremony at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

OSU Center for Health Sciences President and OSU School of Osteopathic Medicine Dean Dr. Kayse Shrum told them while their families and friends couldn’t be present because of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s still plenty of cause for celebration.

Inhofe Press Office

The New York Times has obtained a recording of a phone call between President Trump and Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe this week in which they discuss keeping the name of at least one Confederate leader on a military base.

"We’re going to keep the name of Robert E. Lee," Trump said on the call.

"Just trust me, I’ll make it happen," Inhofe replied.

The head of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board resigned this week after being threatened last month by a board member with a grand jury investigation of unspecified criminal activity.

Pardon and parole Executive Director Steven Bickley had asked the board earlier this month to approve an extended leave after board member and retired judge Allen McCall sent him an email accusing him of trying to force an anti-death penalty view on the board. That happened after an exchange about whether the board could consider commutation requests from death-row inmates.

Department of Defense

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Friday 747 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 36,487.

Tulsa County had 74 of Friday's new cases according to data the state health department, the smallest increase since July 5 barring two days of undercounted cases because of computer problems at the state health department. Tulsa County's total now stands at 8,710.

Twitter / @realdonaldtrump

Officials in Tulsa said Thursday that a direct causal connection cannot be drawn between the coronavirus infection of former presidential candidate Herman Cain and his attendance at President Trump's rally last month at the BOK Center.

"I don't know how he caught it," Mayor G.T. Bynum said of Cain, who, like the majority of the 6,000-person crowd at the rally, did not wear a mask in the arena. "I haven't seen any conclusive information on where he got it from."

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department and a personal friend of Cain, agreed.

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

Despite recommendations from the Trump administration that the state of Oklahoma implement far stricter restrictions to combat the coronavirus, a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that they're just that -- recommendations.

"The Governor’s office followed up after the Task Force’s latest report and the White House confirmed that these are not mandates and that the State is not out of compliance with any federal orders," said Baylee Lakey, the governor's communications director, in an emailed statement.

Friday's top stories:

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt, pushing for schools to open for in-person learning, announced $10 million of federal coronavirus relief funds will go to purchasing personal protective equipment for schools.
  • Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department recommends an all-virtual start to the school year.

YouTube / Epic Charter Schools

In a video address ahead of the fall semester, Epic Charter Schools co-founder Ben Harris claimed that what parents may have heard about the school in relation to an active law enforcement investigation is not true.

"Some of those families coming to us may be skeptical of sending their children to us because of the negative and unfair and often flatout inaccurate news about us the past few years," Harris said. 

Tulsa Police Department

The officer who survived a traffic stop shooting in June, and the widow of the sergeant slain, are expressing gratitude for the support of Tulsans following the event.

"Thank you, Tulsa, for your continued love and support through my recovery," said Officer Aurash Zarkeshan in a video posted by the Tulsa Police Department. "I can't wait to be back home."

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