Local & Regional

Tuesday's top stories:

• Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Monday he has not felt a "sense of urgency" from local health system leaders sufficient for him to support a new mask mandate for the city.

• The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Oklahoma and four other states for potentially violating civil rights with their bans on public school mask mandates.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Monday that he still does not see a present need for a mandatory mask ordinance in the city.

"I'm going to have to have a lot greater sense of urgency from our health care systems than we have right now," Bynum said during a virtual press briefing. "And hopefully we don't get there."

The mayor noted that he supported and signed the previous mask order in July of 2020 due to local hospital leaders telling him it was essential to prevent the collapse of the health care system.

In a new motion filed Monday in the Western District Court of Oklahoma, prisoners who have tentative execution dates starting this fall are asking the court to reconsider its position on ‘medical experimentation.’ 

 

Capital punishment in Oklahoma has been on hiatus after a series of botched executions threw drug protocols into question.

 

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The group tasked with redrawing Tulsa City Council districts after the 2020 census will have some work to do.

The 2020 census showed the city gained 21,000 residents since the last count.

"That growth was not evenly distributed around the city. There were some council districts that had more growth. There were some council districts that did not grow as much," said INCOG Executive Director Rich Brierre, who is helping the City of Tulsa Election District Commission with its work.

Courtesy

Oklahoma is being taken to court over another law passed in the last legislative session.

GRDA Crew Assists In Hurricane Ida Recovery

Aug 30, 2021
National Hurricane Center

Some Grand River Dam Authority employees went to Lafayette, Louisiana on Saturday to help with Hurricane Ida recovery efforts.

Justin Alberty is a spokesperson for GRDA. He said a line crew, some vegetation management personnel, a few GRDA police officers trained in water recovery, and one mechanic went to Lafayette early Saturday.

The employees weathered the storm in Lafayette over the weekend, but today are traveling to a new location.

Tulsa Public Schools

Updated Aug. 30, 2:10 p.m.  

The Education Department announced Monday that it’s investigating five Republican-led states, including Oklahoma, that have banned mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions.

Veteran Owasso Police Officer Dies From COVID

Aug 30, 2021
Owasso Police

A 28-year veteran of the Owasso Police Department died of complications from COVID-19 over the weekend.

The department announced on Facebook that Ofc. Edgar "Buddy" Pales died Sunday afternoon while in the hospital. Deputy Chief Jason Woodruff told the Owasso Reporter the 54-year-old Pales had been hospitalized more than a week.

Midwest City Police

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (AP) — Authorities on Sunday continued investigating the non-fatal shooting of a man by suburban Oklahoma City police after he had allegedly been firing a rifle and handgun while walking down a street.

Midwest City police officers who had responded to a shooting near a mall Friday morning found 31-year-old Taylor Slaughter walking along a sidewalk and holding a rifle, according to investigators.

Witnesses told police Slaughter had fired the rifle several times into the air.

City of Norman

The city of Norman on Friday asked residents to help conserve water as a critical need for oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients in the region's hospitals has led to a reduction in the supply of oxygen available to municipal water agencies.

The City of Tulsa is releasing five companies that own downtown property from their tax covenants after just a few years.

The tax covenants are part of agreements Valley National Bank, Vast Bank NA, PH Stadium Hospitality LLC, WPX Energy Headquarters LLC and 403 Cheyenne LLC have with the city in which rising property tax values in designated districts are set aside to help fund development assistance and public improvements.

The longest-standing covenants started in November 2018.

Whitney Bryen-Oklahoma Watch

There’s a common problem facing Tulsa’s would-be marijuana dispensary owners.

They generally need to get a certificate of occupancy from the city permit office before they can be licensed by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, but the certificate can be derailed if one has been issued to another dispensary within 1,000 feet, even if that dispensary never opened or has gone out of business. In some cases, that’s happened after people sink money into required renovations to meet building codes and other standards.

Oklahoma Hospitals Announce Full ICUs As Health Officials Keep Quiet On Bed Capacity

Aug 30, 2021

Oklahoma health officials are choosing to keep hospital capacity data under wraps as some of the state’s major health systems announce they have zero ICU beds open.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — A member of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma whose case led to a landmark decision on criminal jurisdiction in tribal lands has been sentenced to life in federal prison for sexual abuse of a child.

Federal prosecutors in Muskogee announced late Wednesday that Jimcy McGirt, 72, was sentenced to life in prison for two counts of aggravated sexual abuse in Indian Country.

McGirt was originally convicted in a state court and sentenced to 500 years in prison in 1997 for the assaults that occurred on Muscogee Nation land.

A federal prosecutor turned private practice Native American law attorney says the despite the current stalemate between Gov. Kevin Stitt and tribes, there is a way forward — and there needs to be, because the McGirt decision is likely here to stay.

Choctaw citizen and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores said there is a different justice on the court since the 5–4 decision in July 2020. Conservative Amy Coney Barrett replaced the late liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Muscogee Nation has issued a rebuttal to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s latest comments against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last July in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

At a Tulsa Chamber event Thursday, Stitt said the ruling that Oklahoma for more than a century wrongly asserted criminal jurisdiction over tribal citizens on tribal lands "remains a threat" to the state and is the most pressing issue for Oklahoma.

jovanning/stock.adobe.com / Government Office of Accountability

The for-profit nursing home industry in Oklahoma says it will see a large number of staff quit in reaction to President Biden’s recent vaccine mandate for nursing home workers. KWGS's Elizabeth Caldwell spoke to Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Long-Term Quality Care, about that prediction. 

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Oklahoma's top health official said Thursday that while he recognizes state government has outlawed school mask requirements, he does believe universal masking in schools would be ideal to keep students and staff safe from the growing threat of COVID-19.

"It's not a perfect world and that's not a possibility, so, I want everybody to wear a mask at school," Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye told Public Radio Tulsa during a virtual press briefing on Thursday when asked if he would ideally want schools to be able to enforce mask requirements.

Oklahoma Doctors, Tired But Not Deterred, Push To Get Patients Vaccinated

Aug 27, 2021
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Dr. Douglas Drevets recalls feeling a burst of optimism when the year began. 

The state’s long and deadly battle against COVID-19 seemed to have turned a corner as Oklahoma emerged as one of the top states in vaccinating eligible populations.

But that wouldn’t last long. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s new attorney general filed motions on Thursday seeking execution dates for seven death-row inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals.

Friday's top stories:

• A 13-year-old Oklahoma City Public Schools middle schooler has died of COVID-19.

• Tulsa Public Schools says they are "strengthening their mask expectation," but will not require or mandate masks.

• Oklahoma's attorney general says he will pursue legal action related to public school districts that require masks in defiance of a state law banning districts from doing so in an attempt to protect students and staff.

Hall-Estill

The Oklahoma Attorney General said Thursday his office will move as quickly as it can to block public school mask requirements that are in violation of a state law enacted this year.

Attorney General John O’Connor said legal action could come as soon as next week.

"I think we'll probably have to ask for injunctive relief early in the lawsuit so that the schools have guidance. My basic position is that we can trust the parents. Somehow, we've sort of abandoned the notion that the parents are in the best position to protect their kids," O'Connor said.

All age groups except children have hit at least a temporary peak in COVID infections in Oklahoma according to a health information sharing network in the state.  

 

Dr. David Kendrick is CEO of MyHealth Access Network and the chair of Medical Informatics at University of Oklahoma. He said according to MyHealth that gathers data in real-time and looks at an estimated two-thirds of COVID tests statewide, most age groups peaked around Aug. 16 except children aged 5 to 17. 

 

Data from Oklahoma State Department of Health

An advocacy group for seniors reacts to the Oklahoma long-term care industry’s pushback on President Biden’s vaccine mandate for nursing homes.

Sean Voskuhl is state director of Oklahoma’s AARP group.

“In Oklahoma, poor infection control, staffing shortages, and quality of care problems have existed for years. Oklahoma has really been at the bottom of those rankings. If we don’t mandate change now, lives are at stake.”

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Gov. Kevin Stitt spent time touting business wins and attacking President Joe Biden in a speech Thursday to Tulsa business leaders, but he only briefly touched on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber State of the State at the Cox Business Convention Center was billed as a discussion of the Stitt administration's "support of economic development and efforts to address and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic."

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist announced in a letter to district families on Thursday that in response to a troublingly high level of COVID-19 transmission in the community, school officials are pursuing "a temporary strengthening of the mask expectation we have in place throughout our district."

Google Maps Street View

An Oklahoma City Public Schools middle school student has died of COVID-19, officials announced Thursday.

"OKCPS is saddened to learn of the passing of Clarence Johnson, III, who was enrolled to begin 8th grade at Mary Golda Ross Middle School after attending Roosevelt Middle School last year," the district said in a statement. "Crisis counseling is available to students and staff. We will keep his family and friends in our thoughts during this very difficult time."

Updated Aug. 26, 5:05 p.m.

Tulsa Public Schools' Carnegie Elementary will remain closed Friday because of multiple staff absences.

The school was closed Thursday for the same reason.

TPS employees report a reason why they will be absent when they call out. A district spokeswoman said the closure is not because of the absent staff members needing to be in quarantine because of close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Principal Krista Blanche said in a statement seven teachers notified the school Thursday morning they would be absent.

Thursday's top stories:

• The Tulsa City Council abandoned, for now, a proposed mandatory mask ordinance on Wednesday, instead approving a non-binding resolution simply encouraging residents follow CDC guidance regarding COVID-19.

• The city of Tulsa is developing a vaccine incentive program for municipal employees.

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