Local & Regional

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The state health department wants to make it to almost all of Oklahoma’s 547 school districts over the next three weeks to offer COVID tests to teachers and support staff.

The health department aims to visit larger districts twice in the next 30 days.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced an optional, monthly testing program for teachers and support staff in late July.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

One day after Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, called for all municipalities in Tulsa County to introduce a mask mandate similar to the city of Tulsa's to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials in some of those cities and towns showed no indication they plan to take the guidance.

"We have discussed it, and the Bixby council is not willing to pass a mask mandate at this time," said Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The medical director of the Emergency Medical Services Authority, or EMSA, said Wednesday that while the ambulance service has experienced some additional demand, it remains far from being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Yes, we are in unusual times," said Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe during a virtual meeting of the authority's board of trustees, "but the actual case load, case burden, number of incidents related to COVID-19 certainly comes nowhere close to the majority of patients that we take care of on a day-in, day-out basis."

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Friday 710 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the state's total to 56,260.

Tulsa County had 110 of Friday's reported cases. Its total rose to 12,941. Oklahoma County became the first in the state to surpass 13,000 confirmed cases, adding 170 for a total of 13,144.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, fell from 702 to 645, its lowest level since July 14.

Friday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma House Democrats are calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to create a new task force intended to make the state's COVID-19 response more transparent in the wake of Stitt's office withholding federal recommendations from the public and local governments.
  • Tulsa officials are stressing local expertise over state and federal guidance in terms of pandemic response.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Families who lost loved ones to opioid drug overdoses rallied outside the Tulsa County Courthouse on Thursday.

They want drug dealers to be prosecuted in more cases. Organizer Diane Searle read more than three dozen victims’ names, including her own daughter’s. Jillian Searle developed an opioid addiction after a dental procedure and died in 2018.

The man who sold Jillian drugs, Taylor Rogers, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last October and was sentenced to 40 years in Department of Corrections custody.

John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation

The first Oklahoma site in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s African American Civil Rights Network has received its formal designation.

Oklahoma Watch

While all but one county in Oklahoma meet the threshold of new coronavirus infections for school masking policies, 35% of districts have no mask requirement in place, according to a survey by the State Department of Education.

In approving the department’s COVID safety protocols last month, the State Board of Education cut requirements down to recommendations, including those for masks for students, teachers and staff. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the lack of mask requirements is still concerning.

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

(This story was updated at 5:02 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27th, to include additional information from the Tulsa Health Department on settings connected to COVID-19 infections.)

Following newly released documents from the White House coronavirus task force recommending that the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County implement more stringent measures to combat the pandemic, local officials on Thursday stressed local expertise and knowledge are more targeted and relevant than the federal suggestions.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Thursday 712 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 55,550.

Tulsa County had 117 of Thursday's new cases, and its total now stands at 12,831, second to Oklahoma County's 12,974.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, fell from 702 to 697. The seven-day average has been relatively flat since Aug. 21.

The seven-day average hit a peak of 1,093 on Aug. 1. When Oklahoma moved to phase three of Gov. Kevin Stitt's reopening plan on June 1, the average was 69 cases.

Thursday's top stories:

  • The Trump administration is continuing to urge Gov. Kevin Stitt to implement a statewide mask requirement and close all bars because of worsening trends in the state's COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The Oklahoma State Department of Health says it's updating a color-coded COVID-19 alert system that many public health experts and officials have criticized.
  • Tulsa Area United Way says hunger has worsened during the pandemic, and is hosting a food drive.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The U.S. Department of Justice is sending money to Oklahoma to combat domestic violence.

"Oklahoma is receiving more than $8 million in domestic violence grants that are going to go to assist victims of domestic violence, to support recovery and to help us end this cycle of violence," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores.

Tribes, cities and nonprofits offering services to survivors are in line for funding.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Hunger is an ongoing problem in Oklahoma during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally, one in six households and one in five children in the state have trouble getting enough to eat on a regular basis.

"During this pandemic and in the foreseeable future, those numbers are much more troubling. At the height of this crisis, they were nearly doubled, and still now, one in three children are food insecure in our state and our community, and one in five households," said Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director Chris Bernard.

Department of Defense

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Wednesday 19 more deaths from COVID-19. Since March 18, the illness has officially killed 763 Oklahomans.

It was the second-most deaths reported in a single day. The most was 21, reported on April 21.

Three of Wednesday's reported deaths were in the past 24 hours. Two adults between 36 and 49 years old died, one man between 50 and 64 years old died, and 16 adults 65 or older died.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Health is working to revise the state’s COVID-19 alert system, which some state health officials have said is not “helpful” for areas at high risk due to the coronavirus pandemic, health department spokesperson Rob Crissinger said Wednesday.

Planned changes in the alert system, first reported by the Tulsa World, are being made so local and state health officials can work more closely, according to Crissinger.

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.

Facebook / @BiceForCongress

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State Sen. Stephanie Bice won the Republican nomination on Tuesday for the 5th District congressional seat in Oklahoma City, setting up a showdown with first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn for a seat Republicans desperately want to win back in November.

Friday's top stories:

  • Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum wins a second term, holding off challengers from both the left and the right. Three Tulsa City Councilors also won reelection; three more head to a November runoff.

City of Tulsa

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum won a second term Tuesday night, taking 51.9% of the votes, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board's unofficial results.

Candidates in Tuesday's elections needed more than half the votes to win outright. Contests where no candidate received more than half the votes will go to a runoff between the top two.

Community organizer Greg Robinson, Bynum's main challenger, won 28.8% of the votes. Project manager Ken Reddick, who painted himself as a more conservative option than Bynum, got 13.8% of the vote. All other candidates got less than 3%.

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

Traffic counts on Oklahoma turnpikes had been recovering as the state moved through Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reopening plan, which hit phase three on June 1.

"However, Oklahoma, along with many other states, had shown a spike in COVID-19 cases, which, as expected, slightly slowed the rebound of the authority’s revenues for July. In particular, passenger vehicles declined 9.5% as compared to July 2019," said Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Director of Finance and Revenue Wendy Smith.

Smith said heavy truck traffic — think freight movement — was also lower.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit is moving forward on a job shuttle for the U.S. 169 corridor.

The transit board approved an agenda item for it at a meeting Tuesday.

The shuttle will connect north Tulsa with the area north of I-244, where Amazon recently opened a distribution center and kitchen ventilation manufacturer Greenheck recently opened a plant. Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck hopes to launch it by mid-September.

Tulsa Public Schools

While students will be starting the school year with nine weeks of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tulsa Public Schools teachers are returning, or have already returned, to classrooms and school buildings to prepare for the fall term beginning next week. At a special meeting of the TPS Board of Education on Monday, administrators presented their plan to keep faculty and staff as safe as possible.

Courtesy Gary Hamer / City of Tulsa Finance Department

The first two months of the new fiscal year have yielded higher than expected sales tax revenue for the city of Tulsa.

"Right now, things are better than we had hoped," said Gary Hamer, grants and capital planning manager for the city's finance department, on a Tuesday virtual meeting of the Sales Tax Overview Committee (STOC).

"Still not where we would have been prior to COVID-19, but we're optimistic," Hamer said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday 14 more deaths from COVID-19. Since March 18, the illness has officially killed 744 Oklahomans.

No deaths were identified in the past day. Three deaths were adults between 50 and 64 years old, including a woman in Tulsa County. The other 11 deaths were adults 65 or older, with five Rogers County men among them.

At least three dozen residents of the Claremore Veterans Center have died, according to the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, but the state coronavirus dashboard has Rogers County at 31 total deaths.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two Oklahoma City women, each touting their conservative credentials and support for President Donald Trump, will face off Tuesday in a testy GOP primary runoff for the opportunity to unseat the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.

Local businesswoman Terry Neese, 73, and state Sen. Stephanie Bice, 47, are locked in a bitter contest for the nomination after neither secured more than 50% of the vote in a nine-way June primary. Neese led the field with 36% of the vote to Bice’s 25%.

Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Low-income Tulsa families were hit particularly hard when schools closed in spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Newly public White House reports sent weekly to Gov. Kevin Stitt reveal the federal government's growing concern over outbreaks statewide and in particular cities and counties in Oklahoma.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tribal gaming fees paid to the state cratered at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oklahoma.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported monthly exclusivity fee payments under gaming compacts fell from $12.3 million in February to $6.6 million in March and bottomed out at less than $21,000 in April with casinos closed.

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew Morgan said while the state missed out on as much as $42 million in payments because of the drop, tribes lost out on hundreds of millions more with a main industry shut down.

The Tulsa Housing Authority is now taking applications for an emergency rental assistance program funded by Tulsa County’s share of federal coronavirus relief dollars.

An online portal is available for people who have lost their jobs or are receiving less pay during the pandemic. Up to $3,000 per household will be given on a first come, first served basis, but applications will be held open for two weeks once completed.

Tulsa SEED

The sudden shift to distance learning in the spring was especially difficult for Tulsa’s low-income families.

A team of researchers already following kids from age 3 through fourth grade decided to survey parents and teachers after the sudden shift to distance learning in the spring. Almost 60% of parents reported lost household income, and 46% said they lost a job or had hours cut.