Local & Regional

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday afternoon he will implement two new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Stitt said he will file an executive order limiting attendance at indoor youth sporting events to four spectators per athlete or 50% building capacity, whichever is less. Public gatherings will also be limited to 50% capacity unless the local health department signs off on more people attending.

The top state lawmakers from both parties sat down for a public affairs panel with the Oklahoma State Chamber this week, and all of them pushed back on President and CEO Chad Warmington’s opening to a question about the legislature’s working relationship with Gov. Kevin Stitt.

"Some have analogized that the governor is CEO and the legislature is his board of directors. Kind of curious if you all see the relationship that way," Warmington said.

Tens of thousands of Oklahomans receiving federal Lost Wage Assistance benefits through the state may get another payment.

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt announced Thursday the agency has received guidance about distributing remaining Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars for the program, which expire at the end of the year.

"And the agency will be making one-time, $400 payments to over 120,000 Oklahomans," Zumwalt said.

The Lost Wages Assistance program sent out $300 payments Aug. 1 through Sept. 5.

A Tulsa Police officer has been indicted on federal gun charges.

U.S. Attorney Trent Shores announced Thursday 26-year-old Latoya Dythe faces charges for allegedly making a false statement to a firearms dealer. Shores said Dythe took cash from her boyfriend, 27-year-old Devon Jones, and bought a gun for him from Bass Pro Shops in April. She marked on a required form she was buying it for herself, a practice known as a straw purchase.

Twitter / @mikepence

The White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence continues to issue dire warnings and recommendations to Gov. Kevin Stitt regarding the worsening COVID-19 situation in the state. 

Twitter / @SenatorLankford

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has quickly become a conservative litmus test, with many Republicans signing onto the case even as some have predicted it will fail.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Thursday 2,460 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 225,453.

Tulsa County had 463 of Thursday's reported cases. Its total now stands at 37,922, second to Oklahoma County's 46,425.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, rose from 2,950 to 3,058. The average has held relatively steady the past five days. The record is 3,387, set the day after Thanksgiving. Oct. 5 was the last time the seven-day average was below 1,000.

Thursday's top stories:

•  In the coming days, Tulsa County is expected to hit 6% of all county residents having had or being actively infected with COVID-19.

• Oklahoma's hospitals continue to operate at "crisis standards of care" due to capacity strains. Lay-volunteers are performing key aspects of care, field hospital tents are being erected, and providers are being asked to perform atypical tasks.

The Frontier

A panel of Oklahoma experts in immunology, epidemiology and infectious disease came together Wednesday to discuss and take questions about coming COVID-19 vaccines in a virtual forum.

"The higher the number as far as getting them into arms the better," said Dr. Jared Taylor, the state epidemiologist at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, on the virtual panel discussion hosted by The Frontier.

Oklahoma’s top state House and Senate Republicans said changes to the Open Meeting Act should be on the agenda for the upcoming session.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) spoke about the law's virtual meetings provision on Wednesday during and Oklahoma State Chamber public affairs forum.

By week’s end, 6% of Tulsa County residents — more than 39,000 people — will have been infected with the coronavirus sometime since March.

That’s according to Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart, who spoke a City of Tulsa COVID-19 update Wednesday. Dart said without significant increases in people following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, 10% of county residents being infected before vaccines are widely available is not out of the question.

American Academy of Pediatrics

The Tulsa Health Department anticipates it will start giving COVID vaccinations next Thursday.

That's dependent upon a Food and Drug Administration panel approving Pfizer's COVID vaccine, putting it in line to be shipped next Tuesday and received in Oklahoma the next day.

THD Clinical Services Manager Ellen Niemitalo said in consultation with the state health department, health care workers who care for COVID patients are first in line.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Wednesday joined 16 other states backing a lawsuit in which Texas asks the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the presidential election.

Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the court to throw out results from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all swing states that went to President-elect Joe Biden.

In a statement, Hunter said he is "firmly committed to election security" and that Paxton’s lawsuit raises serious concerns about election integrity.

Saying Oklahoma's hospital system is strained over the "manageable range," a leading voice in the state's COVID-19 public health community said Wednesday more facilities are operating under "crisis standards of care."

NIAID-RML

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Wednesday 2,307 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 222,993.

Tulsa County had 310 of Wednesday's cases. Its total now stands at 37,459, second to Oklahoma County's 45,918.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, dropped back below 3,000, falling from 3,029 to 2,950. The record is 3,387, set the day after Thanksgiving. Oct. 5 was the last time the seven-day average was below 1,000.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A former Walmart manager has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for fraudulently seeking more than $8 million in small business loans intended for coronavirus relief in Oklahoma.

Tulsa authorities said Benjamin Hayford, 32, sought forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Choctaw Nation agreed to a one-year extension of a hunting and fishing compact that was set to expire at the end of the year, Stitt’s office announced on Tuesday.

Courtesy

The City of Broken Arrow has donated land to help keep tabs on groundwater quality in the state.

A new well at the Verdigris Water Treatment Plant will be added to the statewide Groundwater Monitoring and Assessment Program, a network of around 750 wells established in 2012. Oklahoma Water Resources Board Water Programs Division Manager Bill Cauthron said there’s a distinct advantage to working with local governments.

Tulsa County Sheriff

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The body of a 13-year-old boy who ran away from a home for troubled youth in Tulsa was found Tuesday in the Arkansas River, authorities said.

The body of Rylan Harris was found about noon Tuesday in the river near downtown Tulsa after he and four other teens ran away from the Tulsa Boys Home the night before, Tulsa County sheriff’s spokesperson Casey Roebuck said.

Three of the teens were found stranded on a sandbar in the river Monday night and told deputies the other two had been washed away by the river.

Pxhere

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted on Tuesday to recuse two members from any future discussion or action on Epic One-On-One Charter School.

The board censured Matthew Hamrick in September, accusing him of dodging votes when it came to Epic’s use of state dollars the school claims became private once deposited in its learning fund. In July, Hamrick signed an affidavit for Epic’s operating company that contradicted the board’s official position on the matter.

University of Tulsa Football

No. 18 Tulsa won’t get a shot at No. 7 Cincinnati at home ahead of the American Athletic Conference championship.

This Saturday's game at Tulsa has been canceled because of positive COVID tests at Cincinnati. Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said it’s a letdown.

"Two ranked teams playing at home in Tulsa. You know it’s going to be a big televised game. We get to highlight our university, our program, our city, all of that. You know, you lose that opportunity, that’s tough. That’s disheartening, I guess," Montgomery said Tuesday during a virtual news conference.

Facebook / Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians

A Grove doctor used a virtual COVID-19 press conference to share his personal experience with the challenges and strains placed upon his hospital by the pandemic. 

"Smaller hospitals like mine can provide a tremendous amount of care, but we have limits," said Dr. Sam Ratermann, medical director of the hospitalist program at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital and president-elect of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, at a Tuesday online event organized by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday 2,297 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 220,686.

Tulsa County had 447 of Tuesday's cases. Its total now stands at 37,149, second to Oklahoma County's 45,458.

The state's seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, rose from 2,949 to 3,029. Nov. 29 was the last time it was above 3,000. The record is 3,387, set the day after Thanksgiving. Oct. 5 was the last time the seven-day average was below 1,000.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

A report from NPR following the Monday release of facility-level hospital capacity data by the federal government finds Oklahoma is among five states with the highest number of counties above a 90% average capacity threshold.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum was officially sworn in for his second term. The Tulsa City Council also held an inauguration for seven returning members and two newcomers.

• COVID-19 numbers remain near record highs at the state and local levels. 

Facebook / US Army Fort Sill

Fort Sill, the U.S. Army installation in Comanche County, has released the identity of the soldier found dead in an off-post residence Sunday.

Staff Sgt. Logan Carter of the 75th Field Artillery Brigade was an active duty service member at the time of his death, according to a release from the Army post.

“We are tremendously saddened by the loss of one of our teammates. The entire Fort Sill team sends our deepest condolences to Staff Sergeant Carter’s family, friends and Fires teammates,” said Maj. Gen Ken Kamper, Commanding General of Fort Sill, in a statement.

State of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Overall collections to the state treasury last month were down about 2% compared to November 2019, due in large part to slumping oil and gas tax collections, Oklahoma Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported Monday.

McDaniel noted in his monthly report that oil and natural gas prices, production and employment have all slumped over the last two years. The number of active rigs has plummeted from 148 in November 2018 to just 13, while the industry has shed more than 20,000 jobs, McDaniel reported.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday rescinded his appointment to the State Board of Education of an Enid woman who led an anti-mask crusade in the northwest Oklahoma City.

Stitt said in a statement he rescinded the appointment of Melissa Crabtree at her request.

“I was extremely disappointed to see how many were so quick to judge her without taking the time to personally speak to her,” Stitt said.

File photo

Opposition to Oklahoma’s first-in-the-nation, temporary in-school quarantine program is growing.

Democratic lawmakers and the 40,000-member Oklahoma Education Association have put out statements against the proposal to let students exposed to someone with COVID-19 at school spend their two-week quarantine in school but segregated from other students and subject to frequent testing.

Wikipedia

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday gave the green light to the state transportation department’s latest eight-year construction plan.

The work plan covers federal fiscal years 2021 through 2028.

"That plan has over $6 billion and more than 1,300 critical highway and bridge improvement projects included," said Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz.

Pages