Local & Regional

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oklahoma’s COVID-19 spike continues to worsen.

The state’s per-capita rate of new cases, test positivity rate, new hospital admissions and vaccination rate all remain among the bottom 10 states or worse. The state’s current seven-day average of more than 2,100 new cases is as high as it’s been since early November, as the state rocketed into a three-month winter surge before vaccinations became widely available.

The Tulsa City Council will hold a special meeting Monday night to consider a new citywide mask mandate.

The original mask requirement expired at the end of April and was instituted in July 2020. It first applied to adults, then anyone 10 or older.

Councilors Lori Decter Wright, Vanessa Hall-Harper and Kara Joy McKee are proposing a mask requirement for anyone 4 years old or older, citing a high local rate of COVID transmission, low vaccination rate, strained hospital system and mounting calls for action.

Oklahoma Children's Hospital at OU Health.

Officials from Oklahoma Children's Hospital at OU Health on Thursday painted a dire picture of how they're handling a rise in COVID-19 admissions.

"Across the state today, there were 52 pediatric patients admitted to hospitals," said Dr. Stephanie DeLeon, a pediatric hospitalist, at a Thursday rally on the hospital's grounds. "One week ago, there [were] 36. Two weeks ago, there were 25. This number is increasing rapidly, and we as pediatricians are worried about the kids in our community."

Friday's top stories:

• The Oklahoma State Medical Association and a group of public school parents have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kevin Stitt over the state's ban on mask requirements in schools amid the pandemic.

• Internal documents show the Oklahoma State Department of Health acknowledges the state's hospital system is in an emergency situation and they have no strategy to deal with it.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Like much of the country, Oklahoma is less white and more urban and suburban than it was 10 years ago, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Joe Ravi / CC-BY-SA 3.0

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday found a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations by or against tribal citizens does not apply retroactively.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

As coronavirus hospitalizations surge past 1,000 daily, Oklahoma health officials are raising concerns that the state’s hospital services are strained with no solution in sight.

In a weekly update to state agencies, the Oklahoma State Department of Health designated the state’s hospital system as “unstable,” stating that, “Services (are) disrupted and no solution (is) identified or in progress.”

Oklahoma State Medical Association

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Parents of schoolchildren joined the Oklahoma State Medical Association on Thursday in filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law banning mask requirements in public schools.

“This is not a political stance; it is about public health and common sense,” medical association President Dr. Mary Clarke said in a statement. “If schools can send students home for a lice infection, they should have the latitude and ability to issue a mask mandate.”

The week of Aug. 1 was the worst week on record during the pandemic in Oklahoma for ICU COVID admissions, according to a health information sharing network in the state. 


Dr. David Kendrick is the CEO of MyHealth Access Network, a nonprofit that estimates access to 60%-80% of COVID lab tests. Kendrick said with one exception, admittance to ICUs was highest among all age groups the week of Aug. 1.


Thursday's top stories:

• Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa is being forced to limit some services under a crush of COVID-19 patients.

• Hospital intensive care units around the state are slammed.

• The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education authorized its legal counsel to pursue litigation against the state and state officials for the ban on districts implementing mask mandates to keep staff, students and communities safe.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

In executive session at a special meeting Wednesday night, the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted in support of its attorneys possibly bringing suit against the state for its new law prohibiting districts from following federal public health guidance by requiring masks in schools.

Ascension St. John

Tulsa's Ascension St. John Medical Center said Wednesday an overwhelming increase in COVID-19 patients is forcing service changes and limitations.

"The current surge of COVID-19 cases is a public health crisis that has put great pressure on our hospitals, emergency departments and healthcare professionals," the hospital said in a statement.

Whitney Bryen, Oklahoma Watch

As COVID surges, hospitals are attempting to organize.

Dr. Jennifer Clark said today on Oklahoma State University’s Project ECHO update for healthcare providers that the problem for some hospitals is using beds absent an order from Governor Kevin Stitt giving them more flexibility.

“Hospitals are struggling right now. Without an executive order, they are scrambling to use their license beds in an effective way.”

OKC Public Charter School Plans To Defy Mask Ban

Aug 11, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The superintendent of a public charter school in Oklahoma City said Wednesday that students and staff must begin wearing masks indoors, defying a new state law that prohibits such a mandate.

Superintendent Chris Brewster at Santa Fe South Schools, a 3,500-student, pre-K through 12 district in south Oklahoma City, also said in a letter on the district’s website that he is exploring the possibility of requiring a vaccine for employment at the school.

Siblings Who Survived Tulsa Race Massacre To Visit Africa

Aug 11, 2021
Matt Trotter / KWGS

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Two siblings who survived the Tulsa Race Massacre are going to visit Africa for the first time, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Viola Fletcher, 107, and her 100-year-old brother Hughes Van Ellis are scheduled to fly to Ghana on Friday and return Aug. 21. They will be accompanied by family members and others.

The all-expenses-paid trip to Accra is being co-sponsored by Our Black Truth, a Virginia-based social media platform, and the Diaspora Africa Forum in Ghana, the Tulsa World reports.

Oklahoma Capitol

Parties to two lawsuits over the state’s early end to enhanced federal unemployment benefits made their arguments on Wednesday before an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee.

One of those lawsuits was decided in Oklahoma County district court last week, when a judge ordered the state to reinstate the program. Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt wants the state supreme court to overturn that ruling.


Tom Seng, director of the University of Tulsa’s School of Energy, Policy, and Commerce, talks about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report out this week.


“The report is telling us that things are essentially worse than predicted, that global warming is happening at an accelerated pace.”


As far as having an impact on the trajectory of the crisis, Seng said people can make small changes in their lives.


Chris Polansky / KWGS News

A group of 29 higher education organizations issued a statement calling for a reversal of state-level policies in places like Oklahoma that legally restrict how colleges and universities can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Gov. Kevin Stitt is standing firm on his stance that Oklahoma public schools should not be allowed to require masks as students return to the classroom amid a significant spike in COVID-19 infections driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

• Several Texas school districts say they will defy that state's ban on school mask mandates.

• The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education is scheduled to consider possible litigation against the governor regarding the prohibition on mask requirements.

Muskogee County Jail

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma newspaper on Tuesday challenged a judge’s decision to ban the public from a hearing in the case of a Muskogee man accused of killing six people, including five children.

An attorney for the Muskogee Phoenix filed a motion to intervene in the case after District Judge Bret Smith barred a reporter for the newspaper and two other members of the media from attending a preliminary hearing in the case on Monday.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa Route 66 Commission plans to take a $1.5 million request for American Rescue Plan funds to the mayor and city council next week.

The virus relief money can be used to support industries that saw business drop during pandemic.

File photo

A former Tulsa Police officer who pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges has been sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Chief U.S. District Judge John F. Heil sentenced Latoya Dythe, 27, on Tuesday. In April, Dythe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make a false statement to a firearms dealer and to false statement to a firearms dealer.

Oklahoma City Public Schools

With schools across Oklahoma beginning to welcome students back to the classroom amid a state- and region-wide surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Gov. Kevin Stitt's office said Tuesday morning his position has not changed regarding a legal prohibition on public school districts from requiring masks.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Tulsa Public Schools gave an update on its plan to return students to in-person learning on Aug. 19 amid a local COVID-19 surge.

• More dangerously hot weather is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in Green Country.

As COVID-19 spikes, Tulsa Public Schools are set to return to in-person learning on Aug. 19. 


Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools Dr. Deborah Gist said in a press conference Monday TPS wants kids in schools, but there are factors that could drive a return to remote learning.


The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday learned what it can do in dozens of cases from December through March that ended in denials because of tie votes.

The typically five-member board was down to four after former Chair Robert Gilliland resigned in mid-December, and around 300 cases ended in ties. Those are considered denials under current policies.

Agency general counsel Kyle Counts told the board the 130 commutation requests that got 2–2 votes have to wait three years under current policies.

Some segments of Oklahoma highways are getting renumbered.

The state transportation commission approved a slate of them last week, including a new State Highway 375 designation that includes the Indian Nations Turnpike and creation of I-240, a loop around the Oklahoma City metro that spans I-40 and the Kickapoo and Kilpatrick Turnpikes.

Transportation Secretary Tom Gatz said the changes will help drivers and any devices they use with navigation, especially with the OKC metro loop.

National Weather Service

Much of northeast Oklahoma was under an excessive heat warning until 8 p.m. Monday, and it’s just the start of a week of potentially dangerous heat.

The National Weather Service said additional heat advisories and warnings are likely as summer heat and humidity linger over the area.

Heat index values will be above 100 in many areas Tuesday to Thursday, with some locations across eastern Oklahoma and west central Arkansas reaching 112 degrees.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Despite touting the ability to genomically sequence COVID-19 samples as a driving force behind investment into the state's Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence, which opened in January, Oklahoma continues to rank last in the nation for percentage of positive COVID samples sequenced, according to federal data.

Just 0.24% of positive COVID-19 samples have been sequenced, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dated Aug. 3.


A U.S. Senate committee advanced a pair of bills last week to help preserve Native languages, including one named for a renowned Cherokee linguist.

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz is a co-author of S.1402, the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act. It would direct the president to keep tabs on agencies’s compliance with existing law recognizing Natives's right to use their own language and implement surveys of revitalization programs every five years to see where resources are needed most.