Local & Regional

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The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, the state's juvenile justice agency, has launched a training program for its staff and outside law enforcement agencies to "improve interaction and outcomes with youth who are minorities."

"We know that our own data shows over-representation of children of color in Oklahoma's juvenile justice system," said the agency's interim executive director, Rachel Holt, in a press release.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Oklahoma zookeeper sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot and violating federal wildlife laws has formally requested a pardon.

Friday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma's coronavirus outlook has worsened according to the White House. The coronavirus task force's latest report upgrades the state from yellow to red for case positivity, a metric by which Oklahoma is 4th worst in the country.
  • The Oklahoma Department of Corrections touts its virus response, even as more than 1,600 people incarcerated in its prisons have become infected with COVID-19, including more than 700 at just one facility in Taft.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The White House task force on the coronavirus is no longer recommending a statewide mask mandate in Oklahoma, according to the report released Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The report, dated Sunday, instead recommends a mask mandate in urban areas and in counties where students and teachers in public schools have tested positive for the virus. 

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The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said its staff is working hard and touted its achievements over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as more than 1600 inmates have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

"In collaboration with the health department, we have been able to accomplish the unaccomplishable, I believe, from when we first started dealing with the virus," said Millicent Embry-Newton, DOC's Offender Services Director.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A judge has set a trial date for a legal battle involving Oklahoma’s attempt to review financial records from a private company that manages a public charter school.

District Judge Natalie Mai set the trial date for Dec. 16, The Oklahoman reported Wednesday.

State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd said Epic Youth Services, which manages Epic Charter Schools, has refused to provide her office with records of Epic’s Learning Fund— a bank account that pays $1,000 per student for extracurricular activities, technology costs and supplemental curricula.

Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality

Oklahoma officials hope to benefit from a new Environmental Protection Agency office tasked with coordinating mine cleanup west of the Mississippi River.

The EPA’s Denver-based Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains will encourage Good Samaritan cleanup projects and other remediation not done by the agency itself.

EPA Region Eight Administrator Greg Sopkin said abandoned mines present environmental hazards that need to be addressed.

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Tulsa Regional Tourism has launched programs to help the local film and music industries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Productions filming in Tulsa County can apply to the $90,000 Tulsa County Film Recovery Program for help with costs related to COVID-19. Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts and Culture Executive Director Abby Kurin said they’ve already approved an application from a feature film and are considering one from a cable network for a pilot.

OSU has slashed its current year athletics budget with layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs.

Combined with a hiring freeze on nine positions and previous cuts, the moves announced Wednesday trimmed $13 million from the athletics budget.

Ten employees were laid off Wednesday, while 66 will start furloughs next week. Another 151 are taking pay cuts of 2.5% to 25%.

OSU Athletics Director Mike Holder said 16 of 25 employees under contracts agreed to voluntary pay cuts, including all head coaches and himself.

NIAID-RML

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Wednesday 876 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 65,929.

Tulsa County had 182 of Wednesday's cases and leads the state with 14,655.

The state health department reported nine deaths, with none identified in the past 24 hours. Eight deaths were adults 65 or older. Since March 18, COVID-19 has officially killed 863 Oklahomans.

Dennis Adair, licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

Billy Donovan won’t return as coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder after five seasons, the team announced Tuesday night, ending a largely successful run that ought to make him an attractive candidate for jobs around the league.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • College football programs in Oklahoma are choosing to keep their COVID-19 numbers under wraps, even as outbreaks disrupt play.
  • The two men charged in connection with the June shooting of two Tulsa police officers appeared in court Tuesday, and their defense attorneys are at odds over whether body camera footage of the incident should be made public.

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I-44 and U.S. 75 in Tulsa are officially in line for an overhaul.

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission awarded a construction contract for the replacement of five bridges and widening of I-44 from the western bank of the Arkansas River to Union Avenue.

"That contract is a major improvement at Interstate 44 and the U.S. 75 interchange in Tulsa. Contract is about a $90 million contract," said Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz.

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While COVID-19 is already affecting college football season in Oklahoma, fans shouldn’t expect to know details.

TU and OSU postponed their season opener a week, moving it from Saturday to Sept. 19. Head coach Philip Montgomery said the Golden Hurricane needs another week of preparation after getting in just seven practices during a 17-day preseason camp because of multiple positive tests.

But he wouldn’t say during a Tuesday news conference how many cases the team is currently dealing with.

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Attorneys continue to argue over whether video from the shooting of two Tulsa police officers should be released to the public.

David Ware and Matthew Hall appeared in court together for the first time Tuesday. Judge William Musseman said he will watch the footage and likely agree with prosecutors it is graphic and disturbing, but he also framed its release as when, not if, and plans to announce a decision Thursday.

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On Aug. 3rd, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funding would go toward the establishment of 30 HOPE Centers, meant to provide services like meals, mental health care, counseling,  internet access and more for kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, the state says they're planning for more.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa dogs may be getting more room to roam off-leash.

The city's park and recreation board heard and approved a proposal earlier this month to explore turning Gunboat Park North, near 11th and Elgin, into Tulsa's third off-leash dog run.

"For a city of our size, we're actually underserviced on dog parks," said Thomas Carlson of Carlson Development Group, the real estate firm championing the project near their offices located on Gunboat Park.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday 833 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 65,053.

The state health department is transitioning to a new reporting system that will combine confirmed coronavirus infections with "probable" ones in case counts. Probable cases are indicated by positive antigen tests, and the state previously required a PCR test to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis before counting them.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • A woman incarcerated at Eddie Warrion Correctional Facility, where more than 700 women have contracted COVID-19, has died after being hospitalized for symptoms of the virus.
  • Tuesday is the first day of new policies and processes in the state of Oklahoma's reporting of COVID-19 cases, likely to increase daily counts.

Cherokee Nation

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. reflected on a year of difficulties and triumphs in his State of the Nation address.

A recorded speech was made available at noon Saturday during the Cherokee National Holiday. The 68th version of the annual event was held virtually because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus, of course, has been the tribe’s primary challenge in 2020. Cherokee Nation has more than 1,500 cases, and 17 citizens have died. Hoskin said he is proud of their response.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa City Council will consider adopting a hate crime ordinance with protections for sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

State law covers crimes motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability.

The ordinance was proposed by Councilor Crista Patrick. She said as isolating as the past several months have been for many Tulsans, it would be good for everyone to hear that they are safe.

"I think that it’s important that all of our residents hear from us, the city leaders, that we are standing against hate," Patrick said.

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A woman incarcerated at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility in Muskogee County, where more than 700 women have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, has died after being hospitalized with "symptoms associated with COVID-19."

"Due to several health issues, the medical examiner’s office will review all underlying medical facts and conditions to determine if COVID-19 was a significant factor in her death," according to a statement from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two people have been arrested in Texas for the June shooting death of a Texas man whose body was found in southern Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Shannon Mayorga, 20, was arrested Friday on a first-degree murder warrant, a day after Randall Rudd, 23, was arrested on the same warrant in the June slaying of Juan Manuel Rosas, 43, of Denton, Texas, the OSBI said Friday.

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This story was supported by grants from the Pulitzer Center, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Park Foundation. It was a collaboration by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland, Big Local News at Stanford University, the University of Arkansas and Boston University.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, designed to stem evictions amid the pandemic fell flat when lawyers advised landlords the deal offering to pay owed rent was too risky.

University of Tulsa Football

Oklahoma State’s season-opening game at home against Tulsa has been pushed back a week, with the opposing Golden Hurricane still recovering from multiple players testing positive for COVID-19.

The game, which was supposed to be played Saturday, was rescheduled for Sept. 19.

Alan Lebeda, licensed under GFDL 1.2.

CHESTER, Ark. (AP) — Four members of a family from Oklahoma were killed when their single-engine plane crashed into a ravine in rural northwest Arkansas, authorities said.

Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown said the plane crashed Friday evening and was found the following morning.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Overall collections to the state treasury last month were nearly 5% below collections from August 2019, driven mostly by a slump in oil and gas prices, Oklahoma Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday.

The decline in August marked the fifth month since February that total receipts were lower than those from the same month in the prior year, McDaniel reported.

Owasso Public Schools is the latest district to pull the plug on distance learning ahead of schedule.

The district announced Friday students will return to the classroom Sept. 17.

Officials decided last month to start the year with at-home learning until Tulsa County spent two consecutive weeks at yellow or green on a color-coded alert system. That has not happened yet.

Oklahoma is changing the way it calculates coronavirus data.

State officials announced several changes to Oklahoma’s coronavirus data policies on Friday.

Health officials have always tracked results from the tests known as antigen or rapid tests. But those tests were considered less reliable than the standard PCR tests, the nose swab. Positive antigen tests have not been included in total cases.

Officials said Friday those tests have improved, and daily cases will include antigen positives starting next week.

A new study in the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association looked at disparities among racial and ethnic lines in Oklahoma's COVID-19 patients over 12 weeks, from April through July.

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