COVID-19 in Oklahoma

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The Frontier is covering COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, in Oklahoma. Find our special coverage below. 

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Known Oklahoma cases
Positive cases: 8,417
Cumulative hospitalizations: 1,117
Deaths: 359

Oklahoma reverses course, releases coronavirus equipment supplier information
State officials ordered N95 respirators from a kiteboarding company in California called Wind Over Water Kiteboarding. They found respirators at an industrial hemp company based in Utah, Green Rock Hemp Holdings, LLC..

Mistaken as a COVID-19 death, Bartlesville woman still yet to figure out source of confusion
Miranda Patterson, 24, recovered from the coronavirus in April. But she learned earlier this week that she’d been identified as a virus-related death for nearly a month.

Lockdown in DOC suspends prison education programs
The confinement of inmates to their cells in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 has also meant the pause of classes for thousands of students in Oklahoma prisons who were working on degrees and vocational certificates.

Facing delays, many unemployed Oklahomans opt to pay debit card company for ‘expedited’ delivery
The company’s CEO predicted that revenue from its government services division, which issues unemployment, food stamp and other government benefit cards, will partially offset the losses in other sectors caused by COVID-19.

Oklahoma starts to reopen, as battle against the coronavirus in nursing homes mounts
Deputy Secretary of Health and Mental Health Carter Kimble said although long-term care facilities had always been part of the state’s response to the pandemic, the state didn’t designate a team to focus solely on that area until mid-April.

As Oklahoma starts to reopen its economy, here’s what health experts say the state needs to do
Infectious disease experts say that reopening even in a tiered approach brings the risk of a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and though the state is seeing a slow but steady downward trend in new cases and hospitalizations, the state must remain diligent.

Inmates will be considered for medical release due to pandemic
Pardon and Parole Executive Director Steven Bickley said the 14 names will be considered at a May 13 meeting and were offered at the request of Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow.

State encourages businesses to report workers who refuse to return to jobs
“Obviously, if somebody turns down employment, then what will happen is, if the company chooses to call OESC (the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission) and let them know, then that individual’s unemployment benefits will stop,” Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen said.

As state reopens, Oklahoma workforce leaders discuss asking for end to federal unemployment payments
Oklahoma could ask the federal government to stop giving unemployed workers here the $600 a month unemployment stimulus, or halt benefits altogether for workers who don’t go back to work when the economy opens up.

In tug of war between governor, mayors, Stitt gets his way
Oklahoma City and Tulsa will fall in line with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reopening plan, though it appears they’re following along with some reluctance.

Stimulus funds for tuition program may require more transparency
If Gov. Stitt decides to use emergency stimulus funds on the Oklahoma private school scholarship tax credit program it might require more detailed reporting on where the scholarships go.

Federal lawsuit asks judge to strike down Guthrie’s COVID-19 ‘shelter-in-place’ ordinance
The ordinance infringes on the residents’ First Amendment right to assembly, the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as state laws and constitutional protections, the lawsuit alleges.

This Oklahoma hospital has only 8 nurses left. They double as the janitors.
Eight nurses are the overwhelming majority of employees who remain at Haskell County Community Hospital. The future of the 25-bed hospital, which has been whittled down to operating only an emergency room since 2019, is increasingly grim.

Advocates say Oklahoma’s critical care guidelines discriminate against those with disabilities for COVID-19 care
The advocates, led by Oklahoma Disability Law Center, argue the state’s plan is riddled with discriminatory protocols and deprioritizes people with disabilities for life-saving COVID-19 treatment and care.

Oklahoma governor announces plan to start reopening the economy, some say it’s too soon
Some Democrats think it’s too soon to ease restrictions, while many Republicans have increasingly pushed for the governor and his task force to start making moves to reopen the state’s economy. Meanwhile, some medical groups were critical of the plan.

Coronavirus cases spread in nursing homes as facilities face ‘absolute devastation’
About one in three COVID-related deaths in Oklahoma have been connected to a long-term care facility, according to the state health department.

Schools search for ‘lost students’ during distance learning
While schools have made contact with most students during a shift to distance learning, thousands have been unreachable and are at risk of not having contact with a school for at least the next five months until buildings reopen.

Appeals court upholds ruling allowing abortion in Oklahoma amid coronavirus pandemic
The decision by a three-person panel on Monday evening allows federal Judge Charles Goodwin’s order issued on April 6 to stand, which partially and temporarily blocked the state’s ban on most abortions in the state during the pandemic.

‘We are in good shape’: As Oklahoma prepares for COVID surge, leaders say the state is well-equipped
The state has enough hospital beds, intensive care beds and ventilators to treat the sickest COVID-19 patients, the governor said.

Home-based school a challenge when a home is hard to come by
At a time when homeless students and those experiencing extreme poverty already face a wide academic gap compared to their peers, the loss of teacher-led instruction could create an even larger gap.

Amid pandemic, state health department contracts with public relations specialist at rate of $150 an hour
In early March, just days after Oklahoma had recorded its first case of COVID-19, the Oklahoma State Department of Health agreed to pay a local public relations specialist $150 an hour to help manage the department’s response to the upcoming crisis.

Oklahoma’s competition for coronavirus tests and the women leading the fight
Both Shrum and Pollard are key members of the governor’s coronavirus response team and have been central figures in crafting the state’s testing strategy, which has relied more on private companies than the federal government.

Federal judge partially blocks Oklahoma’s ban on most abortions amid COVID-19
A federal judge on Monday partially blocked Oklahoma’s ban on most abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the state had acted in an “unreasonable” and “oppressive” way by restricting abortion access.

Tulsa QuikTrip store employee dies of coronavirus, company says in email
There have been at least 51 deaths in Oklahoma so far connected to the novel coronavirus, but Sauz’s death is an outlier — he was 22 years old, not in an age group considered most susceptible to the fatal effects of the virus.

Private lab reports give clearer picture of scope of COVID-19 testing in Oklahoma
The lack of information changed over the weekend when private labs reported more than 6,000 negative test results going as far back as early February, according to the state health department.

Norman nursing home has 36 confirmed coronavirus cases, 8 other facilities identified
“We are releasing this information on long term care facilities in the hope that is can provide relief for those with family members with loved ones who reside there.”

Retail giant Hobby Lobby to furlough most of its employees, close most operations nationwide
The craft store chain announced it was ending emergency leave pay for employees and suspending the use of company-provided paid time off benefits during the furloughs in order “to allow our furloughed employees” to take full advantage of the pandemic unemployment benefits.

Amid pandemic, Stitt believes ‘personal responsibility’ will save the state
While the Oklahoma governor may lack a political worldview, his mantra of fighting the virus through “personal responsibility” is in line with his own history. 

5 residents of long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, state reports
The Oklahoma State Department of Health released the numbers for the first time in a report on Thursday evening.

Stitt will order schools to pay all support staff despite loss of hours
Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to order all public schools to continue paying support staff who have lost the ability to work due to the statewide closure of school buildings.

Unemployment claims in Oklahoma skyrocket in response to COVID-19 pandemic, newly released data shows
Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen warned some employers may face difficulty rehiring lower-wage workers, since an upcoming increase in unemployment benefits could mean a significant income bump.

As Governor’s order for non-essential business closures spreads statewide, thousands request exemptions or clarification
Asked whether the number of positive cases would be lower had the initial March 24 order extended to all counties, Stitt responded “I don’t think there is any way to speculate on that.”

As Oklahoma tries to forecast the impact of coronavirus, a lack of data surrounding testing
“The more testing we do the more we understand what’s going on out in our communities across our state. It helps us to better look into the future through modeling of that data.”

American Sign Language interpreters shine during COVID-19 press conferences
“This is potentially life or death,” Jimmy Mitchell said. “For me, it’s really important because it’s my community … This is one of the most important things we’ve been trying to do.”

Abortion providers and rights groups sue Oklahoma over COVID-19 related suspension
The lawsuit argues Oklahoma’s order effectively bans abortion care in the state.

Education divide in Oklahoma widens with move to distance learning
In some districts the most students may receive are worksheet packets, storybooks and directed to watch public television programming that is being reoriented for students at home. 

A day after closing Oklahoma stores, Hobby Lobby begins worker layoffs
Hobby Lobby employees told The Frontier that 32 employees in the company’s art and creative department were given notice on Friday that their jobs had been terminated.

Pawnee County group home residents under quarantine following COVID-19 death of sheltered workshop employee
Four of six residents at one of the Faith Homes of Cleveland Opportunity Center group homes have since tested positive for the disease and are in the hospital, according to two sources who spoke to The Frontier on the condition on anonymity.

Oklahoma stops most abortions amid coronavirus spread
Gov. Kevin Stitt has placed a moratorium on most abortions in the state, saying that hospital resources and personal protective gear need to be saved to fight COVID-19.

Coronavirus investigated or confirmed in 8 Oklahoma care facilities, but officials won’t say where
Asked of the eight care facilities, how many were confirmed to have residents or workers infected with COVID-19, an Oklahoma Department of Health spokeswoman declined to say, citing privacy laws.

Despite pandemic, doctors urge child vaccinations to prevent another outbreak
Patrice Aston, a pediatrician who owns A to Z Pediatrics in Oklahoma City, said she has seen increased appointment cancelations from parents who fear bringing their child to a doctor’s office and possibly being exposed to COVID-19.

Amended ‘essential business’ order expands number of businesses that can stay open during pandemic
On Wednesday afternoon, Stitt issued an amended executive memorandum that added more than 100 essential businesses in more than a dozen groups.

Board permanently closes school sites, patchwork of distance learning programs to begin
“It’s going to look different for all schools and we have to accept that,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Medication, meals and therapy; closed schools cut off lifeline for students
While the state has already received permission to skip end of the year tests and district leaders have been told not to worry about this year’s school report card, the other important functions of a school are not as easy to dismiss.

‘It’s terrible’: Health care providers struggle to secure protective equipment
As coronavirus cases spread across the U.S. and in Oklahoma, health care workers are facing a critical shortage of masks, surgical gowns and other protective gear to protect them from COVID-19.

Oklahoma prison system stops accepting newly sentenced prisoners amid pandemic
In a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Oklahoma prison system has locked its doors to newly sentenced prisoners from county jails from around the state.

Interactive maps: Known cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma
The Frontier is tracking confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 in an effort to inform people where the virus is spreading.

‘Worst day of my life:’ Mayors of state’s two biggest cities describe thoughts leading to drastic COVID-19 measures
GT Bynum and David Holt communicated dozens of times per day to make sure Tulsa and Oklahoma City were on the same page as the scope of the coronavirus pandemic became clear.

After initial defiance, some cities and towns issue proclamations to temporarily close businesses to stop spread of virus
On Thursday, Broken Arrow, Bixby, Sand Springs and others issued mayoral proclamations that required some businesses to close to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

As coronavirus spreads, hospitals and state leaders prepare for a patient surge
State officials are examining how prepared Oklahoma’s health care system is for a sudden surge of COVID-19 patients. Doctors are warning that the virus’ spread must be slowed to avoid overwhelming the health care system.

Diagnosed with COVID-19, Norman mother hopes to wake up from ‘bad dream’
Norman resident Manda Nelson, 34, recounts being one of the first Oklahomans diagnosed with COVID-19.

Osage Nation to ‘revamp’ COVID-19 protocols it sent out inadvertently
The official Osage Nation “Pandemic Prevention and Recovery Process Protocols” stated it would only declare a state of emergency when 50 percent of its employees were absent from work.

Statewide school closures likely until after summer break, some officials believe
Oklahoma’s public schools are unlikely to reopen this school year, multiple officials with the state Department of Education have told The Frontier.

As pandemic spreads, ‘life continues as normal’ in many rural communities
As the spread of coronavirus has major cities across the country taking significant measures to reduce crowds of even a few people, Newkirk residents lined up out the door Tuesday for the new restaurant serving sandwiches with mobster-themed names.

Oklahoma senators make up 25 percent of no votes on ‘phase two’ coronavirus aid package
Sen. Jim Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford both voted no on the bill, saying they felt there was a better way to help small businesses.

COVID-19 is spreading in Oklahoma. But testing is still limited.
Doctors and health officials in the state acknowledged the number of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma was higher than the recorded numbers reflected.

Officials issue orders to try and prevent further spread as more Oklahoma COVID-19 cases are confirmed
The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Tuesday it had confirmed seven new cases of COVID-19, up from a confirmed 10 cases the previous day.

In Monday phone call with mayors, Stitt reiterates ‘business as usual’ stance
Despite his call to keep supporting restaurants, the option for Oklahomans to eat out may be out of Stitt’s hands. Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa on Tuesday announced a closure of bars and restaurants, allowing for takeout only. More cities are expected to make similar proclamations.

Health department ‘limited on supplies,’ will begin coronavirus test rationing for now
Oklahoma officials announced on Tuesday that the number of positive COVID-19 cases had almost double in the state and the OSDH said it would have to start rationing supplies for the time being.

Stitt deletes tweet, but stands by call to ‘keep living life’
“He still feels like it’s important that if you’re healthy and not at high risk, (you should) support our local businesses as best we can and keep living life,” said Charlie Hannema, the governor’s spokesperson.

Despite coronavirus spread, governor visits packed food hall, urges Oklahomans to join him
Practicing what he preached, Gov. Kevin Stitt even tweeted a photo of himself and his children Saturday night at a crowded Oklahoma City food hall.

Oklahoma health department changes COVID-19 testing guidelines to match the CDC’s
The criteria changes and availability of additional test kits and reagents are expected to expand the number of people who can be tested for the virus, officials said.

Homeless shelters face real limitations in battle against coronavirus
If cities grind to a halt due to coronavirus fears and volunteers dry up, the population of people experiencing homelessness may be the most affected.

State health department not following CDC guidelines aimed to get more people tested for COVID-19
The health department has directed doctors with patients suspected of having COVID-19 to call a state epidemiologist for testing approval. Samples sent without prior authorization are rejected.

Jails and prisons across Oklahoma are looking to prevent, prepare for COVID-19
Though jails and prisons are contained by nature, health experts have long warned that detention facilities are vulnerable to infectious disease spread.

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Frontier Staff

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