Oklahoma Watch | KGOU

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.

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Liza Greve, president and executive director of Oklahomans for Health and Parental Rights, poses for a photo in front of her Edmond home last year. Greve also chairs a political action committee that promotes the individuals’ rights to refuse vaccines.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

When a coronavirus vaccine becomes available in the United States, the federal government and states will face a crucial choice: Should all or most residents be required to get the novel coronavirus vaccine? 

A man hangs his head during a batterer intervention class at Catalyst in Oklahoma City. The 52-week program is an alternative to prison ordered by the court for some of Oklahoma's domestic abusers.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A bill that would add four domestic violence offenses to the state’s list of violent crimes is headed for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk, and indications are he will sign it.

As Oklahoma Reopens, Cities Shy Away From Enforcing Restrictions

May 12, 2020
Customers shop for glasses at Dillard's at Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City on May 8, three days after the store reopened to customers.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Police in some of Oklahoma’s largest cities are electing to use a softer touch, rather than aggressive enforcement, with state and local business restrictions as Oklahoma gradually reopens amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An empty hospital bed is seen at the now-closed Pauls Valley Regional Medical Center in October 2018. Supporters of Medicaid expansion say it will help improve the financial viability of many struggling rural hospitals in the state.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Medicaid expansion is inching closer to reality in Oklahoma.

Legislative leaders announced a budget deal Monday that includes funding to expand the state’s Medicaid program and extend health coverage to more than 220,000 low-income residents.

The visitor entrance at Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman is closed after the facility suspended visitations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Deaths of nursing home residents and staff reached triple digits this week and facility officials say the number will likely continue to climb. But a state legislator wants to allow visitors back into nursing homes as early as June 1.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter
Claire Donnelly / KGOU

On the heels of reports about questionable spending on COVID-19 supplies and equipment by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the state attorney general on Tuesday requested an investigative audit of the agency.  

A street scene of Watonga, population under 5,000.
Courtesy Watonga Republican

Weeks after mayors and other local officials asked the Oklahoma State Department of Health to release COVID-19 infections and deaths by city, the state began publishing some of that information this week.

Jessica Morris of Coweta, an eastern Oklahoma city of about 10,000, owns two child care facilities. She said she is struggling with the drop in attendance due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Photo Provided

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Oklahoma, state officials urged child care centers to stay open.

For the first time, Oklahoma on Thursday released breakdowns of COVID-19 cases and deaths by race, and the data, while incomplete, shows that the disease is killing a disproportionately high number of whites, with blacks the second largest group.

The acting secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office resigned earlier this month, after just nine months in the job.

A nurse waits at the emergency room entrance at OU Medical Center, where patients are being evaluated before entering the building.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

With a surge in COVID-19 deaths since last week, Oklahoma now ranks 18th highest in the nation in the rate of coronavirus deaths.

Staff members are seen entering Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman on March 26. Two residents at the facility tested positive for coronavirus and both died in recent days. One woman was in her 60s and the other in her 90s.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Health inspectors cited Oklahoma City’s Windsor Hills Nursing Center last November after a certified nursing assistant was seen not washing her hands before, during or after treating five residents with incontinence one morning.

Parking lots were empty in front of several shops in Norman's University Town Center on March 24.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Each step taken by public officials to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Oklahoma raises questions about what is banned and what’s just a recommendation.

Until Coronavirus Surfaces, Mandates Are Scarce In Rural Communities

Mar 23, 2020

Many rural communities across the state have been hesitant to implement restrictions or closures because the fast-spreading coronavirus has not yet reached their edges. Meanwhile, some local health facilities are running short of masks, gloves and gowns.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday abruptly replaced its state epidemiologist with a new interim one.

Oklahoma has quietly released details of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Medicaid expansion plan, with the state’s own report saying the plan “will likely depress enrollment” by thousands of Oklahomans compared to a traditional Medical expansion plan.

he CDC provides laboratory test kits for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
Photo provided by CDC

Call it test anxiety, but not the kind you might remember from school.

With a shortage of COVID-19 testing kits available at Oklahoma’s state lab, public health officials are prioritizing who can get tested for the virus, but it’s causing high anxiety among some patients. State officials said Wednesday they’re waiting on shipments of the raw materials that go into the testing kits to come from the federal government.

Children in a class for 2-year-olds at a Norman daycare center raise their hands during a song in July 2018.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

As cities move to shut down public spaces, bars, restaurants and workplaces in response to COVID-19, and schools have been shuttered for at least three weeks, daycare centers are one of the few businesses to receive the opposite message: Please stay open.

Rhonda Williams, a criminalist for the Combined DNA Index System unit at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, points to an example of DNA analysis similar to DNA analyses of hair.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is working with district attorneys and others to examine 81 cases for possible wrongful conviction due to use of microscopic hair analysis, a debunked science. The cases include murder and rape and go back decades; some could be reopened.

Epic Charter Schools board met in Oklahoma City on Oct. 16, 2019.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The state is drawing a hard line: Public education funds that flow to a private company are public.

Founders of the state’s largest online charter school are fighting to shield those funds. Their company has refused to comply with subpoenas from the State Auditor and Inspector.