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Oklahoma Watch

In this file photo, students are seen in a classroom at Santa Fe South High School, a public charter school based inside a converted department store at the former Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Two education measures finalized this week mark a win for those who subscribe to the philosophy that public tax dollars should follow students to the school of their choice. 

Oklahoma spent approximately $4.3 million to rent and staff its contact tracing operation at Shepherd Center through October. The state has closed that Oklahoma City location, which opened in June with approximately 400 employees
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s boost to its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts led to no insights and was marred by technology problems and a failure to collect the proper data, a new legislative report finds.

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

About two-thirds of Oklahoma prison workers and just under half of the inmates have opted not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the state Department of Corrections, a sign that vaccine hesitancy remains high and some facilities may not reach the immunity threshold necessary to prevent future outbreaks.

No Letter Grade: Evaluating Oklahoma Public Schools Without A-F

Mar 17, 2021
Two students walk toward the enterance of Jones Elementary school in Tulsa moments before classes start on Sept. 13, 2019.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

There will be no school report cards this year, one of many disruptions caused by COVID-19. 

What You Don’t Know And Should About Nursing Home Care

Mar 16, 2021
In this file photo are Earl Prigmore, left, and Norm Lancaster, residents of Beadles Nursing Home in Alva. When interviewed last last year, both said they would rather take their chances with COVID-19 than be confined to their rooms any longer.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

After a year of COVID-19 restrictions, Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities are beginning to reopen to visitors. It could still be weeks or months before families are reunited.

The Senate Public Safety Committee met on Feb. 22, 2021, and debated hotly contested gun bills with no opportunity for public comment.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

It took one minute and 55 seconds for an Oklahoma House legislative committee to give the green light to a bill that would make it easier for teachers to carry guns in classrooms.

Janene Stewart, director of operations at Norman Regional Hospital, administers a COVID-19 vaccine in Norman on Feb. 22, 2021, the day teachers and adults with comorbidities became eligible to receive the vaccines.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

State public health officials are feeling optimistic about the pace of vaccinations and lower cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19, leading to changes this week in Oklahoma’s nursing home visitation policies and a new phase in the vaccination rollout.

Supporters gather during a rally and march in effort to show support for the release of Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones in Oklahoma City on Feb. 25, 2021.
Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 Monday to advance death row inmate Julius Jones’ commutation request to a Stage Two Review, a more comprehensive hearing where new testimony and evidence may be introduced.

As Vaccine Supplies Increase, Oklahoma Opens Next Groups For COVID-19 Shots

Mar 7, 2021
Janene Stewart, director of operations at Norman Regional Hospital, administers a COVID-19 vaccine in Norman last month on the day teachers and adults with comorbidities became eligible to receive the vaccines.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma next week will open more groups to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as the state now has more than one-third of its adult population with at least one dose.

A Bill To Roll Back Aspects Of Oklahoma Criminal Justice Reform Advances

Mar 4, 2021
Oklahoma State Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, presides over a meeting of the Public Safety Committee, of which he is chairman, on Feb. 22, 2021.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A bill that would modify State Question 780, a 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative that reclassified several drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and has helped reduce Oklahoma’s prison population, has advanced past committee and is eligible for a Senate vote. 

Oklahoma Health Officials Look To Refine Pandemic Death Reporting

Mar 2, 2021
Headstones are shown in an Oklahoma City cemetery.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma public health officials are hoping to close a widening gap when it comes to recording deaths related to COVID-19.

State Board of Education projections show that districts like Oklahoma City Public Schools would have lost almost $7 million in state funding had a measure headed to the state Senate been in effect this year. Shown, a classroom at Nichols Hills Elementary
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A proposal to adjust the school funding formula could strip millions from urban and rural districts and shift it to others. 

Bills To Watch After Oklahoma’s First Legislative Deadline Passes

Feb 27, 2021
Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, presents a hotly contested gun bill to the Public Safety Committee on Feb. 21, 2021.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Tablets And Video Calls Are Coming To Oklahoma Prisons. But At What Cost?

Feb 23, 2021
A Securus JP6S Tablet. Oklahoma prisoners will receive free tablets, which can be used to send text messages and download ebooks, through Securus this spring.
Courtesy of Securus Technologies / Courtesy of Securus Technologies

Like many Oklahomans with an incarcerated family member, Sharla Halencak hasn’t seen her son Clinton in more than a year.

More than half a year after voters approved a state question that will require Oklahoma to offer health coverage to more than 200,000 low-income adults, state officials are still unsure how they’ll pay it. 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, center holding scissors, and state cabinet secretaries pose during a Jan. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly relocated state Public Health Lab in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State Department of Health / Oklahoma State Department of Health

Staff shortages and equipment transition for the relocated Public Health Lab in Stillwater have caused state health officials to outsource certain tests to private labs, and in some cases to a public health lab in Minnesota.

Vaccines Reach Nearly All Oklahoma Long-Term Care Facilities

Feb 5, 2021
ennifer Ferguson, a resident at Santa Fe Place in Moore, smiles as a nurse from Walgreens prepares to give her a COVID-19 vaccine.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Nearly seven weeks after COVID-19 vaccines reached Oklahoma nursing homes, first doses have been delivered to residents and staff at nearly every long-term care facility in the state.

Arms Race: Why 62,000 Doses Of COVID Vaccine Sit Frozen In Oklahoma

Jan 28, 2021
Oklahomans age 65 and older stood in line awaiting their COVID-19 vaccine at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Northeast Oklahoma City on Jan. 26, 2020. Oklahoma City County Health Department expected to administer 1,100 doses that day.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

As Oklahomans wait for the state’s limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, more than 62,000 doses allocated for long-term care residents and staff remain in freezers.

After Setting Record, Should Oklahoma End Straight-Ticket Voting?

Jan 26, 2021
Vicky Avery, front, voted in one of Oklahoma’s most Republican districts on Nov. 3 at Harrah Church.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

More Oklahomans than ever before skipped over selecting individual candidates and instead voted for their party’s entire slate of candidates with a single pen stroke in 2020.

Calculating The Fundraising Backlash Against Oklahoma Congressional Delegation

Jan 19, 2021
Members of Oklahoma's U.S. House delegation are, clockwise from top left, Kevin Hern, Frank Lucas, Tom Cole, Stephanie Bice and Markwayne Mullin.
Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s congressional delegation could see political repercussions after all five of the state’s U.S. House of Representatives members voted against certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s electoral college win.