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Latest from Russell Mills

    Governor Kevin Stitt confirmed Friday that Oklahoma will proceed to Phase Three of the Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) plan on June 1st, as scheduled. By early Friday afternoon, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart had also announced that while the number of new infections, and hospitalizations, continues to grow in our area, hospital capacity remains more than adequate. “The daily number of patients in hospitals have been steadily increasing since May 11th, with a marked increase since May 15th,” Dart said Friday. “But the bottom line as at this time, those levels remain manageable.” And that is the key point, Mayor Bynum emphasized. “Throughout Phase Three... the most important thing for me is monitoring that healthcare system capacity,” Bynum said. Phase Three includes relaxing restrictions on special events - e.g., concerts, sports, festivals, and so forth. Employers can bring their entire workforce back in, if they choose. Hospitals can relax their restrictions somewhat on visitation. Both men encouraged efforts to maintain social distancing, the wearing of masks, and hygiene. “Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over,” Dart said. “So remember that, remain vigilant, wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance, and continue to do this until we see actually see signs of this virus going away.” Here's the city's full statement on Phase Three: To date, the Tulsa Health Department (THD) has confirmed 983 positive COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County. 774 residents have recovered and 51 have died. Test results are updated daily at www.tulsa-health.org/COVID19. For the most up-to-date news, information and business resources in Tulsa, visit www.cityoftulsa.org/COVID-19.  New Civil Emergency Order | Phase 3 Guidance  Starting June 1, events (no size limit) may resume in Tulsa. Special event permits will be issued pursuant to the State’s Reopening Plan on June 1.  During Phase 3, employers can resume unrestricted worksite staffing and visits to hospitals and senior living facilities may resume subject to certain guidelines as outlined by the state and each individual facility. Additionally, businesses who have been taking customers by appointment only can start taking walk-ins.  The updated civil emergency order can be found at www.cityoftulsa.org/COVID-19. For additional guidance and information, visit: www.okcommerce.gov/ours-plan/.  Water Moratorium Updates  Starting in June, utility bill collections will resume through a phased approach. For customers who have already setup a payment arrangement due to COVID-19, the City will start calling those customers in early June to ensure payments are being made and/or to come to terms on a new arrangement to avoid service interruptions. Bills mailed in June will include a cut-off date and special notice. Payments or arrangements must be made by the cut-off date to avoid service interruptions for these bills starting June 15. Late fees will resume for customers not paying bills on June 19. City Hall Updates June 1 Starting June 1, City Hall visitors will be asked to wear cloth face coverings and have their temperature checked by Security before entering the building. This measure is for visitors’ safety and the safety of City employees. Tulsa Parks Updates As of June 1, the following plan and policies will be in place and enforced until further notice: Parks & Trails - Parks and trails are all open, so long as patrons practice social distancing. Outdoor shelter rentals and park event permits will start being accepted again, with an initial limit of up to 100 people. Park Amenities – After conferring with local health authorities, park amenities including playgrounds, outdoor exercise equipment, basketball courts, and outdoor bathrooms will be reopened with social distancing guidelines and other restrictions in place. Other than bathrooms, equipment will NOT be sanitized, and users should wash hands before and after use and use hand sanitizer regularly while using the equipment. It is still important to keep social distancing and to wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer before and after using any equipment. Basketball courts will be limited four people per hoop and participants should maintain distance or use masks. Sports complexes, as well as individual use fields will reopen, and games and large group practices may resume with safety protocols in place. Water faucets at dog parks are turned on for dog use, but water fountains will remain shut off.  Aquatics & Pools Water playgrounds and splash pads will be reopened with safety and social distancing policies. Tulsa Parks pools will remain closed for the 2020 season. Community Centers & Programs Community and specialty centers (including Oxley Nature Center and WaterWorks Art Center) will reopen June 1. Residents can see specific center hours and programs by visiting www.tulsaparks.org. Community centers will not offer summer kids day camps, nor will they offer youth or adult summer sports leagues.  Masks will be required to enter each building and may be removed only during participation in exercise and physical activities (such as working out, dance, martial arts, etc.), where the staff or instructor has allowed the removal of masks. Everyone will be asked to sign/scan in upon entering the building, and temperatures will be checked.  Centers who offer open gym/studio will do so in a limited capacity for specific activities varying by site, some may require reservations. Indoor basketball will be limited to one-man drills, shooting practice. Fitness rooms will open but may will close throughout the day for 30-minute disinfectant breaks, smaller fitness rooms may limit the number and time allowed, residents should call their facility for details. CVS Testing Sites Added  Several new testing sites have been added across the Tulsa metro at select CVS locations. Testing sites are by appointment only. Users should bring evidence of insurance or know their social security number. To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic.  SNAP Assistance Available For residents who need food assistance, SNAP is an important resource that can be used. If residents have been impacted by furloughs, layoffs or cut hours, they might be eligible for SNAP. Right now, qualifying families of four could get up to $649/month for help with groceries. To inquire, call 1 (877) 760-0114. To learn more, visit www.hungerfreeok.org/groceries.  Tulsa County Update The Tulsa County Review Committee for CARES Act funding received further clarification from the Oklahoma Attorney General regarding the legality of sharing these funds with municipalities, small businesses, nonprofits and other entities. As of yesterday, the Review Committee received approximately 50 applications.  On June 1, the Family Safety Center will reopen for normal business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for victims of intimate partner and domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and elder abuse to begin filing for Emergency Protective Orders. There will be new access procedures including that only victims may enter—no accompanying supporters or children will not be allowed inside. Masks, temperature readings, and participation in a COVID-19 exposure survey will be required to enter (masks will be provided to those who do not have one).  Phase 2 of the Tulsa County District Courts reopening plan is expected to begin on Monday. The BOCC expects continued commitments on behalf of the courts to reduce the population of Courthouse visitors. Visitors should not visit the Courthouse if they are sick or think they may be sick.
  • An amusement park in Oklahoma City may become the first facility of its kind in the nation to reopen since the pandemic forced the closure of mass entertainment venues. Frontier City and Whitewater Bay are operated by Six Flags, which is based in Texas and operates 26 theme parks across the United States. General Manager Trevor Leonard told ABC's “Good Morning America” Tuesday he believes the Oklahoma City parks will be the first to reopen in the country. However, that reopening will include stringent social distancing and hygiene measures, outlined in a Six Flags YouTube video (posted below.) The parks will reopen June 5, 2020. Reservations are required.
  • The George Kaiser Family Foundation has released a video extolling the virtues of Tulsa as a potential home for a new Tesla plant.  The video, entitled “Tulsa for Tesla,” had more than 20,000 views by early Friday afternoon, just more than a day after it was posted online.  It features interviews with people who moved to Tulsa from all over the U.S., with an emphasis on entrepreneurs with tech-related businesses.  Highly produced, with plenty of aerial beauty shots of Tulsa and the surrounding area, the video has no narrator.  While Tulsa's apparent rival for the Tesla plant - Austin, Texas -  gets a little shade from a couple of the interviewees, the video focuses mainly on the amenities, mobility, and low-cost of living enjoyed by the city's residents.  You can watch the video HERE. 
  • With a hashtag and web domain a little too salty for some people's tastes, a grassroots effort to get Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk's attention has begun, in hopes of luring the electric car maker to build a new cybertruck plant in Tulsa. The competition appears to be Austin, Texas - although the company's been pretty tight-lipped about its decision-making process. Early reporting from one industry publication indicated that Austin already has the plant sewn up, but the backers of Tulsa's effort to get the facility don't buy any of that. They've quickly deployed websites, a Facebook campaign, and Twitter hashtags, often leaning on edgy, youth-oriented, and progressive themes designed to appeal to Musk's well-known proclivities for plain language and political bluntness. Early efforts to create buzz have also included using office windows in downtown buildings to spell out “T4T” at night, and people gathering at Skelly Stadium (under social distancing rules) to spell out “Tulsa 4 Tesla” with their bodies. Perhaps the most controversial move has been to paint the Tesla logo on the chest of the Golden Driller at Expo Square. The famous statue now also sports a Tesla belt buckle; moreover, Elon Musk's image was applied to the driller's face, using technology similar to that used for vehicle wraps. Some find it ironic that an icon of the petroleum industry has been used to lure a maker of electric cars to city once dubbed the “Oil Capital of the World.” Others say Tulsa helped lead the transition from literal horse power to the internal combustion engine a century ago, and now it's poised to ride the wave of the technology many believe will some day replace fossil fuels. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Tesla, and its fiery CEO, had not commented directly on Tulsa's campaign.
  • When the pandemic hit, Mai's Custom Tailoring in Tulsa had just moved to a new location after many years near 71st and Sheridan. Forced to shut down, owner Mai Haworth wasn't content to sit idle, so she began making cloth face masks for those who really needed them. Now, Mai's Custom Tailoring is set to reopen, and the store has also begun handing the masks out to anyone who wants one. “She's been supplying personnel at hospitals, nursing homes, military - just making them as fast as she can and getting them distributed as fast as she can,” her husband Patrick Haworth told KRMG Thursday. “Now, she's got quite a stockpile, and can give them away to just whoever needs them.” He says they're not N-95 medical masks, but are sturdily constructed and come in a variety of sizes, colors, and designs. Mai's Custom Tailoring is located on the northwest corner of 81st and Memorial in Tulsa.
  • KRMG and Cox Media Group in Tulsa learned Wednesday that the radio station had won another Crystal Radio Award from the National Association of Broadcasters. The NAB announced the winners of the CRA during a virtual awards ceremony held Wednesday. The station was one of only ten in the nation recognized by the Crystal Radio Award for its community service efforts. Specifically, KRMG was singled out for its “Stories of Light” fundraising campaign, which benefits Make-A-Wish® Oklahoma. In an email to the newsroom, KRMG Director of Branding and Programming Levi May noted that the award represents more than just the hard work of the radio station's staff.  “While this is KRMG’s award, it’s an award that goes to the entire Tulsa community, because it is community service,” May wrote. “We can’t do it without our great, passionate and loyal audience and the local organizations we work with.” The 2019 Stories of Light campaign was the largest fundraiser of the year for that organization, bringing in more than $325,000.
  • A program designed to get low-income families with students the Internet access they need for distance learning will continue, but the offer to sign up for free until mid-July expires on May 15th. Cox offers the modem, router, and Internet service at no cost through its “Connect2Compete” program, which has actually existed since 2012. [Hear our full interview with Tiffani Bruton from Cox HERE, or use the audio player below] Normally, the Connect2Compete program costs $9.95 per month, but Cox decided to offer it for free through July 15th.  When the pandemic hit, Cox Director of Public Affairs Tiffani Bruton said, the company knew it needed to respond to the sudden need, especially among those communities with limited access to broadband Internet service. “Suddenly, Internet is a necessity more than ever, and so we knew we were going to have to be creative in how we would get all those students connected,” Bruton said Tuesday. “So, back in March we launched a response program to Corona.' Bruton says the plan is available to families with children (grades K-12) who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, SNAP, and/or TANF. It's also available for families which “receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA), and/or who live in Public Housing,” according to the Cox Website. CLICK HERE to visit Cox's Connect2Compete page.
  • Heading into a holiday weekend, health officials and elected leaders around the country continue to urge people to respect social distancing guidelines. In many cases, that may mean wearing a mask, for example when patronizing a salon or going to a grocery store. Some people refuse, and a lot of conflicting information on social media posts has muddied the waters. For guidance, here are the relevant sources: The Centers for Disease Control The World Health Organization The Tulsa Health Department As for rumors that the U.S. Surgeon General recommends against wearing masks, here's a video he did for the CDC April 3rd of 2020:
  • Tulsa businesses can begin to reopen Friday as the city proceeds in accordance with phase one of Oklahoma's plan to reopen the state's economy.  The “Safer at Home” executive order in the city of Tulsa will expire as scheduled Thursday night at midnight, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Wednesday, adding that a new executive order will take effect at that time. [Hear the mayor's entire statement of April 29th HERE, or click on the audio player below] Persons with underlying health conditions or those 65 years of age or older must continue to shelter in place during the first phase. Phase two would go into effect on May 15th, as long as the data from health officials continues to show a flat, or downward, trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases. Mayor Bynum stressed that businesses which plan to reopen must follow strict guidelines on sanitation and social distancing. “I want to be clear that those are not helpful tips in Tulsa,” Bynum said during a Wednesday afternoon press briefing. “Those are guidelines that will be enforced in our community, and they will be enforced by the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa Health Department working together.” Phase one guidelines, as provided by the city, include: All events or gatherings of more than 10 people in the City of Tulsa are banned through May 15 when the pandemic emergency conditions will be reassessed. This includes all social gatherings. Religious services, commercial activity and work are not considered gatherings.  City-owned playgrounds, recreation centers, pools, splash pads and day camps shall remain closed indefinitely.  City-owned sport courts, golf courses, pickleball, sports fields, and dog parks may resume operations with physical distancing and sanitation precautions on May 1.  City-owned sports complexes and organized sports activities with more than 10 people shall remain closed through June 1.  No special event permits will be issued through May 14. The City will reassess special permits by May 15. For the full list of guidelines and information, visit the City of Tulsa website HERE.
  • The Tulsa metro will likely see high wind, rain, and possibly hail as a strong line of storms pushes across the area from north to south Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service Office in Tulsa. NWS Meteorologist Craig Sullivan tells KRMG that the outlook from the Storm Prediction Center in Norman has much of eastern Oklahoma in the “enhanced risk” category for storms on Tuesday. “It looks like we will have a fair amount of showers and thunderstorms, pretty widespread coverage developing during the afternoon tomorrow, and then moving pretty quickly off to the south and east,” Sullivan said Monday afternoon. The tornado risk is slight, but not zero. “The main threat looks like it's gonna be hail, which could be some pretty large hail, some maybe even up to as big as baseball-sized with some of the storms, and then evolving maybe more into a damaging wind threat during the late afternoon and evening as it pushes south,” Sullivan said. The KRMG Storm Center will closely track the storms as they move into the area, which should happen in the late afternoon.
  • Russell Mills

    Anchor/Reporter

    Russell Mills came to Tulsa in 1991 with an AA degree in Broadcast Journalism and a new family. He worked in local television for more than 20 years as a show producer, assignment editor, and online content director. He built one of the first television news websites in the country and helped pioneer streaming audio and video, especially as it related to weather and live news coverage on the Internet. Russell says working for KRMG fulfills a longtime dream. "I worked in newsrooms for a long, long time before finally getting the chance to get out and cover the news in person. I can't tell you how much I love doing just that -- driving toward the big story to talk to the people involved gets my adrenaline going like almost nothing else in life." Russell grew up in Bozeman, Montana then spent several years as an "itinerant musician and restaurant worker," living in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California before finally starting college at 28 and discovering broadcasting as a possible career path. He is married to Shadia Dahlal, a nationally-known Middle Eastern Dancer and instructor, and has two stepchildren. You can connect with Russell via his Facebook page. 

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  • Hundreds have gathered Saturday to call for justice and reform in light of police violence happening throughout the country in Tulsa’s Brookside neighborhood. One protester was struck by a car after a march moved North to I-44 and spilled onto the highway. I-44 was shut down westbound towards Riverside for several hours as the scene was cleared. Police said that person received non-life threatening injuries.  All lanes of I-44 are back open. Peaceful protesters led by Reverend Robert Turner and Tiffany Crutcher marched along Peoria from 41st to 34th in response to the recent killing of George Floyd. Tiffany Crutcher is Terence Crutcher’s sister.  You may recall he was shot and killed by Tulsa police back in 2016. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd. Tulsa protesters are asking the city for four things: they want a police oversight committee, several lawsuits settled including one involving the shooting of Terence Crutcher, greater investment in mental health training for the Tulsa Police Department, and the immediate end of the city’s contract with “Live PD”.
  • A divided U.S. Supreme Court late Friday upheld Coronavirus restrictions placed on church gatherings by the state of California, as Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four more liberal justices in backing the power of states to enforce measures for public health. 'Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,' the Chief Justice wrote in an unusual late night ruling. 'The notion that it is “indisputably clear” that the Government’s limitations are unconstitutional seems quite improbable,' Roberts added in a three page 5-4 opinion. The ruling came on a request from a California church to dispense with limits on church gatherings imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Golden State. The decision came just over a week after President Trump had very publicly pressured states to drop Coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship. The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego argued the health requirements put in place by the Governor were far too restrictive, and violated their constitutional rights. 'Although curbing the pandemic is a laudable goal, those orders arbitrarily discriminate against places of worship in violation of their right to the Free Exercise of Religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,' lawyers for the church argued. That agreement resonated with the High Court's four more conservative justices. 'I would grant the Church’s requested temporary injunction because California’s latest safety guidelines discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses,' wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his dissent. 'Such discrimination violates the First Amendment.' The decision quickly struck a nerve with more conservative Republicans and supporters of the President, many of whom have long harbored doubts about Roberts, who was put on the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush. 'Chief Justice Roberts sides with the Left again,' said Fox News host Laura Ingraham, as the head of the Conservative Political Action Committee called for Roberts to be impeached. In Congress, there was anger as well. 'SHAMEFUL failure by SCOTUS to defend 1st & 5th amendments,' tweeted Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH).
  • In a brazen, aggravating crime, a man who lives at a home near 31st and Memorial says someone burglarized his pickup truck in broad daylight in his own driveway around noon on Friday. Ed Douglass says he was taking some things from his pickup truck, and only left the truck unattended for about five minutes, when he came back outside and saw the doors on the truck were open. He discovered that someone had grabbed his cellphone and some other stuff. Luckily, some alert neighbors saw the suspect going into his backyard. “They saw her and they apprehended her and then the police showed up and the police arrested her,” Douglass said. The woman told police that she had tossed the phone somewhere, but they eventually got it back and returned it to Douglass.
  • Governor Kevin Stitt confirmed Friday that Oklahoma will proceed to Phase Three of the Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) plan on June 1st, as scheduled. By early Friday afternoon, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart had also announced that while the number of new infections, and hospitalizations, continues to grow in our area, hospital capacity remains more than adequate. “The daily number of patients in hospitals have been steadily increasing since May 11th, with a marked increase since May 15th,” Dart said Friday. “But the bottom line as at this time, those levels remain manageable.” And that is the key point, Mayor Bynum emphasized. “Throughout Phase Three... the most important thing for me is monitoring that healthcare system capacity,” Bynum said. Phase Three includes relaxing restrictions on special events - e.g., concerts, sports, festivals, and so forth. Employers can bring their entire workforce back in, if they choose. Hospitals can relax their restrictions somewhat on visitation. Both men encouraged efforts to maintain social distancing, the wearing of masks, and hygiene. “Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over,” Dart said. “So remember that, remain vigilant, wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance, and continue to do this until we see actually see signs of this virus going away.” Here's the city's full statement on Phase Three: To date, the Tulsa Health Department (THD) has confirmed 983 positive COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County. 774 residents have recovered and 51 have died. Test results are updated daily at www.tulsa-health.org/COVID19. For the most up-to-date news, information and business resources in Tulsa, visit www.cityoftulsa.org/COVID-19.  New Civil Emergency Order | Phase 3 Guidance  Starting June 1, events (no size limit) may resume in Tulsa. Special event permits will be issued pursuant to the State’s Reopening Plan on June 1.  During Phase 3, employers can resume unrestricted worksite staffing and visits to hospitals and senior living facilities may resume subject to certain guidelines as outlined by the state and each individual facility. Additionally, businesses who have been taking customers by appointment only can start taking walk-ins.  The updated civil emergency order can be found at www.cityoftulsa.org/COVID-19. For additional guidance and information, visit: www.okcommerce.gov/ours-plan/.  Water Moratorium Updates  Starting in June, utility bill collections will resume through a phased approach. For customers who have already setup a payment arrangement due to COVID-19, the City will start calling those customers in early June to ensure payments are being made and/or to come to terms on a new arrangement to avoid service interruptions. Bills mailed in June will include a cut-off date and special notice. Payments or arrangements must be made by the cut-off date to avoid service interruptions for these bills starting June 15. Late fees will resume for customers not paying bills on June 19. City Hall Updates June 1 Starting June 1, City Hall visitors will be asked to wear cloth face coverings and have their temperature checked by Security before entering the building. This measure is for visitors’ safety and the safety of City employees. Tulsa Parks Updates As of June 1, the following plan and policies will be in place and enforced until further notice: Parks & Trails - Parks and trails are all open, so long as patrons practice social distancing. Outdoor shelter rentals and park event permits will start being accepted again, with an initial limit of up to 100 people. Park Amenities – After conferring with local health authorities, park amenities including playgrounds, outdoor exercise equipment, basketball courts, and outdoor bathrooms will be reopened with social distancing guidelines and other restrictions in place. Other than bathrooms, equipment will NOT be sanitized, and users should wash hands before and after use and use hand sanitizer regularly while using the equipment. It is still important to keep social distancing and to wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer before and after using any equipment. Basketball courts will be limited four people per hoop and participants should maintain distance or use masks. Sports complexes, as well as individual use fields will reopen, and games and large group practices may resume with safety protocols in place. Water faucets at dog parks are turned on for dog use, but water fountains will remain shut off.  Aquatics & Pools Water playgrounds and splash pads will be reopened with safety and social distancing policies. Tulsa Parks pools will remain closed for the 2020 season. Community Centers & Programs Community and specialty centers (including Oxley Nature Center and WaterWorks Art Center) will reopen June 1. Residents can see specific center hours and programs by visiting www.tulsaparks.org. Community centers will not offer summer kids day camps, nor will they offer youth or adult summer sports leagues.  Masks will be required to enter each building and may be removed only during participation in exercise and physical activities (such as working out, dance, martial arts, etc.), where the staff or instructor has allowed the removal of masks. Everyone will be asked to sign/scan in upon entering the building, and temperatures will be checked.  Centers who offer open gym/studio will do so in a limited capacity for specific activities varying by site, some may require reservations. Indoor basketball will be limited to one-man drills, shooting practice. Fitness rooms will open but may will close throughout the day for 30-minute disinfectant breaks, smaller fitness rooms may limit the number and time allowed, residents should call their facility for details. CVS Testing Sites Added  Several new testing sites have been added across the Tulsa metro at select CVS locations. Testing sites are by appointment only. Users should bring evidence of insurance or know their social security number. To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic.  SNAP Assistance Available For residents who need food assistance, SNAP is an important resource that can be used. If residents have been impacted by furloughs, layoffs or cut hours, they might be eligible for SNAP. Right now, qualifying families of four could get up to $649/month for help with groceries. To inquire, call 1 (877) 760-0114. To learn more, visit www.hungerfreeok.org/groceries.  Tulsa County Update The Tulsa County Review Committee for CARES Act funding received further clarification from the Oklahoma Attorney General regarding the legality of sharing these funds with municipalities, small businesses, nonprofits and other entities. As of yesterday, the Review Committee received approximately 50 applications.  On June 1, the Family Safety Center will reopen for normal business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for victims of intimate partner and domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and elder abuse to begin filing for Emergency Protective Orders. There will be new access procedures including that only victims may enter—no accompanying supporters or children will not be allowed inside. Masks, temperature readings, and participation in a COVID-19 exposure survey will be required to enter (masks will be provided to those who do not have one).  Phase 2 of the Tulsa County District Courts reopening plan is expected to begin on Monday. The BOCC expects continued commitments on behalf of the courts to reduce the population of Courthouse visitors. Visitors should not visit the Courthouse if they are sick or think they may be sick.
  • Attorney General Mike Hunter urges Oklahomans to not assume unmarked envelopes are junk mail.  The debit cards arrive in plain envelopes, leading to confusion. Some people are mistaking it for junk mail or fraudulent activity. The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week the agencies had begun the process of sending nearly 4 million Visa debit cards loaded with the $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans.  Attorney General Hunter is encouraging Oklahomans to open the envelopes.

Washington Insider

  • A divided U.S. Supreme Court late Friday upheld Coronavirus restrictions placed on church gatherings by the state of California, as Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four more liberal justices in backing the power of states to enforce measures for public health. 'Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,' the Chief Justice wrote in an unusual late night ruling. 'The notion that it is “indisputably clear” that the Government’s limitations are unconstitutional seems quite improbable,' Roberts added in a three page 5-4 opinion. The ruling came on a request from a California church to dispense with limits on church gatherings imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Golden State. The decision came just over a week after President Trump had very publicly pressured states to drop Coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship. The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in San Diego argued the health requirements put in place by the Governor were far too restrictive, and violated their constitutional rights. 'Although curbing the pandemic is a laudable goal, those orders arbitrarily discriminate against places of worship in violation of their right to the Free Exercise of Religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,' lawyers for the church argued. That agreement resonated with the High Court's four more conservative justices. 'I would grant the Church’s requested temporary injunction because California’s latest safety guidelines discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses,' wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his dissent. 'Such discrimination violates the First Amendment.' The decision quickly struck a nerve with more conservative Republicans and supporters of the President, many of whom have long harbored doubts about Roberts, who was put on the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush. 'Chief Justice Roberts sides with the Left again,' said Fox News host Laura Ingraham, as the head of the Conservative Political Action Committee called for Roberts to be impeached. In Congress, there was anger as well. 'SHAMEFUL failure by SCOTUS to defend 1st & 5th amendments,' tweeted Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH).
  • The feud between Twitter and President Donald Trump escalated on Friday after the President used the social media platform to threaten the use of force against rioters in Minneapolis, as Twitter slapped a warning label on the President's tweet, saying Mr. Trump had violated rules on 'glorifying violence.' 'These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd,' the President wrote, referring to the black man who was suffocated to death when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his head and neck for an extended period of time earlier this week. The President then spoke of sending in National Guard troops to restore order, warning that 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts.' That was evidently too much for Twitter, which placed a warning on the President's tweet. In the President's mind, the warning label from Twitter was the latest indignity against him by the social media giant, as Mr. Trump tore into Twitter early on Friday morning. 'Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party,' the President tweeted soon after 7 am. 'They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States.' Earlier this week, Twitter added a link to a couple of the President's tweets about mail-in voting, giving a link for more information about the issue. The President was incensed, leading to his executive order on Thursday, and a direct threat to close down the company, which experts said he had no power to do. On Capitol Hill, the two parties saw the developing events on Twitter much differently. 'Twitter is censoring the President of the United States,' said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Democrats in Congress said the President was overreacting, and acting like an authoritarian. “Trump’s behavior is growing increasingly unhinged, authoritarian, and outright violent and is designed to inflame and divide America further,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). “This is vile behavior,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).  “The President should not be encouraging violence.” “(T)he President’s executive order is a shameless attempt to use the power of his office to silence his critics and intimidate his perceived enemies,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).
  • With a series of studies raising questions about the side effects and the efficacy of a drug pushed by President Donald Trump for use against the Coronavirus, the VA has curtailed its use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroqine in Veterans Affairs medical facilities. 'Last week, we only used it three times,' VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told a House Appropriations Committee hearing, a very small number compared to the over 1,300 vets who have received the drug for Coronavirus treatment. 'We started ratcheting it down as we went more to remdesivir and we went more to the convalescent plasma,' Wilkie said, as he took fire from Democrats over using the drug in the first place. 'It's very disappointing to me that the VA was using that drug,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the panel, as she slammed the President's embrace of hydroxychloroquine as 'wishful thinking' by someone who is not a medical expert. 'What is astounding to me is the VA is still insisting on providing this drug to veterans,' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “We have ratcheted down as we've brought more treatments online,” Wilkie said at another point.  “And I expect that to continue.” Wilkie said he spoken this week with the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told reporters in recent days that hydroxychloroquine should no longer be used by doctors. The VA chief though couched Fauci's advice as one which would leave the door open to possible use of the malaria drug as more evidence comes in. 'The rest of the world is all over the map,' Wilkie said of the use of hydroxychloroquine against the Coronavirus. 'France banned it, and then the government of India said it absolutely essential for them.' The message from the White House continued to be much more upbeat than Dr. Fauci. “It's important to note that this drug has been safely used by millions of people for a long time,” said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday.
  • A day after the United States topped 100,000 deaths from the Coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump joined the expression of grief for the families of those who have died in the pandemic which has swept around the globe. 'We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000,' the President wrote on Twitter, as he expressed his 'heartfelt sympathy' to family and friends of the dead.  As the numbers hit 100,000 on Wednesday, the President made no statement about death toll, as leading Democrats took on that role instead. 'God Bless each and every one of you and the blessed memory of the one you lost,' former Vice President Biden said in a video message from his home in Delaware. 'One hundred thousand,' said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Those we have lost can’t just be a number. A statistic. A line in a history book. They were our friends, our loved ones, our children and grandparents.' While calling the 100,000 deaths 'tragic,' Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said all sides need to be paying more attention to the large number of deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the nation. 'Seniors in these settings should be a top focus of our prevention efforts,' Rubio said on Thursday. In some states, the nursing home deaths represent an overwhelming share of Coronavirus losses, over 80 percent in Minnesota, 70 percent in Ohio, and near 50 percent in Florida and Georgia. Democrats continued to blame the President and his administration for not being better prepared, as an old tweet from October 2019 by Joe Biden became a focal point on Twitter. 'We are not prepared for a pandemic,' Biden said that day. 'Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.
  • As the nation marked the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from the Coronavirus in just over three months, President Donald Trump spent Wednesday talking about almost any other subject, attacking Twitter, jabbing at the news media, questioning the Russia investigation, denouncing expanded mail-in voting, and again pressing a conspiracy theory that an ex-GOP Congressman was involved in the death of a female aide almost 19 years ago. 'He is arguably the greatest president in our history,' the President quoted Fox Business host Lou Dobbs saying about him. President Trump's only official comment related to the virus outbreak came in a single tweet early on Wednesday morning, in which he highlighted the growing number of virus tests nationwide. 'We pass 15,000,000 Tests Today, by far the most in the World,' Mr. Trump tweeted, adding, 'Open Safely!'  But there was no mention by the President, no tweet, no written statement in his name honoring those who have died, or who remain hospitalized by the Coronavirus. Democrats moved to fill the void. 'Would you have ever thought that we would be observing 100,000 people?' asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a Capitol Hill news conference. From his home in Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden took aim at the President as well. 'I'm so sorry for your loss,' Biden said, marking the 100,000 death toll. 'They were not numbers. They were our neighbors. Our friends. Our family,' said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). The President met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Oval Office on Wednesday morning, and then flew to Florida, only to have the launch of a SpaceX crew vehicle scrubbed by bad weather. Over 1,400 deaths were reported in the U.S. on Wednesday, with over 300 combined from Illinois and New Jersey, two states which continue to struggle with virus cases. 'This is a tragic day. My heart aches for those we have lost,' said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA). 'The day the United States hit 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic Trump shares a messages calling himself “the greatest President in our history,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'His vanity is nauseating.' On Capitol Hill, Democrats pressed for more money to conduct virus testing and tracing, but Senate Republicans have refused to bring up a House-passed bill with $75 billion more in funding. 'Are we going to do what we need to do to prevent the next 100,000 deaths?' asked former CDC Chief Dr. Tom Frieden.