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Summer surge in marriage licenses likely pandemic-related, Tulsa County Court Clerk's Office says

In what they believe is another aftereffect of the pandemic shutdown, the Tulsa County Court Clerk’s Office has seen a jump this summer in applications for marriage licenses, officials said.

“We’d normally see a surge at the end of May through June, when weddings are traditionally popular,” said Marc Dreyer, Court Clerk’s Office third deputy. “But after that, it should’ve slowed down with people doing their summertime travel.”

He said as of Friday, license applications were up 25% over normal.

Why this summer is different, Dreyer can’t say for sure. But almost certainly, he added, it’s related to the pandemic and how it’s forced people to change all of their plans, including postponing weddings.

A retired pastor who still performs weddings, Dreyer has witnessed firsthand how couples have been affected.

He said that one of his couples had scheduled a big wedding for April but had to postpone.

“They went ahead with a small one then with just the attendants and their parents,” he said. “But the 150 to 200 invitations they sent out were just put on hold. They’re going to have their big event coming up next weekend.”

Among couples receiving licenses Friday at the courthouse, Sinem Kozkalan and Donnell Loustaunau are getting married now, they said, but will wait until later for a public event.

“When this thing is all over, we will have a big wedding ceremony like in movies,” Kozkalan said.

Kozkalan wore her wedding dress to the courthouse.

“At least once I wanted to wear it,” she said, laughing. “Even if I’m not having a wedding now, I’m still a bride, right?”

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she added.

Kristyn Harpool and Ron Koepp, who got their license Friday, were supposed to be married on May 29.

But with the pandemic situation they decided to wait.

They rescheduled for July 17, and are planning to go through with it, with some special precautions.

“We’re checking everybody’s temperature before they come in,” Harpool said. “And there will be space for distancing.”

The pandemic also forced a change to their honeymoon plans. Originally they were going to Kauai, Hawaii, but the quarantine there would tie them up two weeks.

Instead they are renting a cabin near Broken Bow and doing some kayaking.

Staying in the state just makes sense right now, Koepp said.

During the shutdown that closed the courthouse, the Court Clerk’s Office adopted special procedures so it could continue to issue licenses.

In April and into May, it was the only court clerk’s office within 100 miles where couples could get licenses, most others having completely shut down, Dreyer said.

“We had people come in from as far away as Missouri to get a license from us,” he said.

All the business from elsewhere helped keep the office from seeing a noticeable decline in licenses during the shutdown, he said.


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Coronavirus surging among young Oklahomans

OKLAHOMA CITY — All signs indicate more young Oklahomans — those in the 18 to 35 age range — are testing positive for the virus this summer.

Younger people are less likely to have serious underlying medical conditions and less likely to experience the more serious side effects of the novel coronavirus. But younger individuals can still get seriously ill and die from the virus.

Coronavirus data for April 17-23 listed the average age of those testing positive as 53; by July 2-9 the average dropped to 42.

“The people that know that they’re vulnerable for getting sicker, should they get exposed, are maintaining all of the precautions,” said Dr. Eliza Chakravarty, rheumatologist and epidemiologist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. “Whereas young people, who are probably less concerned about having bad health outcomes from getting infected and are probably at ages where socialization is more important, are going out as part of the state’s reopening.”

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Practices start Wednesday for some high school sports, and TPS is getting ready

Whether high school sports will be played in Oklahoma this fall remains to be seen, but Tulsa Public Schools took a significant step in preseason precautions Friday by providing free COVID-19 testing for its athletes.

The voluntary testing was conducted at Rogers High School by Morton Comprehensive Health Services at no cost to the district. Before Friday, the TPS health screenings amounted to temperature checks and questionnaires.

“With all of the announcements made at the college football level — like the Big Ten doing away with nonconference games — there are reactions that sweep the country,” TPS Athletic Director Gil Cloud said. “I’m concerned, absolutely.

“We’ll have guidelines from the CDC and the state and local health people, but I don’t expect there to be any (universal direction) provided by any specific sports organizations. We’re all on our own to make decisions about playing football while (emphasizing) the well-being of our kids.”

Practices can start as early as Wednesday for some fall sports, including cross country, volleyball, softball and cheer. Those are expected to begin as scheduled, Cloud said.

Preseason football camps open Aug. 10. Because spring practice was canceled, first-year TPS coaches Jonathan Brown (Booker T. Washington) and Isaiah Irvin (Hale) haven’t seen their players in actual 11-against-11 football activity.

New Mexico’s high school association voted Thursday to move football and soccer to the spring.

Regarding the possibility of an on-time start to the season, Cloud said, “It’s a day-to-day situation. We anticipate that we’ll stay on schedule, but given the (coronavirus statistics) in Tulsa County, we called off (next week’s) final week of summer-league competition in boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ volleyball and 7-on-7 football. We did it simply because of the spike.”

TPS has roughly 1,000 participants in fall sports, and fewer than 15 of those are known to have previously tested positive for the coronavirus, Cloud said. How many athletes were tested is unknown.

Football season is seven weeks away, with many teams playing the final week of August. Featured in those opening-week matchups are Tulsa-area teams including Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Bixby against teams from Mansfield, Texas.

“As of today, we are still planning to play,” Union Athletic Director Emily Barkley said Friday. “Obviously, a lot can change in a month.”

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As campuses plan to reopen, TU and ORU reassure international students

With campuses reopening for in-person classes this fall, college students coming to Tulsa from overseas won’t have to worry about gaining permission to stay in the country, school officials said Friday.

As campuses nationwide closed last spring for the COVID-19 pandemic, federal authorities granted special permission for international students to remain in the United States while completing the semester online. But immigration officials announced last week that the same permission wouldn’t be extended this fall, meaning international students would likely have to return to their home countries if they were taking only online courses.

The University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University, however, plan to have face-to-face classes this fall, albeit with special rules about wearing masks and social distancing.

“As a result, ORU’s international students are able to come back to school as they would otherwise do,” said Nancy Brainard, vice president of enrollment management.

ORU classes will begin as originally scheduled Aug. 13, but the south Tulsa campus will skip fall break this year and end the semester before Thanksgiving, reducing the chance that students will travel and bring COVID-19 back with them.

Likewise, TU plans to have in-person classes this fall that will allow international students to attend as usual.

However, “COVID-19 infections may require us to return to virtual classrooms at some point,” said Interim President Janet Levit.

“International students have always played an important role in campus life at the University of Tulsa,” she said. “We view as highly counterproductive any policy that jeopardizes the ability of these bright scholars to attend TU and share their world views with our domestic students.”

She called on federal officials to reverse the decision and again allow international students to remain in the country this fall even for online classes.

“TU stands with all of our students,” she said, “as well as those at other American universities.”

About one in five students at TU and about one in 10 at ORU come from outside the United States, according to published statistics.

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