In The Know: COVID and back to school planning | Rep. Lucas calls on Oklahomans to vaccinate | More

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Back to school amid a COVID surge: Schools, universities contending with new limits on mask mandates: The Oklahoma State Department of Education and Oklahoma State Department of Health on July 19 jointly issued new guidance for “Preventing COVID-19 in Schools and Higher Education” that encourages the “universal and correct use of masks,” physical distancing and/or cohort grouping of students and staff, contact tracing and recommending vaccination for all eligible staff and students. But Oklahoma is among a growing number of states with new legal constraints on school leaders’ ability to require vaccination or to impose mask mandates. [Tulsa World]

Health News

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas: I’m vaccinated against COIVD-19, and you should be, too … as soon as possible: We’ve all been busy this summer, and we’re all enjoying the freedom from COVID but there’s one thing Oklahoma needs you to not forget: Get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. COVID-19 vaccines — whether it’s Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson — are safe, effective and free. America’s three COVID vaccines were bolstered by American innovation, developed with the help of America’s brightest scientists and distributed with the help and strength of America’s workforce. [U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas / Tulsa World]

  • Republican congressman urges Oklahomans to vaccinate [The Journal Record]
  • In op-ed, Lucas calls for ‘war-like effort’ to increase Okla. COVID vaccination rate [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 outbreaks hit some church camps, but total shut-downs were largely avoided [The Oklahoman]

Red state Medicaid expansion momentum continues to grow: In just the past week, two dark red states — Oklahoma and Missouri — received new attention for making expansion a reality. [NC Policy Watch]

Saint Francis, Blue Cross Blue Shield reach three-year agreement: Saint Francis Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma announced Monday that they have reached a new agreement, heading off a possible split that would have affected thousands of the health insurer’s members. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Stitt appointments rundown: Dana Kuehn named to Oklahoma Supreme Court: Gov. Kevin Stitt today appointed Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Dana Kuehn to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, an announcement that punctuates a slate of recent comings and goings in state government. [NonDoc] In a statement, Stitt said Judge Dana Kuehn of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals would fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by retiring Justice Tom Colbert. [AP News] The appointment marks the first time the high court will have a majority of justices appointed by Republican governors. [The Oklahoman] Kuehn is the first woman to serve on both of the state’s high courts, previously serving on the Court of Criminal Appeals. [Tulsa World]

Stitt makes surprise trip to Azerbaijan to discuss ‘strategic partnerships’: Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-Okla.) is a long way from home this week, as his office announced Monday morning he had landed in Baku, Azerbaijan, for a week-long trip to “promote and expand Oklahoma’s strategic partnerships with Azerbaijan.” The Southern Caucuses nation on the Caspian Sea has an oil-and-gas economy bolstered by tourism and agribusiness, all sectors Oklahoma is long-established in or aiming to grow. [Public Radio Tulsa]

The state’s first driver’s license ‘megacenter’ open in Oklahoma City: Long lines and an hours-long wait couldn’t deter those on Monday who were seeking renewed driver’s licenses or REAL IDs at one of two new “megacenters” created to help alleviate the state’s backlog of driver’s license requests. [The Oklahoman]

‘Discussions with people’: NonDoc staff visits Duncan: The small staff at NonDoc is based in the Oklahoma City metro, but they try to keep tabs on events, issues and stories in other parts of the state. Last week, they kicked off a Rural Listening Tour in an effort to strengthen existing connections and make some new ones. [NonDoc]

Federal Government News

Lankford: Earmarks ‘not appropriate,’ used as enticements for votes: Sen. Jim Inhofe has made several funding requests, including $866,000 for Tulsa Community College’s nursing program, $20 million for a new Tulsa International Airport tower and $43 million for repairs along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Lankford said addressing those kinds of needs should be hashed out by Congress during the budgeting process rather than through direct requests. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Victim in McGirt case ‘plunged back into a black hole,’ federal prosecutors say: In the past year, the name McGirt has become widely used shorthand for the U.S. Supreme Court decision on criminal jurisdiction in Indian country in Oklahoma. The name evokes varying responses depending on a person’s view of the decision, which has led to most of eastern Oklahoma being affirmed as Indian reservations. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma’s rape kit backlog is forcing police departments to prioritize testing: A recent rise in sexual assault cases is adding to a staggering backlog of rape kit testing that a 2019 law was supposed to help combat. Passage of Senate Bill 975 in May 2019 forced all law enforcement to send rape kits for testing within 20 days of collecting physical evidence, but the law meant to ensure the testing of every kit has created a new logjam. And some police departments have responded by prioritizing testing based on the violence of the alleged rape. [Oklahoma Watch]

Attention on ‘ghost owner’ investigations as criminal cannabis case has tie to Tulsa law firm: he criminal case against an employee of a Tulsa law firm with hundreds of cannabis-related clients has drawn attention to investigations of “ghost owners,” with an attorney encouraging medical marijuana businesses to look into whether they’re actually operating legally. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Homelessness in Tulsa caused by high eviction rate, lack of affordable housing: As COVID-19 spread across the country, the number of homeless exploded, especially families, and especially in the Tulsa area. But even before the pandemic, homelessness was grabbing a hold of more people. The reason? The Executive Director of Housing Solutions, Becky Gligo, points to the Tulsa area’s high eviction rate and alarming lack of affordable housing. She said Tulsa has the 11th highest eviction rate in the country. [KJRH] OK Policy: Turning the tide on evictions: Using federal aid, support to reduce Oklahoma’s eviction crisis 

  • Plan to tackle homelessness making progress [KFOR]

Opinion: Dreamers are caring for COVID-19 patients. They deserve legal status: As Oklahomans face a troubling new wave of COVID-19 infections, they depend on our state’s resilient health care workers to care for them. But patients don’t always realize that many of the employees monitoring their respirators, administering their medications and nursing them to health face a momentous struggle of their own. When they clock out at the end of the day, they confront a terrible reality: As undocumented immigrants who came to Oklahoma as children — age 7 on average —they lack the basic security to call this state home. [Opinion / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Manufacturing expanding; wages increasing: Manufacturers in the region that includes Oklahoma had to raise wages more than ever before to attract and retain enough workers to keep up with demand, shows the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s July Manufacturing Survey, released this week. [The Journal Record]

General News

Oaklawn remains exhumed in search of Race Massacre burials to be reburied: The remains of 19 bodies that were exhumed from Oaklawn Cemetery in June will be reinterred during a private ceremony at 9 a.m. Friday. City officials said Oaklawn will be closed Wednesday through Friday because of the activity. [Tulsa World]

With eye on SEC, Oklahoma, Texas move toward leaving Big 12: Oklahoma and Texas took the first formal step Monday toward moving to the Southeastern Conference and leaving the Big 12 behind. The only schools to win college football national championships during the Big 12′s 27-year history notified the conference they would not be renewing an agreement that binds its members through 2025. [AP News] The repercussions would be felt across college sports. [New York Times]

Young Perspective: What are you doing today to help prevent world from repeating wrongs?: In the state of Oklahoma, there are over 26,000 homeless children. Unaccompanied youths make up 6% of the homeless population in Oklahoma City and are more likely to be experience violence, sexual assault, crime, physical illness, severe anxiety, depressing and early pregnancy. How can we expect to challenge our youths to change the world if we have neglected them ourselves? The hard truth is youths who are homeless or experience any type of abuse, in the long run, have low intellectual functioning, which impacts life achievement. [Baruc Lara Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa County Commissioners Approve $75,000 In American Rescue Plan Money For Tourism Media Buy [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • EMSA Medical Director Tells City Councilors Recruiting Paramedics Is Harder Than Ever [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Survey: Nonriders believe in public transit [The Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“We have a vaccine that can defeat this virus, and I appeal to every Oklahoman and American to join in our war-like effort to bring an end to this pandemic once and for all.”

-U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas [Tulsa World Op-Ed]

Number of the Day

983,728

Number of Oklahomans who are insured by Medicaid, as of June 2021. (Note: This does not include the new enrollees from Medicaid expansion.)

[Source: OHCA]

Policy Note

New Data: Medicaid Adult Dental Coverage is Wise Investment for Economic Recovery, Health: It’s long been clear that expanding oral health care access is vital to advancing racial justice, improving health equity, and reducing economic inequality. New analysis also shows it’s cost-effective, and would only cost about $4.64 per person each month, the majority of which would be covered by the federal government. [Community Catalyst]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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