In The Know: COVID hospitalizations remain near record highs | Virus cases in schools | Redrawing state’s districting maps

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.

New from OK Policy

Thoughtful legislation makes a positive difference outside the spotlight (Capitol Update): In the August edition of the Oklahoma Economic Report, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel profiles House Bill 2178 that was passed at his request in the last session of the legislature. The bill creates a tax break allowing qualified persons with disabilities to get a deduction for contributions to a savings program known as the STABLE (State Achieving a Better Life Experience) program. They can later withdraw the money for such disability expenses as education, housing, transportation, health care, assistive technology, employment needs, and basic living expenses. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma’s largest hospitals over or near January COVID-19 peaks; staff to breaking points: At least one of Oklahoma’s largest hospital systems has surpassed its January peak of COVID-19 patients, and another could soon follow suit as Tulsa County’s figure hit a new high on Monday, according to recent three-day averages shared by the state. Dr. Cliff Robertson, president and chief executive officer of Saint Francis Health System, said the data are trending toward meeting the January threshold if not exceeding it but that analysts are focusing on a new indicator: daily admissions vs. discharges of COVID-19 patients. [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Young COVID-19 patient whose story went viral released from hospital [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations at highest level since January [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma is reporting an average of 2,113 infections per day in the past week [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma Poison Center: Don’t take livestock medication to treat COVID-19 [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Muscogee Nation Festival canceled as COVID-19 cases rise across Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa City Council adds option to vote on nonbinding mask resolution, rather than mandate, on Wednesday [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Public Schools had 41 COVID cases on Friday, board is told: Although classes just started Thursday, new cases of COVID-19 are starting to pop up among students and staff in Tulsa Public Schools. Data released at the close of business Friday show that the district was reporting 41 confirmed cases among staff and students and 82 close-contact exposures. Of those 82 exposures, 39 are TPS employees who work at nonschool sites, such as the district’s enrollment office. [Tulsa World]

  • Western Heights Interim Supt. mandates masks for students, staff [KFOR]
  • ‘This is what we have in place’: EPS supt. says district will keep current COVID policies [Enid News & Eagle]
  • OSU announces masks are expected after ‘very few’ students comply in first week [The Oklahoman]
  • Teacher Blames Oklahoma Lawmakers As COVID’s Delta Variant Spreads In Schools [News9]

Opinion: Science, math demand mask mandate, and lack of one will add up to catastrophe: On March 12, 2020, I pulled my child out of school. I sent letters to the superintendent and the mayor demanding that all schools be closed and large public gatherings banned immediately. I wrote then: “I am telling you what is going to happen in the near future. I am not guessing, I know: basic epidemiology models make good fodder for word problems in high school math.” [Nick Brooke / The Oklahoman]

Column: You may choose against COVID-19 vaccine protection, but then teams may choose to protect their fans against you: Oklahoma fans can’t get into the Sooners’ football opener at Tulane Sept. 4 without a vaccination card or proof of a negative COVID-19 test. This is a byproduct of New Orleans’ vaccine mandate in the face of both rampant delta variant cases and low vaccine numbers in Louisiana. It is an effort to keep people safe, plain and simple. Some people are pushing back against safety. [Guerin Emig / Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma redistricting leaders say maps must be redrawn: Newly drawn Oklahoma House districts approved by the Legislature earlier this year will have to be redrawn based on the latest census data, House and Senate leaders said Monday. The announcement by the House and Senate redistricting committee chairs follows the release of U.S. Census Bureau data that shows population increases in urban and suburban parts of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Legislature approved new state House and Senate districts earlier this year, but lawmakers drew those districts based on U.S. Census Bureau estimates instead of final data released earlier this month. [AP News]

  • 2020 Census good news for Tulsa; area shows nearly 12,000 residents more than 2019 estimate [Tulsa World]
  • Growing population impact on courts, city [The Norman Transcript]
  • Census data shows drop in population in Stephens and Jefferson counties [The Duncan Banner]

Opinion: Why Public Participation In Redistricting Matters: If you’re not fully informed on what your Board of County Commissioners does, you’re not alone. In Oklahoma County, our three county commissioners meet twice per month to exercise general authority over our county’s fiscal affairs. They work to facilitate road and bridge construction and supervise the real estate owned by the county. They work with public schools to provide project support such as paving a parking lot for a school or laying the groundwork for a new playground or stadium. [Lani Habrock / The Oklahoma Observer]

Oklahoma’s Conservation Dams Don’t Stick Out, But Save Lives and Tens of Millions Of Dollars: Oklahoma’s more than 2,000 conservation dams don’t stick out. They’re mostly on private land, out of sight and out of mind. But the flood control they provide saves the state tens of millions of dollars each year. Maintaining them takes hard, dirty work by salt-of-the-earth people fighting a constant uphill battle. [KOSU]

Cocktails To Go Act goes into effect Wednesday allowing alcohol home delivery in Oklahoma: Options for home-imbibing will expand when the Cocktails To Go Act becomes legal on Wednesday. Signed into law in May, the act offers local restaurants, bars and event venues with mixed beverage licenses more options, including selling cocktails for curbside and home delivery. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Inhofe’s funding request for OMRF data center could help clear ‘huge bottleneck in science’: Sen. Jim Inhofe’s office announced on Monday a $1.9 million congressional funding request for a biomedical data sciences center at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

State files more petitions seeking high court reversal of McGirt: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has filed more petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court asking justices to overturn last year’s ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation still exists. One petition was filed in the case of former Tulsa police officer Shannon Kepler, whose state manslaughter conviction was reversed because he is a member of the Muscogee Nation and the crime occurred on the tribe’s reservation. [The Oklahoman]

  • McGirt attorney argues against “retribution” in sentencing [The Oklahoman]

Not Separate, But Not Equal: Oklahoma’s Freedmen continue to fight for full rights as Native citizens: LeEtta Osborne-Sampson, 59, can trace her Seminole ancestry back to the Civil War era, when her great-great-great-grandparents were counted in the federal Indian census that tribes still use today to determine Native American citizenship in Oklahoma. Her family has been considered members of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma ever since. But because of her mixed African ancestry, Osborne-Sampson is marked as something else on her tribal ID: ‘Freedman Citizen.’ [Native News Online]

Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee emphasizes cooperation with Muscogee Nation: On Wednesday, Aug. 18, Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee answered a series of questions about how his eastern Oklahoma city is working with the Muscogee Nation, which had its historic reservation affirmed in July 2020 by the U.S. Supreme Court. [NonDoc]

A long conversation about the Muscogee Reservation with Jason Salsman: NonDoc sat down with Muscogee Nation director of communications Jason Salsman on Tuesday, July 27, and conducted an extensive interview. [NonDoc]

Citizen Potawatomi Nation District 1 runoff to be decided Wednesday: Voters will decide between Alan Melot, an outpatient therapist, and David Slavin, a recently retired electrician, in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation runoff election for the vacant District 1 Legislature seat. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Landlords look for an exit amid federal eviction moratorium: When Ryan David bought three rental properties back in 2017, he expected the $1,000-a-month he was pocketing after expenses would be regular sources of income well into his retirement years. He also was counting on the rent money from the properties in Dupont, Pennsylvania, to help with the cash flow of his business buying and selling distressed properties, launched early last year. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma still a bargain for homebuyers: The cost of a house continues to rise across the nation but remains a bargain in Oklahoma compared to other areas of the country. Tulsa and Oklahoma City have the lowest median home prices among 51 metropolitan areas with at least 1 million residents, according to a new report issued by They also have the lowest home-price-to-income ratio. [The Journal Record]

Experts: Don’t let news events skew investment plan: Keep calm and stay the course, advised two investment experts speaking during Friday’s JR/Now webinar. The 24-hour news cycle is enough to shake the confidence of many investors, said Zac Reynolds, founder and chief investment officer for Oklahoma City-based Full Sail Capital, and Stacy Murray, adviser and chief compliance officer for Full Sail Capital. [The Journal Record]

Education News

ORU using COVID aid to cancel over $500K in student debt to university: Oral Roberts University is using part of its federal COVID relief funding to pay off over $500,000 students owed to the university, the school announced. Earlier this month, Tulsa Community College announced that it was using $4 million from its relief funding to cancel debts, affecting more than 5,000 students. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Fairland police chief, 8 officers resign; Fairland to host special town meeting tonight [Tulsa World]
  • OKC Thunder launches mentorship program for Black teens in Greenwood [Black Wall Street Times]
  • Animal well-being conference to address ways Oklahoma can treat animals better [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“COVID-19 is a scary disease. We can’t see it. We read about it and hear the news every single day about it. We can’t let that fear drive us to using unapproved medications, medications that don’t have any scientific basis for use that are poorly, or not even, studied in humans. We need to contact our physicians. Go to someone we trust in the medical field who knows our medical history, knows all the medications we’re on, and will — hopefully — stick with a sound, rational, scientifically based treatment.”

-Scott Schaeffer, the managing director of Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information, advising residents to avoid self-medicating with drugs intended to deworm livestock in an attempt to prevent or treat COVID-19 in human beings [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


States, including Oklahoma, that pay the same or less in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits as they did in 1996. [CBPP]

Policy Note

To target aid to the neediest families, we need to strengthen TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is a block grant to states for cash assistance as well as child care, work supports, and other services for low-income families with children. It targets even lower-income families than unemployment insurance, though eligibility varies widely by state. TANF replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which provided direct cash assistance to low-income families with children. Since its enactment more than two decades ago, cash assistance makes up a much smaller share of TANF spending, and caseloads have plummeted, even while the number of families with children in poverty has remained high. [Brookings]

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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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