In The Know: Feds, neighboring states taking actions as virus numbers climb | An open letter to Gov. Stitt | Medicaid’s 56th anniversary

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

An open letter to Gov. Stitt: This is a public health emergency: Health officials statewide have been urgently raising the alarm that our communities need to take action to help protect Oklahomans’ health and safety from COVID-19, especially for our youngest children who are unable to be vaccinated. As the result of legislative action this spring, local leaders are able to exert local control and take certain proactive virus-fighting steps if — and only if — the governor declares a state of emergency. That time is now. [OK Policy]

Fifty-six years of Medicaid: Fiscally responsible and morally mandated: The Medicaid program, since it was signed into law in 1965, has provided access to affordable health care for millions, strengthened private insurance and Medicare, and positively impacted state budgets. Passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 improved the program and the entire United States health system by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions, covering preventive services, and eliminating lifetime limits on coverage. Additionally, the ACA’s option for states to expand Medicaid extended the program to cover more low-income adults, which has helped narrow racial disparities in health outcomes. And Medicaid has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people have relied on this coverage to get vital care. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Feds, neighboring states act as COVID-19 numbers climb: Rates in Oklahoma and neighboring states continue to grow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the seven-day average increased more than 50% in Missouri and Arkansas, 149% in Oklahoma and 256% in Louisiana. Missouri has the nation’s fourth-worst diagnosis rate over the past week, with one in every 360 people diagnosed with COVID-19, the AP reported. A Springfield hospital announced Tuesday that it expanded its morgue capacity amid an increase in COVID-19 deaths, while the Kansas City mayor announced he would reinstate an indoor mask mandate for everyone age 5 and older effective Monday. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency Thursday and announced a special legislative session to change a law that prevents public schools from requiring masks. Oklahoma has a similar law. [The Journal Record]

  • As COVID-19 hospitalizations climb, Oklahoma hospitals prepare for the worst [KFOR]
  • These 4 maps show how COVID is affecting Oklahoma today [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma woman begs people to get vaccinated as husband fights for life [KOCO]
  • COVID risk remains highest among unvaccinated older adults [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • New statewide map shows vaccination rates by ZIP Code [News On 6]
  • Tinker Air Force Base requiring masks regardless of COVID vaccination status [Tulsa World]
  • ‘It’s confusing’: Oklahoma businesses, schools respond to new CDC mask guidance [The Oklahoman]
  • Opinion: State of emergency necessary as ‘personal responsibility’ not enough [Column / Norman Transcript]

At Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, available pediatric beds are scarce as RSV surges: Pediatric bed space is scarce at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, but COVID-19 isn’t to blame, a leader of the hospital said Thursday. Rather, it’s largely RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, driving high numbers of hospitalizations for kids. The virus — normally seen in the winter months — has gone “absolutely, exponentially off the charts” over the past two months, said Dr. Cameron Mantor, chief medical officer for Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health. [The Oklahoman]

Lawmakers looking at eviction policy as moratorium comes to an end: A federal moratorium on evictions ends this weekend and that has some worried about a potential surge of filings against people who struggled to pay rent throughout the pandemic. On Monday, there are 87 eviction cases on the docket in Oklahoma County. That is similar to dockets throughout this week. [FOX 25]

  • Tulsa officials address rent assistance as CDC eviction moratorium set to expire [News On 6]
  • Council working group to look at rental property policies in Tulsa [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Eviction moratorium ends Saturday. What will it mean for OKC apartment renters, investors? [The Oklahoman]

Health News

‘Rural EMS is in trouble’: Volunteer ambulance services face staffing shortages: A retired nurse who farms. A beauty salon owner with four children. A minister who is going back to school. These are among the nine people who make up the volunteer ambulance service in Laverne, tasked with covering more than 800 square miles in Harper County. It’s not enough. Like many rural ambulance services in Oklahoma and across the country, Laverne is struggling to find volunteers to keep up with the demands of medical emergencies in this rural area 180 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

SoonerCare using libraries to educate people who could be eligible: Circulation Supervisor at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center library, Gina Brown, has helped around 15 people apply for Sooner Care. [KTEN]

Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are driving a spike in Oklahoma deaths: A flood of counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl drove a spike in drug overdose deaths across Oklahoma last year, according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. Oklahoma saw 136 overdose deaths from fentanyl in 2020, a nearly 152 percent increase over the previous year, according to preliminary Bureau of Narcotics data. Last year was a record year for fatal drug overdoses in Oklahoma — 1,002 people died, exceeding the previous high of 883 deaths in 2019. [The Frontier]

States could get billions from opioid lawsuits. They have to decide how to spend it: When Oklahoma settled an individual case against Purdue Pharma in 2019, the money helped establish an addiction treatment center at Oklahoma State University, in an initiative steered by Attorney General Mike Hunter. But members of the state legislature were outraged that the money had not been placed in the state’s treasury for them to decide what to do with. They’ve since changed the law so they get authority over divvying up money from future settlements. [STAT]

State Government News

Oklahoma revenue exceeds estimate, leads to $282M surplus: Oklahoma closed the books on the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a $282 million deposit into the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, state finance officials announced on Thursday. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services released figures that show the state’s general fund collections in Fiscal Year 2021 exceeded both the official estimate and prior-year collections. [AP News]

Initial, rolling Oklahoma unemployment claims decline: The number of initial unemployment claims and the less volatile moving four-week average of initial claims are both down in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday. The number of initial weekly claims fell by about 50%, from 7,787 to 4,394, and the moving average dropped from 8,237 to 7,046, the OESC reported. [AP News] Despite the decline, initial claims are still double what they were during the same period two years ago, before the pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Supreme Court referee hears conflict of interest arguments on Corporation Commissioner Hiett: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is to decide later this year whether a former state legislator can get Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett removed from office. On Wednesday, a court referee heard arguments from attorneys and will summarize the arguments for the court’s justices to consider when they return from recess in September. [The Oklahoman]

Health care, jobs among House study issues: Interim study topics in the state House of Representatives this summer and fall will include health care, job development and other business issues, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on student learning, potential measures to reduce reliance on public welfare programs, neighborhood blight, the impact of Oklahoma’s high incarceration rates on convicts and their families, and an intrastate collegiate athletic conference. [Southwest Ledger]

Reparations study denied by state House speaker; ‘Conversation absolutely has to be held,’ proponent says: Reparations for damage done to Tulsa’s Greenwood district during the 1921 Race Massacre were a matter of discussion at that time, and they still are today, a state representative said. Earlier this summer, state Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, requested an interim study on the issue. That request was turned down by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House of Representatives study to consider Inner Dispersal Loop alternatives: Alternatives to the Inner Dispersal Loop around downtown Tulsa are the subject of an interim study approved in recent weeks by state Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka. The study was one of two requested by Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Tensions flare in Azerbaijan, Washington as Stitt tours Baku: On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt tweeted photos of himself sampling caviar and touring historical sites in Azerbaijan as he spends the week working to strengthen Oklahoma’s economic relationship with the Eurasian nation. On the same day, tensions flared at Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia, and the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut off funding to Azerbaijan in response to what members of Congress described as “ongoing Azerbaijani aggression in the region.” [Journal Record]

Federal Government News

On partisan vote, House defeats proposal by Rep. Tom Cole to ban abortion funding: The U.S. House on Thursday rejected an effort by Rep. Tom Cole to extend a ban on federal funding of abortion, though the fight over the long-standing Hyde amendment is expected to continue in the next few months. The vote was 217 to 208 against Cole’s procedural motion. The vote was entirely along partisan lines, as all Republicans backed Cole’s effort and all Democrats opposed it. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Public Defender: Feds, Tribes have proven they’re up to the challenge of more cases after McGirt: A local attorney intimately familiar with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma pushed back Thursday on Gov. Kevin Stitt and law enforcement officials’ claims the decision has imperiled public safety. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Wayne Greene: Interim study process could reinvigorate criminal justice reform in Oklahoma: Speaker of the House Charles McCall approved 113 interim studies for state House committees recently. Formally, interim studies are assignments for legislative committees to look at particular issues, usually in one or two hearings. Often they’re the result of specific legislation that is important to members but which can’t seem to get traction. Other times, they’re opportunities for legislators to explicate important or emerging issues for their peers, trying to build momentum in general if not toward a specific legislative goal for now. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Oklahoma state agency recommends closing some Mid-Del elementary schools: A years-long study by a state agency dug into how to improve the Mid-Del School District and recommended closing some elementary schools because of low enrollment rates and outdated or under-utilized buildings. [KFOR]

Quote of the Day

“I just feel like above all else, above all the B.S. that’s running around, against all the false statements and strong opinions. Just do yourself a favor, do your family a favor, do your friends a favor. Just go get your shot. People should know the vaccine is there to help. COVID is not slowing down and it can happen to you.”

-Elizabeth Satter, whose husband went from being a healthy 27-year-old to being debilitated by COVID [KFOR]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma children who are insured by Medicaid, as of June 2021. This represents nearly 2 out of every 3 children in Oklahoma.

[Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

Policy Note

Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion Benefits Hospitals, Particularly in Rural America: Medicaid has long played a greater role in providing health coverage in rural areas than in urban areas, and the ACA has made Medicaid even more vital to rural America. Nearly 1.7 million rural Americans have gained coverage through Medicaid expansion, and in expansion states, rural residents make up a larger share of expansion enrollees than of the states’ combined populations [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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.

3 thoughts on “In The Know: Feds, neighboring states taking actions as virus numbers climb | An open letter to Gov. Stitt | Medicaid’s 56th anniversary

  1. Dear Governor Stitt, In your action to stop Pandemic Unemployment Benefits extended to ELIGIBLE AMERICANS, the statement made sighted BUSINESS/ EMPLOYERS COMPLAINING ABOUT A SHORTAGE OF WORKERS. The message you carried blamed the shortage on extended federal benefits which in continuation was a preference over the jobs available. The impact of your decision ( whether in your authority or not ) has left families without needed finances to care for basic essential necessities. In your investigation, did you conduct a study of the JOBS EMPLOYERS COMPLAINED WERE NOT BEING FILLED? Did you examine salaries, hours, benefits comparing these vacancies to the PRE-Covid jobs ( Many jobs are from the SAME employers who laid off workers during the Covid outbreak, and were glad to see the government pick up the tab for unemployed workers they laid off ) I did not see your investigation data. These employers now want workers to come back, however the offer has changed. Jobs now unfilled are for lower wages, fewer hours and reduced benefits. But I am sure you did not impact so many households without considerable research, comparison and the least of which would be HEARING FROM THE UNEMPLOYED DIRECTLY EFFECTED. You painted a picture of 90,000 lazy, hesitant individuals waiting by their mailbox and offered a limited to 20,000 -$1200 INCENTIVE RETURN TO WORK Bonus which a very small number have been thus far eligible to receive. I am sure the details of your investigation are thorough and I would like to receive a copy. I am sure you listened to both Employers and Unemployed, I am sure you took a serious look at the fair hiring practices in light of the return of a stronger VARIANT(S) WHICH HAVE QUICKLY DRAWN ATTENTION TO OKLAHOMA. Thank you for providing my copy to the OKLAHOMA State Supreme Court Justices ON AUGUST 11, and give one to the State Chamber of Commerce who probably helped gather this critical data. Prayers, Nancy Summerlin

  2. By the way, your trip to Azerbaijan could not have come at a worse time, given Congress acting to send them a message about humanitarian violations. But you researched that trip before going and the AGRICULTURAL BENEFITS should offset some of those actions. But please insist OESC collect the $645k they were noted for in the February 2020 State Audit, given the higher amount they must now collect in fraudulent unemployment payouts. They seemed thorough validating me, I hope the mass of untrained workers hired to assist them will not come back to be a poor decision. Still praying, Nancy Summerlin

  3. I would like to ask the question to Oklahoma House Speaker regarding refusal to discuss REPARATIONS REQUESTED ON BEHALF OF SURVIVORS OF THE TULSA MASSACRE. This was a request to investigate and consider. Does the Speaker speak for the entire state? He should be called a name other than Speaker, because he does not represent Oklahomans in their entirety. What is the State of Oklahoma afraid of that it refuses to investigate? While we are not investigating this request, will we have time to reconsider the Speakers authority? Oklahoma has serious reason to be listening to the remaining voices. Someday, we might have a reputation which will not start with Ignorant.

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