In The Know: Fewer nurses during latest COVID surge | Returning children to school safely | Increasing vaccination rates

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

When will hospital capacity break in Oklahoma? Fewer nurses to care for COVID-19 patients this time around: ‘Some gave up’: As COVID-19 admissions stack up faster than ever, Oklahoma medical professionals aren’t certain what the breaking point will be for hospital capacity after many nurses were driven out of the profession by how awful the pandemic became in the state. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19: 15,000 cases active with 954 hospitalized in state; breakthrough cases have killed 25 Oklahomans [Tulsa World]
  • A surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations worries Oklahoma doctor [AP News]
  • Vaccinated OKC Catholic archbishop contracts COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. Stitt ‘nowhere to be found’ amid COVID surge, Oklahoma Democratic leader says [Tulsa World]
  • Will we need COVID-19 booster shots? An Oklahoma expert weighs in [The Oklahoman]

Thousands of Oklahoma parents moving forward with COVID vaccines for kids amid back-to-school surge: Thousands of Oklahoma parents are moving forward with COVID vaccinations for their children amid a dramatic surge in local infections that is coinciding with back-to-school season. According to weekly epidemiology reports from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the pace of vaccination among 12- to 17-year-olds doubled from the first week of July to the third week of July. Between July 1 and the most recent report on Wednesday, 23,210 children in that age range received at least their first dose. [Tulsa World]

  • Video: COVID & Classrooms replay: Watch health, education experts answer your back-to-school questions [The Oklahoman]
  • The Source podcast: COVID is surging in Oklahoma. How will that affect kids returning to school? [The Oklahoman]
  • From no mask mandates to curriculum restrictions, here are 8 things to know about the next school year in OKC [The Oklahoman]
  • Video: Ready to return: OKCPS leaders discuss safety measures in place for students & staff [The Oklahoman]
  • Broken Arrow schools COVID protocols released [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Initial claims for unemployment insurance decline by 25%: New claims for unemployment benefits in the state continued their march toward prepandemic levels, declining by more than 25% last week, according to a government report. Initial jobless claims in Oklahoma fell from a revised 3,723 filings the week ending July 24 to 2,758 the week ending Saturday, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House Speaker blocks discussion of reparations for Tulsa Race Massacre victims: A century after a white mob razed an affluent Black community in Tulsa, the leader of the state House denied a request by a member of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus that sought to study the issue of reparations. Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, had requested Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, approve a study “addressing the Oklahoma State Legislature’s sanctioned 2001 Commission Report related to Tulsa Race Massacre reparations, recommendations and remedies.” [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Federal Government News

From roads to broadband, here’s what the federal infrastructure bill would fund for Oklahoma: Oklahoma would receive more than $5 billion for roads, bridges, electric vehicle charging stations and rural broadband expansion under the infrastructure bill being debated this week in the U.S. Senate, according to the White House. The money, most of which would go to highway and bridge construction, would be distributed over the next five years. The estimates from the White House did not include other elements of the infrastructure bill, such as money for water and power projects. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Opinion: Oklahoma’s values around race, justice and truth are standing trial: Oklahoma is nationally known for its close-knit southern feel and our warm Midwestern friendliness. While the people are good, the systems could be better. Systems – groups of related things that work together as a whole – are what help define societies and cultures. And in our state, racial bias and poverty impact the complex structures that define education, healthcare, criminal justice, and much more. [Sen. George Young & Kris Steele / The Frontier]

Patrick Dwayne Murphy, whose case led to McGirt decision, found guilty in federal court: Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a former Oklahoma death row inmate whose case was the impetus for the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year regarding the Muscogee (Creek) reservation, was found guilty of murder on Thursday in federal court in Muskogee. [The Oklahoman] Federal prosecutors retried Murphy after the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2020 overturned his conviction and death sentence after agreeing that the crime was committed on tribal land because Congress had never disestablished the tribal nation’s 11-county reservation, which includes McIntosh County and much of the city of Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County approves $3.4 million in CARES Act spending, mostly for sheriff’s vehicles: The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office will receive more than $3 million in CARES Act funding from the county for use on vehicles, computers and respirators. The purchase approval, finalized Monday by the county commissioners, includes 47 Chevy Tahoe sport utility vehicles, 109 mobile data computers and docking stations, and 200 air purifying respirators with replacement filters. [The Oklahoman

Economic Opportunity

Ardmore schools staff, health department and partners combine efforts to provide information to area residents: As schools in southern Oklahoma prepare for the first day of classes, many in the community continue to struggle with meeting basic needs such as shelter, food and healthcare services. While funds have been made available to help, many of the applications require internet access and technology that not all area residents are able to easily access or navigate. [Daily Ardmoreite]

Tulsa County’s newly launched Social Services Hub connects tenants with eviction-prevention info: Tulsa’s Landlord-Tenant Resource Center and Tulsa County District Courts are partnering to provide eviction-prevention information to individuals as they begin the court process. Tenants will be provided with a one-page document when they receive their Court Summons (eviction notices) that educates tenants on available resources. [The Black Wall Street Times]

A new federal ban on evictions will only apply to counties with high COVID transmission rates: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a new ban on certain evictions on Tuesday, three days after its previous moratorium expired. During those three days, landlords took steps to push out tenants who had been covered by the ban, service providers who work to prevent homelessness said. [Big If True]

Economy & Business News

Plans to turn Ardmore airport into $124M shipping hub announced by Chickasaw Nation, partners: When the Chickasaw Nation bought 160 acres of land near a decommissioned military airport north of town, tribal leaders recognized the potential of an industrial site halfway between Oklahoma City and Dallas. Years later, on Wednesday, the tribe and others announced a joint $124 million project to turn the rural land into an air, rail and ground shipping hub. [The Oklahoman]

SkyWest Airlines partners with Tulsa Spartan flight campus on program for pilots: In response to high industry demand for certified pilots, Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology (Spartan) and SkyWest Airlines  are announcing the SkyWest Pilot Career Pathway at Spartan’s Tulsa flight campus. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Duncan Public Schools gives students Pathways to Future Careers: Last year, Duncan Public Schools passed one of the largest bond measures in the history of the district, approving nearly $28 million for projects. But, in addition to contributing monetarily to education in the district, the bond issue might help provide some students with hands-on work experience as well. [NonDoc]

General News

OKC Jewish leader wants apology from GOP for ‘offensive’ Holocaust comparison: An Oklahoma Jewish leader said Oklahoma GOP leaders who compared COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the Holocaust should apologize for the “hurtful” and “offensive” analogy. Roberta Clark, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, said she was disappointed in an Oklahoma GOP social media post that likened the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. [The Oklahoman]

Committee members tell city councilors frustrations with recent steps in Tulsa mass grave search: Members of an oversight committee in Tulsa’s search for mass graves holding victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre expressed to city councilors their displeasure over last week’s reinterment of remains. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Giving hope: Oklahoma foundation helps veterans gain access to healthcare, financial stability: Oklahoma has more than 330,000 veterans, many of whom are eligible for veterans benefits including healthcare and disability compensation. And like veterans across the nation, many have struggled to obtain those benefits because of lengthy backlogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Personnel Records Center. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“We have high trust with her pediatrician, and she thought it would be a good idea. In the end, we decided it was the best decision to offer her the most protection.”

-Amber Hatten talking about the decision to get her 14-year-old daughter vaccinated [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


A survey of Georgia schools that reopened for in-person learning in 2020 showed that schools with requirements for teachers and staff to wear masks had 37% fewer COVID-19 cases than schools without a mask requirement. Schools that required students to wear masks had 21% fewer COVID-19 cases than those where mask use was optional, but the difference wasn’t statistically different. “Because universal and correct use of masks can reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission and is a relatively low-cost and easily implemented strategy, findings in this report suggest universal and correct mask use is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy in schools as part of a multicomponent approach.” [Journal of the American Medical Association] [CDC]

Policy Note

Research Finds Masks Can Prevent COVID-19 Transmission in Schools: The widespread use of masks in schools can effectively prevent COVID-19 transmission and provide a safe learning environment. Duke University researchers issued a report showing that North Carolina schools were highly successful in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 within school buildings. The report found in part that masks effectively prevented COVID-19 transmission even without physical distancing in schools and on buses. [Duke University School of Medicine]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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