In The Know: Gov.’s school quarantine policy faces more criticism | Hospitalizations continue rising | Vaccine distribution

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

Oklahoma school districts to keep quarantines, not on board with new state policy: Multiple Oklahoma school districts say they won’t adopt a new state policy allowing students and staff to skip quarantines. Within hours of the policy’s announcement Tuesday, school districts in the metro area — including Oklahoma City, Norman, Midwest City-Del City and Mustang schools — said they wouldn’t waver from existing protocols. [The Oklahoman]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt continues push for reopened classrooms despite criticism from pediatrician association, local school leaders [Tulsa World]
  • Health experts say Stitt misrepresenting their research to justify push for in-person learning [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma’s new school quarantine guidelines face mounting criticism [KOSU]
  • Arnold Hamilton: Stitt relies on council of one [Arnold Hamilton Column / Journal Record
  • Editorial: School leaders must have plans ready to repair pandemic’s damage [Editorial / Tulsa World]

As COVID cases soar, Oklahoma doctors are prepared to determine who receives care, and who doesn’t: As COVID-19 cases surge across Oklahoma, hospital leaders throughout the state remain in talks with ethicists and lawyers over how to handle the allocation of critical resources for patients on the brink of death. [The Oklahoman]

  • Stitt says COVID-19 hospitalizations have been ‘pretty flat’ for two months, but state data show a 50% increase [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: 34 more deaths, 3,142 new cases reported [Tulsa World] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Antibody tests show 1 In 3 Oklahomans may have had COVID by now [Public Radio Tulsa]

Slow distribution by feds hampering local vaccine efforts: The fact that the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and the county’s large hospital systems have managed to administer more than 55,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 14 is all the more impressive when considering the challenges faced in obtaining and distributing the vaccine, members of the Oklahoma City-County Board of Health said Thursday. [The Journal Record]

Health News

Under waiver, Medicaid members in Oklahoma will get better access to crisis care: Thanks to a new policy, low-income Oklahomans will soon have better access to in-patient mental health and addiction services. Federal guidelines don’t allow Medicaid members to receive inpatient services at free-standing psychiatric hospitals, and they cap crisis stabilization beds at 16 statewide. But, that just changed for Oklahoma. [KOSU]

State Government News

Fewer Oklahomans seeking to continue unemployment benefits: The number of Oklahomans filing to continue their unemployment benefits continued to decline, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday. [AP News] Initial unemployment claims dropped 1.6% in Oklahoma last week from the prior week’s revised figures, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 5,960 first-time unemployment claims were filed in the state last week, compared to 6,059 such claims the previous week. [Tulsa World]

Lawmaker files voter registration, participation bills: On the heels of record voter turnout nationally for the 2020 election, Oklahoma ranked last in the country in voter turnout rate, according to state Sen. Julia Kirt. That’s why the Oklahoma City Democrat said she filed a trio of election bills on Thursday meant to boost voter registration and participation in the state. [Journal Record]

Tribal leaders want to work with state on how to prosecute crime on reservations: Leaders of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations said Thursday that Congress should allow tribes to make agreements with the state of Oklahoma about criminal jurisdiction in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized their reservations still exist. [The Oklahoman]

Trait Thompson: ‘We will inspire the creation of a better Oklahoma in the future’: Last spring, Bob Blackburn announced he would be retiring as executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Blackburn, a historian and author, had held the post since 1999, so his departure marked a crucial juncture for the organization. In November, the Historical Society’s board of directors announced that Trait Thompson had been selected as the new director. [NonDoc]

Lawmaker proposes exempting military retirement pay from taxes: While Oklahoma has one of the highest active and retired military populations in the nation, it has been ranked as one of the least tax-friendly states for military retirees, according to state Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond. Pugh said he believes one way to help make Oklahoma more attractive to veterans would be to eliminate the income tax on their retirement. If his Senate Bill 401 passes, Oklahoma would join 30 other states in exempting military retirement from state income tax. [Journal Record] OK 8th worst for retired veterans, lawmaker wants to change that. [Fox 25]

State treasurer hoping for economic boost after $500M shortfall: Gross Receipts to the State of Oklahoma Treasury ended 2020 down $520.9 million, or 3.8% compared to calendar year 2019. Despite December 2020’s receipts being down compared to the previous year, collections appear headed in the right direction. That month saw only a $4.8 million deficit, exceeding expectations considering the economic downturn created largely by the pandemic and the oil crisis. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers could lose campaign cash because of Capitol riot: Oklahoma members of Congress received tens of thousands of dollars in the last two years from corporate political committees that have announced they are pausing campaign contributions because of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. [The Oklahoman]

  • Inhofe withholds comment on House impeachment case, cites upcoming trial [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]
  • Sen. James Lankford apologizes to Black Tulsans for questioning presidential election results [Tulsa World]
  • Lawmakers, others urged to stay away from Oklahoma Capitol [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Oklahoma sends National Guard troops to Biden’s inauguration [AP News]
  • Capitol riot quashes OKC teacher’s plan to attend inauguration of Kamala Harris as VP [The Oklahoman]

U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern talks latest COVID-19 relief package, spending on Tulsa chamber call: First District Congressman Kevin Hern joined the Tulsa Regional Chamber for a virtual forum on the recent federal rollout of a $900 billion pandemic relief package. [Tulsa World]

  • Hern lands coveted post on Ways and Means Committee [Tulsa World]

Federal aid OK’d for more winter storm-struck counties: Federal emergency assistance has been approved for 16 more Oklahoma counties paralyzed for days by the October winter storm, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday. In a statement, Stitt said aid had been approved for Alfalfa, Blaine, Comanche, Custer, Ellis, Garfield, Grant, Jackson, Kay, Lincoln, Major, McClain, Pawnee, Stephens, Tillman and Washita counties. [AP News]

Criminal Justice News

TPD reports it’s on track to test 650 backlogged rape kits federal grant is covering: The Tulsa Police Department says they’re on track when it comes to testing rape kits out of a backlog of 3,000. A $1.5 million Department of Justice grant awarded in 2018 was supposed to pay for processing up to 650, as well as accompanying investigations and victim advocacy services. Capt. Jillian Phippen, who oversees the special victims unit, gave the city council an update this week. [Public Radio Tulsa]

OKC Law Enforcement task force hears new consultants, community members: On Thursday the Oklahoma City Law Enforcement Policy Task Force met to welcome their newly hired consulting firm 21cp Solutions. The Task Force also heard from a group of members about community-based concerns and suggestions for moving forward. [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma County hopes to have more rent assistance next month: Oklahoma County officials have applied for federal funds made available in the latest stimulus package specifically to help people pay for rent and utilities. Despite an eviction moratorium, dozens of people are being taken to court each day, because they haven’t been able to pay their rent. [FOX25]

Education News

School funding slashed in most Oklahoma districts as virtual enrollment soars: Nearly 86% of Oklahoma school districts will see their state funding cut this month as state dollars shift to rapidly growing virtual charter schools. Oklahoma’s education funds are distributed per student. With virtual charter schools enrollment skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, those districts are getting a larger piece of the funding pie while other districts are seeing their slice shrink. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“It’s the mitigation strategies — distancing, masking, hand hygiene — that are crucially important. If a school district does not do these things, they will likely make the pandemic worse by being open. This is why we don’t advise ‘you should open’ or ‘you should go remote,’ because it’s all about the public health measures.”

-Dr. Daniel Kelly Benjamin, senior author of the study cited by Gov. Stitt in announcing his new school quarantine policy. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have said neither they nor the study support the governor’s new policy. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s percentage increase of COVID-19 patients in acute-care hospitals between Nov. 12 and Jan. 11. [Tulsa World

Policy Note

Value-Based Care Isn’t Transforming Health Care Spending (podcast): As states have transitioned to value-based care and payment systems, many expected transformational change of health care payment systems. Despite these high expectations, value-based care has not led to significant improvements. This podcast explores the relationship between administrative costs and the high costs of healthcare prices. [Health Affairs]

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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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