In The Know: Health care workers share their exhaustion with latest virus wave | Virus protection in schools | 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

‘Barely hanging on’: An Oklahoma City ICU nurse on the exhaustion of another COVID surge: The staff in the intensive-care unit at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital was finally coming up for air when the latest COVID-19 surge hit. The wave came rapidly and, with it, familiar feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. “We were starting to process everything we’ve seen,” said Amy Petitt, an ICU charge nurse at the hospital. “And all of a sudden, it feels like we’re back to where we were less than a year ago.” [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma again expediting some medical licenses due to COVID-19 surge [The Oklahoman]
  • Hospitals manage their own elective procedures amid staffing shortage, rising COVID patient numbers [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Study: Oklahoma 7th least prepared state for hospital capacity [KFOR]
  • Some COVID Patients Fighting For Their Lives Rely On ECMO To Oxygenate Their Blood [KOSU]
  • ICU nurse says her colleagues are thinking about quitting as COVID surge causes PTSD, anxiety [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • In leadup to Wednesday’s City Council vote on COVID-19 restrictions, Bynum meets with local GOP officials [Tulsa World]
  • Breweries call on Tulsa City Council to approve new mask mandate [Public Radio Tulsa] | [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • City of Tulsa hard pressed to find single citation issued during first mask mandate [Tulsa World]

Tahlequah school board to consider joining lawsuit challenging state mask law: A northeastern Oklahoma school district might be joining a legal challenge over the state’s ban on school mask mandates. Tahlequah Public Schools’ Board of Education has a special meeting scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider bringing in outside legal counsel specifically to join a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Oklahoma County District Court against the state and Gov. Kevin Stitt over portions of Senate Bill 658. [Tulsa World]

  • Despite high community spread, COVID quarantine rules loosen this school year in Oklahoma [KGOU]
  • Education Watch: Vaccinated Teachers are Getting COVID-19 [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Okmulgee Public Schools recommending, not requiring mask wearing for students [Tulsa World]
  • Which Oklahoma City metro-area schools are requiring masks? Check local districts here [The Oklahoman]

Health News

“I need people to understand how prevalent it is”: Oklahoma suicide rates ascend amid pandemic: As Oklahomans continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also dealing with a suicide epidemic that’s impacting the state. Data from the state medical examiner’s office show 883 Oklahomans died by suicide in 2020, the highest amount since 2006. And many state health officials are pointing out how it affects the state’s adolescent population. [KFOR]

$5 million multi-year grant to help boost Oklahoma’s youth mental health services: Oklahoma has received a $5 million, multi-year grant for mental health and substance abuse treatment access and support services for youths and young adults. The grant, awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will provide $1 million per year for each of the next five years. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Concerns about Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority oversight renewed with new director’s appointment: As Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration last week announced a new director for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, its fourth in three years, some lawmakers shared ongoing concerns about the state agency’s operations, organization and oversight. House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, along with Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, led a bipartisan, bicameral medical marijuana legislative working group created after the passage of State Question 788 in 2018. Echols said he supports the appointment of Adria Berry in the new role at the helm of OMMA but thinks “fundamental flaws” still exist within the agency’s structure. [Tulsa World]

New Oklahoma attorney general on Bar Association rating, death penalty and tribal gaming: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor is expected to face a lively election race with fellow Republican Gentner Drummond. Gov. Kevin Stitt recently appointed O’Connor, 66, of Tulsa to the post to replace Mike Hunter, who abruptly resigned, citing personal reasons. O’Connor discussed the race and other topics during an interview with the Tulsa World on Tuesday. He said he plans to run for the office during the next election. [Tulsa World]

How does Oklahoma stack up? Here’s where our state ranks on education, child welfare & more: Grading Oklahoma is a weekly look at how we stack up on a national scale. Each week, The Oklahoman features a different subject area to illustrate and examine on a closer level. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Solutions and struggle: Native American tribes receive federal relief: Congress allocated a historic amount of federal funds to tribes through the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. For some Indigenous communities, those federal funds were beneficial. For others, the pandemic highlighted deeper systemic complexities federal funding cannot fully address. [News21 / NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Jury awards more than $1 million to family of teen killed in Tulsa motorcycle crash involving deputy’s U-turn: A Tulsa County jury this month recommended that more than $1.6 million in damages be awarded to the family of a teenager killed in a 2017 head-on motorcycle crash after a sheriff’s deputy made an improper U-turn in an attempt to pursue a different motorcyclist for speeding. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

After years of rising bills, many Americans can’t afford water: Last year, 19 states banned utility shutoffs for water customers who couldn’t afford to pay for this vital resource. As local utilities have begun to resume shutoffs in states where moratoriums have expired, an estimated 28% of Americans are still struggling to pay their usual household expenses, according to a US Census Bureau survey from early August. [Big If True]

Education News

New law requires Oklahoma school districts to ask students for tribal affiliation: A new law for the first time requires school districts to ask students for their specific tribal affiliations in a bid to better target federal funds earmarked for Native American children to the schools they attend. House Bill 1104, which takes effect Thursday, requires districts to include an option for students to self-identify their tribal affiliations as part of mandatory demographic data collection that already includes the collection of things such as grade level, date of birth, attendance and special education. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Hofmeister announces $4.2M grant to combat Oklahoma’s teacher shortage: Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced a $4.2 million grant that will help the Oklahoma chapter of Teach for America launch a statewide strategy to increase school effectiveness, build a strong pipeline of educators, and address pandemic-related learning loss. [KOCO]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Ottawa County deputy named Fairland Police chief at special town board meeting [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I had to explain to my 6-year-old when she said, ‘They said I don’t have to wear masks at school,’ and I had to explain to her why Mommy says you have to wear masks. That fear of sending my kids to school and then coming here and dealing with this — it’s a lot.” 

-Amy Petitt, an ICU charge nurse at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, describing some of the personal strains the latest COVID-19 wave is causing [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Amount of child support paid to an Oklahoma family receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Each dollar is counted as income to the recipient but kept by the state. [Urban Institute and the Administration for Children & Families (ACF)]

Policy Note

TANF at 25: Poverty Remains High Among the Nation’s Babies, But Few are Assisted: Families with infants and toddlers face a variety of challenges that affect their ability to meet children’s basic needs and provide a stable physical environment for optimal development. For families living in poverty, feeding, clothing, and housing are among the largest challenges. Yet, few families who could benefit from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program’s basic cash assistance receive it. Equally troubling are the persistent effects of historical racism and sexism in TANF and earlier economic assistance programs that contribute to lower allocation of TANF funds to direct assistance in states with higher populations of Black families and other families of color. In this fact sheet we take a look at TANF, now 25 years old, and its role in the lives of babies in poverty. [Zero to Three]

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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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