In The Know: Health officials call for emergency declaration | Preparing for return to schools | Bringing everyone to the table

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

Policy Matters: Bringing everyone to the table: Managing groups – whether in private business or the public sector – is never an easy task, especially as we work with people who have an array of beliefs and life experiences. Successful leadership focuses on bringing people together toward a common vision; this requires leaders to emphasize inclusion, not division. Unfortunately, this lesson is being ignored by too many Oklahoma leaders recently. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma health experts call for emergency declaration as COVID surges again: Some Oklahoma health leaders are calling on the governor to reissue an emergency health declaration as the state’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, especially as children are set to return to school next month. Fueled by the delta variant and low vaccination rates, COVID-related hospitalizations nearly tripled in the last two weeks in Oklahoma, said Aaron Wendelboe, an epidemiologist with the University of Oklahoma’s College of Public Health. [The Oklahoman]

  • COVID-19: More than 5,000 new cases reported in Oklahoma last week; 413 hospitalized [Tulsa World] | [AP News]
  • OKC council members urge residents to get COVID vaccine as cases rise, precautions lift [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa has no plans to return to mask mandate or other COVID-19 restrictions, mayor says [Tulsa World]

With ‘normal’ school year looking less likely, educators and health professionals brace for return to class: Doctors and educators agree: More young people need to get vaccinated. Statewide, only 13% of eligible people in the 12-17 age group have gotten vaccinated. And with the Delta variant of the disease raging, it’s important to get the shot to limit its spread. Dr. Donna Tyungu is a pediatric infectious disease specialist with OU Health. She has been raising concerns that the Delta variant is affecting children more severely than the original strains of the virus did. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Officials say law prevents schools from protecting against COVID, no word on order from governor [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma City Public School officials talk safety plans for returning to classrooms [The Oklahoman]

Legislative panel looks at state’s spending of federal COVID-19 funds: A joint legislative panel on Wednesday held its first meeting concerning the spending of slightly more than $1.9 billion the state got through the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding will have a role in determining how state government spends its portion of the federal allocation. The committee will forward its recommendations to a group of six legislators and five executive branch officials who will formally score and send high-scoring priorities to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who will make the final allocation of funds. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma legislature discusses possible uses for $1.9 billion in federal COVID-19 relief [KOCO]

At one former Native American school in Oklahoma, honoring the dead now falls to alumni: A few miles from the Kansas border, a handful of Chilocco Indian Agricultural School alumni drove down a long dirt road on a warm July morning to tend to parts of the sprawling but now-crumbling campus. While much of the grounds are overgrown with weeds, the school’s graveyard, near Newkirk, receives precise manicuring. [The Frontier]

Health News

Work-based degree programs at OKC hospitals aimed at addressing nursing shortage: Two hospitals are partnering with Oklahoma Christian University to offer work-based degrees to their employees as part of a continued effort to address the state’s nursing shortage. The school announced the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center and Mercy Oklahoma would begin the flexible degree programs once the Board of Nursing approved them. [The Oklahoman]

State & Local Government News

Local, state, federal, tribal leaders discuss Oklahoma Medicaid expansion: With more than 2,000 Cherokee citizens already signed up under Oklahoma’s recent expansion of Medicaid, the Cherokee Nation recently hosted U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, and Indian Health Service Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler during a special visit marking Secretary Becerra’s first official visit to a tribal reservation. [Claremore Daily Progress]

Legislative watchdog office to evaluate Oklahoma teacher pay, K-12 education funding: A state legislative watchdog office will evaluate Oklahoma teacher pay in comparison to neighboring states and take a comprehensive look at state funding for K-12 education. A state legislative committee on Wednesday approved a work plan for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency for the next year. The plan puts a priority on examining state education funding and looking at outcomes tied to those dollars. [The Oklahoman]

Proposed public safety district would raise $17 million annually without increasing taxes, mayor says: Mayor G.T. Bynum outlined a plan Wednesday to establish a permanent public safety district that would raise approximately $17 million a year without increasing property taxes. The proposal is scheduled to be on the ballot in August 2022. [Tulsa World] Bynum told city councilors Wednesday that’s his plan under a new state law allowing public safety districts, which cities can create to dedicate generally stable property tax revenue to their police and fire departments rather than just sales tax. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Former Oklahoma County commissioner ‘borrowed’ tractor, charged with felony: Former Oklahoma County Commissioner Earl Rooms has been accused in a felony charge of unauthorized use of a Tinker Air Force Base tractor. Rooms, 80, in April “confessed to taking the tractor without permission to plow his leased property,” an Air Force investigator reported in a court affidavit. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Rep. Tom Cole hails change to federal grant notice on civics education: Rep. Tom Cole hailed a decision by Education Secretary Miguel Cardon on Monday to modify a civics education grant proposal that critics faulted for mentioning a New York Times project on slavery. [The Oklahoman]

Hern: American dream means working ‘until you’re not here anymore’: Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., emphasized his support for work requirements being placed on more social safety net programs during a Tuesday committee meeting, saying part of what makes America great is continuous labor. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Kiowa Executive, Legislative branches conflict over COVID-19 funds: A number of the people took their dissatisfaction with leadership of the Kiowa Tribe to the Carnegie streets Wednesday. The protesters were expressing their dissatisfaction with a continuing conflict between the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s executive and legislative branches regarding the distribution of funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). [The Lawton Constitution]

Criminal Justice News

Architectural-engineering firm aims to fix Oklahoma County’s constitutionally challenged jail: An architectural-engineering firm won a $125,000 contract in June to evaluate the state’s largest county jail and propose structural reforms. Frankfurt Short & Bruza was hired by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council or CJAC. Their research will focus on improving the Oklahoma County Detention Center’s capacity to provide medical care, education and addiction treatment. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Economic Opportunity

City of Tulsa getting another $9.5M for emergency rental assistance: Another round of emergency rental assistance funding is on its way to Tulsa. The city is receiving a $3.8 million initial disbursement from a total award of $9.5 million in the American Rescue Plan. The new funding is on top of $12 million in a previous coronavirus relief package to help pay late rent and utilities. City COVID Relief Funds Manager Alisa Dougless said the guidance for the new funds is less restrictive. [Public Radio Tulsa] OK Policy: Turning the tide on evictions: Using federal aid, support to reduce Oklahoma’s eviction crisis

Vista Shadow Mountain tenants given until Friday to move out: The Tulsa Fire Marshal’s Office on Wednesday gave tenants at Vista Shadow Mountain apartments two more days to get out of their units. The fire marshal and the city’s Working In Neighborhoods Department cited the complex earlier this month with multiple violations of the fire prevention and building maintenance codes and notified residents that they needed to vacate their apartments by Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

An Oklahoma wind farm was deemed a threat to public safety. Now there are plans to fix it: The owner of a dilapidated and dangerous wind farm in northwest Oklahoma plans to remove broken blades from seven towers and to fell two others that are topped with burnt-out nacelles that used to house generators. [The Oklahoman]

Marijuana top crop in Oklahoma, concerns on the rise: Over the last six to eight months, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) said Oklahoma has seen a huge influx of marijuana growers coming to the state, including both legal and criminal organizations. Mark Woodward is the OBN public information officer and said he credits that to cheaper land prices, licensing and loose regulations in the state. [FOX 25]

General News

‘Time has come to discuss’ the 1911 Nelson lynching in Okemah: The tragic story of Laura Nelson and her teenage son, L.D., took center stage last week at Okemah’s Crystal Theatre, a mere block from where they were grabbed by a white mob from the county jail in 1911, dragged out of town and lynched from a river bridge — with a photographer there to capture it all for a postcard. [NonDoc]

A walk to remember: University of Tulsa athletes and coaches trek to Black Wall Street as a show of unity: Athletes and coaches representing every sports program at the University of Tulsa laced up their sneakers Wednesday morning, but not for practice or a competition. The large group of several hundred departed campus for a unity walk, trekking roughly 4 miles toward downtown and ending in the Greenwood District near the historic site of Black Wall Street. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We’ve got to start having a coordinated, cohesive statewide response to prepare for this new wave.”

-Dr. George Monks, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, who is among the state’s health leaders who want to see an emergency order reinstated [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

>$24 per hour

What the minimum wage set in 2009 would be now if it kept pace with productivity

[Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research]

Policy Note

A $15 minimum wage would cost jobs, right? Probably not, economists say: Extensive research led by UC Berkeley economists and alumni has found that significant increases in the minimum wage have little, if any, impact on employers’ hiring decisions. In fact, the researchers say, a higher minimum wage can produce benefits not just for workers, but for their employers, their communities and the entire economy. [Berkeley News]

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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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