In The Know: Health officials sound warnings as virus numbers climb | Opioid money going unspent | Running a fair race

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: Running a fair race: While the words are very similar, there is a significant distinction between equality and equity. As I was thinking about the difference between them, I was reminded that the current Olympic games provide an excellent opportunity to showcase why equity should be our preferred goal. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

COVID-19: Oklahoma back in top 10 on virus cases: Only a couple of months after moving out of the top 10, Oklahoma is back to nearly leading the country in COVID-19 rates. In the most recent federal data available, the state on Monday bumped up to the federal government’s light-red zone for new cases per capita and dark-red zone for test positivity rate. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma sees ‘orange’ wave as COVID-19 cases increase statewide [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Tulsa County facing even worse COVID-19 numbers if residents don’t get vaccinated, Tulsa Health Department executive director tells city councilors [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • As Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases climb, state sees an uptick in new vaccinations [The Oklahoman]
  • As COVID cases surge, Rep. Frank Lucas urges Oklahomans to get vaccinated [The Oklahoman]
  • No hazard leave for unvaccinated Tulsa city employees [Tulsa World]
  • Parents, tell us what you want to know about kids’ return to school as COVID cases climb [The Oklahoman]

Most of the money Oklahoma secured from opioid companies has gone unspent: Oklahoma has secured more than $372.6 million in settlements from drug manufacturers and distributors, but only about 15 percent of the money has so far gone to pay for opioid addiction research and treatment. Millions more dollars have gone to pay for outside attorneys fees. And Oklahoma State University has yet to use any of the more than $100 million it received in state settlement money in 2019 to create a new national addiction treatment and research center. [The Frontier]

Health News

EMSA response times below standards due to staffing shortages: Response times for Oklahoma’s largest ambulatory care provider have not met compliance standards in more than a year for the Oklahoma City area, largely due to staffing shortages. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Okla. lawmaker calls for special session to prevent private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccine: An Oklahoma lawmaker is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to convene a special session for the legislature to prevent private businesses from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. State Republican Sen. Warren Hamilton sent a letter to the governor, saying he’d like to see the legislature prohibit any entity from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. [KOCO]

Six months after storm, $4 billion in utility debts loom: During a meeting this morning, the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority approved contracting with bond counsel, special counsel, disclosure counsel and 18 banks to underwrite the state’s new, mammoth utility ratepayer debt securitization programs. ODFA could end up issuing about $4 billion in bonds in an effort to limit the interest rate payments that utility companies will pass along to Oklahomans who sustained inflated electricity and gas bills when natural gas prices spiked during February’s historic winter storm. [NonDoc]

Lawmakers criticize OU over SEC decision; 34 sign letter expressing disappointment: In a letter to University of Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz on Wednesday, several lawmakers expressed disappointment in the school’s decision to leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference with the University of Texas. [Tulsa World]

  • Big 12 sends ‘cease and desist’ letter to ESPN as Oklahoma, Texas seek SEC membership [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Hern slams proposed spending increases for climate change, education, family planning, more: Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) on Tuesday called for a 20% reduction in proposed spending increases in House Democrats’ “minibus” spending package, lambasting what he called several “massive” increases to various federal agencies. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation runoff: Two candidates request recounts, consider challenges: Two candidates who finished second in their races Saturday for open Cherokee Nation Tribal Council seats quickly questioned the unofficial results and filed requests for recounts this afternoon. District 2 candidate Bobby Slover and District 7 candidate David Comingdeer sent NonDoc copies of their official paperwork requesting recounts in the Cherokee Nation runoff. [NonDoc]

‘This project has persevered’: Get a first look at Oklahoma City’s First Americans Museum: The building sat as an empty shell for years, museum Director James Pepper Henry said. Seeing the hard work come to fruition was rewarding, he said, for him and board members of the American Indian Cultural Center Foundation and the Native American Cultural and Education Authority who got a first look on Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Jail trust contracts juvenile housing with Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office: The Oklahoma County Jail Trust signed an agreement Monday with the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office for use of Pawnee County’s detention facilities for housing youthful offenders. The contract came after the trust was forced to relocate juvenile detainees after a failed Oklahoma State Department of Health jail inspection. The June 23 inspection, an unplanned follow-up to one in February, cited 35 deficiencies at the Oklahoma County jail. [The Oklahoman]

OSBI investigates separate police shootings in Oklahoma: State investigators are investigating separate police shootings in Chickasha and near Marlow in Stephens County, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reported Wednesday. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

‘Better for everyone’: Officials urge Tulsa landlords to seek rental assistance instead of evictions: With the federal government’s eviction moratorium ending this weekend, Tulsa could face an unprecedented wave of homelessness if local landlords don’t help tenants apply for financial assistance instead of taking them to court, officials said Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • City Council creates working group to tackle rental property maintenance, tenants’ rights [Tulsa World]
  • Officials promote rental assistance as eviction moratorium ends, hundreds face legal action [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa City Leaders To Discuss Eviction Prevention Resources Ahead Of Federal Eviction Moratorium’s End [News On 6]

Project helps Metro Park neighborhood connect, improve quality of life: “This is my neighborhood. I love it,” said Cecilia Middleton about the Metro Park neighborhood west of downtown Oklahoma City. We stood on her porch and visited about her neighborhood as a church youth group from Texas was hard at work preparing her backyard for a replacement fence. Local donors provided the materials. [Free Press OKC]

Education News

How one Oklahoma school district is using the state’s Counselor Corps to improve mental health accessibility: Brenda Dalton knows the ideal way to get kids in Poteau back into the swing of things for learning is to give them mental health support. “We feel like the best thing for our students is for someone to be here on staff who knows our teachers and knows our kids, every day,” she said. That’s why the Poteau Public Schools Student Services Director made a big bet on asking for help via Oklahoma’s Counselor Corps, a $35 million program to hire hundreds of counselors in schools across the state. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

OU strategic plan maps out research, student body goals for years ahead: The Oklahoma Policy Institute reports that from 2008 to 2019, Oklahoma cut higher education allocations by 35.3% per student, becoming one of only six states that cut funding more than 30% during those years. [The Norman Transcript]

State Regents for Higher Education: Search for new chancellor finally moving forward: It has been nearly two years since Glen D. Johnson announced his intended retirement as chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, but the former Democratic speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives will remain in his lucrative state job for another few months as the search for his successor is only now underway. [NonDoc]

General News

Massacre reparations legal team says additional litigation over graves investigation possible: The legal team representing the three known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in a lawsuit for reparations for the attack and its ongoing harm said they may bring additional litigation regarding the city of Tulsa’s oversight of the search for massacre victims’ remains. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Medicaid signup fair coming to Del City [KFOR]
  • As state takes over Western Heights, community activism at heart of changes for troubled district [The Oklahoman]
  • Hotel assessments to begin again Sunday as city reestablishes Tourism Improvement District [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“If we had had the same vaccine rates in May, June and July that we had had previously, we wouldn’t be here today. We have got to get our vaccination rates up over 75% but continue to take this layered approach to it with (the) vaccine, masks, and hand washing if we are truly going to get past this.”

-Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart speaking about the need to increase vaccinations in Oklahoma, where only about half of adults are fully vaccinated [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of all Oklahoma childbirths in 2019 that were covered by Medicaid. More than 28,000 Oklahoma births were covered by Medicaid that year.

[Source: OHCA]

Policy Note

Expanding Medicaid for Parents Improves Coverage and Health for Both Parents and Children: Medicaid coverage has health and other benefits for children that extend into adulthood, other research shows. Children also benefit directly when their parents gain coverage because the parents have better access to care and health outcomes and the family has more financial security. [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.

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