In The Know: Hospital officials pleading for increased vaccination | State suicides highest level since 2006 | What Census numbers mean for Oklahoma

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

Saint Francis Hospital officials plead for vaccinations, mask-wearing as Tulsa County sets hospitalizations record: On the day Tulsa County broke its COVID-19 hospitalization record, Saint Francis Health System hosted a news media briefing to plead with the community to help beleaguered medical professionals by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask. In the past six weeks, Saint Francis Health System has gone from 30 COVID-19 inpatients to more than 260 — approaching its record 309 in January. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘We’re drowning’: Doctor describes worsening conditions inside Oklahoma hospitals [KTUL]
  • Hospitals on the brink as Oklahoma health care workers stretched to the limit due to COVID-19 [KOCO]
  • Tulsa Council Takes No Action On Proposed New Mask Requirement In Special Meeting [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • With Oklahoma Hospitals Strained Under COVID Surge, Some Patients Sent To Distant States [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OSDH: Boosters Available For Some In Oklahoma, No Prediction On Timing Of Approval For Others [Public Radio Tulsa] | [The Lawton Constitution]

Conservative Republicans, business community divided over vaccine mandates: Tensions grew Monday between conservative Republicans and the state’s business community over whether employers should have the power to impose COVID-19 vaccination policies. Chad Warmington, president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, said Monday that he hoped that the long-time pro-business Legislature wasn’t planning to reverse course due to a global pandemic and overreach into the private sector. [CNHI via McAlester News Capital]

Health News

Oklahoma Suicides Climb to Highest Point Since 2006: Experts began warning of dire consequences soon after the pandemic arrived: Mental health crises would escalate. Suicides would rise. In Oklahoma, those predictions came true. Last year, 883 Oklahomans died by suicide, according to data provided by the state medical examiner’s office. That’s nearly a 10% increase over 2019. It’s also the highest number of suicides since at least 2006 — when the agency began publishing the information online — an Oklahoma Watch analysis found. [Oklahoma Watch]

OMRF to investigate link between viral infection, autoimmunity: The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation $480,000 to investigate the long-term effects of viral infections on autoimmunity. [The Oklahoman]

1 in 3 women in OKC have heart disease; event to raise awareness: Planning is underway for the 2021 Oklahoma City Go Red for Women luncheon, an event of the American Heart Association to raise awareness and enlist support in the fight against heart attack and stroke. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Capitol Watch: What the New Census Data Means For Oklahoma: Oklahoma lawmakers will be representing a much more diverse, urban-centric and larger population than in the past. New Census data released Thursday reveals that Oklahoma grew its population by more than 200,000 over the past decade. That growth was hardly uniform. As the map shows, many rural counties lost a significant portion of their population during the past decade. But growth in the metro areas, namely Oklahoma City and Tulsa, has more than made up for those losses. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Mayor Holt reacts to census data showing that Oklahoma City continues to grow [KOCO]
  • Census reveals double-barreled boost for OKC [The Journal Record]
  • City, county officials will be analyzing results of U.S. Census count [The Lawton Constitution]

DPS megacenter opens in Tulsa for Real IDs, driver’s licenses: With a burned U.S. passport book in tow, Tulsan Ismael Lopez arrived at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s new Tulsa megacenter before 6 a.m. on Monday in hopes of easing the process of recovering essential documents lost to a fire earlier this year. “Our house burned down, and that was the only identification I had left,” Lopez said while at the center, located at Kensington Business Center, 7130 S. Lewis Ave., Suite 190. [Tulsa World] The Department of Public Safety is offering a variety of renewal and replacement services there on a walk-in basis, including REAL ID compliant cards. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma GOP Continues Holocaust Rhetoric At Capitol Rally Opposing Public Health Measures: At a Saturday rally inside the Oklahoma State Capitol opposing COVID-19 public health measures, the Oklahoma Republican Party continued its now-familiar messaging comparing pandemic-related policies to Nazi Germany and its atrocities. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

State lawmakers who served in Afghanistan have mixed feelings about troop withdrawal: Oklahoma lawmakers who served in Afghanistan have mixed emotions about President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out troops and how quickly the country fell to the Taliban, they said Monday. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Paul, Weiss inked $700K contract with Oklahoma to undo tribal rights ruling: A contract between Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Oklahoma offers a fresh look at the hourly rate for a leading U.S. Supreme Court practitioner, who is now asking the justices to overturn or limit a landmark tribal rights decision from July 2020 that upended criminal justice jurisdiction in the state. [Reuters]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County Jail Trust faces continued criticism from public at Monday meeting: Monday’s meeting of the Oklahoma County Jail Trust saw the members of the body once again met with public criticism. Members of the public pointed out the failure of the trust members to show up at a public listening meeting about the jail hosted by the Criminal Justice Advisory Council on Thursday night. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma County Jail Trust takes no action in light of recent deaths [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma County Jail has ninth death so far this year [OKC Free Press]

Op-Ed: Oklahoma County District Attorney Prater needs to act with more transparency: “Mr. Prater has a tough job. It is not his job, however, to withhold information that could bring clarity to a case when a man’s life hangs in the balance. Over the years, the state of Oklahoma has exonerated 10 death row inmates because of prosecutorial conduct and actual innocence. That they were on death row in the first place should deeply concern all of us.” [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Millions still available for rent aid – here’s how you can get assistance: The fight over evictions rages on as pandemic numbers creep higher, but legal challenges are mounting and experts say those seeking aid should be applying now. Just last month, News 4 met with the Community Cares Partners Program, who was pushing the importance of applying for aid. Those concerns, were echoed by the Community Action Agency. [KFOR]

Economy & Business News

Cannabis panelists: Untapped resources are behind bars: While highly educated businesspeople forge ahead into the unknown of the confusing but highly lucrative cannabis market in Oklahoma, many of the real experts in the field are sitting in jail, serving time as punishment for creating a successful cannabis business. Tapping into that resource could help the cannabis industry grow and improve, according to panelists who participated in Friday’s JR/Now webinar. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Op-Ed: How to keep latchkey kids out of the mental health ‘danger zone’: Every August, when Oklahoma children return to school, my thoughts turn to our latchkey kids and the hazards and menaces they face. These kids, who return from school to spend several hours home alone while their parents work, often feel lonely and isolated. Research shows prolonged loneliness can be devastating, possibly giving rise to depression, anxiety, irritability and high-risk behaviors. [Gail Lapidus, Op-Ed / NonDoc]  

Op-Ed: Hey, Coach, what was the Indian Removal Act?: Having taught Oklahoma history at the university level for the better part of four decades, I am quite happy to be retired. Were I still at it, some critic might take the opportunity to call me “woke” and raise holy hell about it. Fact is, you shouldn’t try teaching the history of our fair state unless you are “woke” from the outset. I don’t mean “woke” in the derogatory sense advanced by, oh, certain politicians and TV pundits. Indeed, a better word might be “informed,” which many teachers of state history certainly are not. [Op-Ed / NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma County Commissioners mull consultant to handle American Rescue Plan funds [The Oklahoman]
  • Booming downtown: Investment more than $800 million in last 5 years alone, city says [Tulsa World]
  • City to offer employees COVID vaccine incentive starting Monday [Enid News & Eagle]
  • City of Lawton addressing shortages of personnel, including E-911 dispatchers [The Lawton Constitution]
  • City facilities to begin enforcing social distancing Monday; empowerment event canceled [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“The hospitals basically can’t take any more transfers. They’re full … they have to send patients to Colorado and Utah. They can’t find beds. Missouri’s full. Arkansas’s full. Texas is full. Kansas is getting there. I mean, there’s no room for anyone.”

-Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart, speaking about the state’s hospital capacity, which has forced some sick Oklahomans to be sent for care to states as far away as Idaho [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Percentage increase of Oklahoma’s overall population between 2010 and 2020 [U.S. Census]

Policy Note

The Upcoming Census Redistricting Data Release, Explained: On August 12, the Census Bureau released the most detailed results from the 2020 Census so far. The numbers in this redistricting data file will enable states and localities to begin the once-a-decade redrawing of electoral districts. The bureau has said that it will also release the same information in a more user-friendly format by September 30. The redistricting process is very important because it can influence who gets elected, how various communities are represented, and the ways public resources are distributed. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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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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