In The Know: Hospitals nearing breaking point during current surge | Tulsa schools weighing possible lawsuits on school mask ban | 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.

New from OK Policy

We’re Hiring: Join the team as a Communications and Operations Fellow: The Oklahoma Policy Institute is currently hiring for a Communications and Operations Fellow. The Communications and Operations Fellow supports the organization’s external communications and development objectives. Applications for this position close on August 23, 2021 at 5:00 PM (CST). Click here to learn more and apply.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma hospitals near breaking point with COVID-19: The state’s hospital system is nearing the breaking point as COVID-19 admissions climb and nursing shortages plague facilities, but the governor said no state of emergency is needed at this point. The head of Oklahoma Hospital Association on Tuesday, meanwhile, called on state officials to grant Oklahoma hospitals the same flexibility they were given last year in order to combat the latest virus spike. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Oklahoma’s hospital capacity heading in wrong direction as delta variant tears through state [KOCO]
  • Vaccinations are on the rise in Oklahoma as hospitals beds fill up with new cases [The Frontier]
  • Arkansas down to 8 ICU beds as COVID rips through the state [NBC News]
  • COVID-19 Tracker: Number of Oklahomans hospitalized with coronavirus  [The Frontier]
  • Video: Tulsa Health Department’s Dr. Bruce Dart gives COVID-19 update [Tulsa World]

Tulsa school board initiating discussion about potential lawsuits related to state ban on school mask mandates: School board leaders are initiating discussions with their attorneys about legal threats to Tulsa Public Schools and a possible legal challenge by the district related to Oklahoma’s new prohibition on school mask mandates. A special meeting of the Tulsa school board has been set for 5 p.m. Wednesday. On tap is a vote on a resolution regarding COVID-19 safety measures and an executive session with the board’s attorneys. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma school leader, governor to talk emergency order [AP News]
  • As schools return, Stitt maintains no emergency declaration or mask requirements needed [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • As Carter County schools begin, COVID-19 pandemic precautions subject to change [The Daily Ardmoreite]
  • Oklahoma doctors discuss uptick in younger COVID-19 cases as students head back to school [KFOR]

Health News

In Oklahoma and other states, social media influencers lift vaccine rates: Abena Antwiwaa, a 29-year-old fashion blogger in Aurora, wrote about her nerve-wracking decision to get vaccinated on Instagram. Born with sickle cell anemia, Antwiwaa needs monthly blood transfusions. She worried about her low immunity and potential side effects. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Will Oklahoma start paying pandemic-era unemployment benefits again?: Following an Oklahoma County judge’s ruling, will the state will start paying out pandemic-era unemployment benefits again? It’s too early to say for sure. Unemployed Oklahomans are waiting for answers after an Oklahoma County judge ruled that several federal unemployment programs must be temporarily reinstated. Confusing the issue was a nearly simultaneous order by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that it should hear that case instead of the lower court. [The Oklahoman]

  • Jobless Oklahomans just won back unemployment benefits — at least the 3rd GOP-governed state where that’s happened [Business Insider]

Hospital COVID-19 vaccination requirement has some lawmakers asking for state ban: A battle is brewing over vaccine mandates in local hospitals. Metro hospitals said they’ll require employees to get vaccinated, but there’s growing pushback from some state lawmakers. [KOCO]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Senators Inhofe, Lankford oppose infrastructure bill: Oklahoma’s two senators voted against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday. Sen. James Lankford raised his concerns with the overspending in the infrastructure bill and the proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation the Senate moved to Tuesday, according to a press release. Lankford raised a budget point of order before final passage of the “infrastructure” bill to make the case that this bill will add billions to the debt and is paid for with budget gimmicks. [The Lawton Constitution] Sen. Jim Inhofe, who backed major portions of the bill earlier this year in a Senate committee, said the final product was a “grab bag of bad policy decisions.” Sen. James Lankford said he opposed the legislation because it would increase the national debt. [The Oklahoman]

Frozen USDA funds yet another setback for Oklahoma’s Black farmers: The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed in March included a program that allotted $4 billion from the USDA to “socially disadvantaged farmers” for debt relief. The program promised a leg up to minority farmers, including Black farmers such as Lee, who have historically struggled to procure the funding their white counterparts have received. [NonDoc]

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin says his recruits could tip the House scales in 2022: Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin may have a vested interest in saying Republicans will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022, but he also has some inside knowledge. Mullin takes some pride in recruiting congressional candidates. He says he recruited 10 of the 14 Republicans who flipped Democratic seats in 2020 and is confident that the GOP will erase the Democrats’ narrow majority. [Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County jail inmate dies: An inmate at the Oklahoma County jail died Tuesday, 11 days into his latest stay. Jimmy Dean Bedford was 54. Bedford went into cardiac arrest Tuesday in the jail’s medical unit, the jail said in a news release. [The Oklahoman] This marks the 8th death at the Oklahoma County Jail death in 2021 — the investigation now begins. [OKC Free Press]

Public input sought on Oklahoma County jail at Thursday meeting: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council will host a meeting at 6-8 p.m. Thursday to allow the public to express concerns and offer suggestions about the Oklahoma County jail. [The Oklahoman]

Group releases recommendations for changes on community policing, law enforcement policy in OKC: A news release says the preliminary report is the product of more than a year of background work with dozens of community groups and hundreds of local leaders that included service professionals, lawmakers, activists, organizers, religious leaders, mental health experts, advocates for people experiencing homelessness and others. [KOCO]

How Charles Whiters went from death row to advocating for others: Charles Joe Edward Whiters was arrested when he was 14 years old and served 26 and half years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Whiters was released in April 2019 and now is a prison reform advocate who works with Oklahoma City youth to help them avoid going down a similar path. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma paper challenges judge’s decision to close hearing: An Oklahoma newspaper on Tuesday challenged a judge’s decision to ban the public from a hearing in the case of a Muskogee man accused of killing six people, including five children. An attorney for the Muskogee Phoenix filed a motion to intervene in the case after District Judge Bret Smith barred a reporter for the newspaper and two other members of the media from attending a preliminary hearing in the case on Monday. [AP News]

Economy & Business

Small business optimism wanes; job vacancies cited: Optimism among small business owners and managers dipped in July, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Inability to fill jobs and concerns over supply chain disruptions were key concerns cited in Oklahoma and across the country, according to the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index report. [The Journal Record]

General News

‘Reservation Dogs,’ shot in Oklahoma, smashes stereotypes of Indigenous people: Two Indigenous filmmakers are smashing the caricatures and stereotypes of Native Americans, who since the earliest days of film and TV have often played supporting roles or been portrayed as bloodthirsty killers standing in the way of white, westward expansion. [KOCO] Sterlin Harjo, a Seminole and Muscogee filmmaker from Oklahoma, teamed up with Taika Waititi, a Maori director from New Zealand, on Reservation Dogs, a new series debuting Monday on FX on Hulu [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Finalists chosen for Evans-Fintube redevelopment project in Greenwood District [Tulsa World]
  • Gang feuds fueling increase in shootings, police say; activity doubles as cyber attack, court changes cripple response [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Route 66 Commission plans $1.5M ask for American Rescue Plan Funding from city [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Again, this isn’t political. This genuinely isn’t political. This is protection of the people who have no other option than for the adults in the room to protect them. Period.”

-Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education President Stacey Woolley speaking about schools being unable to implement mask requirements due to SB 658 [Public Radio Tulsa

Number of the Day


Number of states — including Oklahoma — that have laws or executive orders that prohibit school districts from requiring students to wear masks. Ten states and the District of Columbia have adopted the CDC’s recommendation to require masks in public schools. [Pew Research]

Policy Note

Recovery Proposals Adopt Proven Approaches to Reducing Poverty, Increasing Social Mobility: Even after government assistance, 1 in 8 children live in families with incomes below the poverty line — significantly more than in other countries of comparable wealth. There are wide racial and ethnic disparities in poverty among children, with fully 21 percent of Black children, 20 percent of Latinx children, and 14 percent of Asian children living in families with incomes below the poverty line, compared to just 8 percent of white children. Poverty rates are also high for American Indian and Alaska Native children. There is also less upward economic mobility in the United States than in Canada, Denmark, or the United Kingdom, research by noted economist Raj Chetty has shown, with mobility particularly low among Black individuals. [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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