In The Know: Hospitals record doubling of COVID numbers | State school enrollment down | More fallout after capitol riot

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

COVID-19 forecast for January: ‘Doubling of most of our numbers,’ says Project ECHO leader: Hospitals are crunched. Medical care is suffering. COVID-19’s rate of infection is rising. And January in Oklahoma is shaping up to continue worsening. Dr. Jennifer Clark’s weekly COVID-19 session for Project ECHO on Wednesday laid out what projects to be a difficult and deadly month as limited batches of vaccinations make it out each week from the federal government. [Tulsa World]

  • As Oklahoma expands COVID vaccine distribution, those over 65 say ‘I’ve been living for this day’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Update: Scheduling vaccinations on hold as Tulsa County reports ‘technical difficulties’ with state portal [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Phase 2 of vaccinations gets off to a slow start [Southwest Ledger]
  • Tulsa County on track for 8% of residents infected by coronavirus by Friday, 10% by month’s end [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 39 more deaths reported in Oklahoma, with nearly 3,500 new cases daily [Tulsa World]
  • Lawton Community Corrections Center a COVID-19 ‘hot’ spot [Southwest Ledger]
  • Safety stressed in Comanche County jail [Southwest Ledger]

9,500 students down: Pandemic prompts 1st enrollment decline in nearly two decades for Oklahoma public schools: Oklahoma’s public school enrollment has seen its first downturn in 19 years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the biggest hits have been to pre-K and kindergarten. [Tulsa World] Total Oklahoma public school enrollment fell by 9,537 students — or about 1.5 percent — for the current school year, marking the first time statewide enrollment has dropped in more than a decade. [NonDoc] More than 400 of the state’s 538 districts shrank when compared to the previous year. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Unstable enrollment complicates Oklahoma public school funding picture [Oklahoma Watch]

After riot, most Oklahoma lawmakers still vote to reject two states’ electoral votes: Oklahoma’s senators voted against an attempt to reject electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, while all five Oklahoma members of the U.S. House voted to uphold the objections and not accept those states’ results. [The Oklahoman] Representatives Markwayne Mullin, Kevin Hern, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas and Stephanie Bice all voted to refuse the will of the voters in those two states, which President Donald Trump lost in his reelection bid. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Oklahoma man at Capitol: ‘We could have tore that building down brick by brick [New York Times / Tulsa World]
  • Feds vow to ‘fully prosecute’ Oklahomans who traveled to D.C. with intent to attack Capitol [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • No one’s to blame, everyone’s to blame for Capitol riot, says U.S. Rep Markwayne Mullin [Tulsa World]
  • Bice condemns “rioters” without acknowledging their connection to Trump [OKC Free Press]
  • Editorial: Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation must answer for their actions after American democracy is challenged [Tulsa World Editorial]

Health News

Medical groups criticize proposed Oklahoma vaccine rule: An Oklahoma State Department of Health proposal that will make it easier for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children is being criticized by several state medical experts. [AP News] The agency is considering a rule change that would remove the requirement that parents go to the local health department and obtain a brief instructional presentation before deciding whether or not to vaccinate a child. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

State preparing businesses for how to access new pandemic relief funds: State officials expressed confidence Thursday that the federal rollout of a $900 billion pandemic relief package will cause fewer headaches than the stimulus passed early last year. [Tulsa World]

Unemployment claims continue to decline; state officials say 75% of calls now resolved on first attempt: First-time unemployment claims declined by nearly 9% in Oklahoma last week from the prior week’s revised figures, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 4,594 initial unemployment claims were filed last week in Oklahoma, compared to 5,031 initial claims the previous week. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19, budget issues will headline upcoming state legislative session: The fallout from the coronavirus has hammered the state’s economy, forced many businesses to close and eliminated thousands of jobs. Last fall the legislature’s Republican leadership expressed concerned over the state’s budget, anticipating big reductions in tax revenue and substantial budget cuts. [Southwest Ledger] OK Policy: The FY 2022 budget outlook may be better than expected, but it doesn’t suggest the state’s long-term budget slide is over

Oklahoma senator introduces Religious Freedom Act: State Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, has filed a measure that would modify the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act to ensure government entities cannot close churches, religious institutions or houses of worship. The measure is a response to the closure of churches and houses of worship across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Lawton Constitition]

Daniel Pae named vice chair to two Oklahoma House committees: Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, has been named co-vice chair of the State and Federal Redistricting Committee and vice chair of the Appropriations and Budget General Government Committee during the 58th Oklahoma Legislature that begins Feb. 1. [The Lawton Constitution]

Criminal Justice News

Court orders Ward to remain in prison pending appeal by state: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered on Thursday that Tommy Ward, whose 1989 murder conviction was overturned last month, must remain in prison while the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office appeals the case. [The Frontier] Fontenot, Ward’s co-defendant, was ordered released by a federal judge in 2019, and the state is also appealing that order. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

Eviction moratorium is a double-edged sword: The state has money to help those facing eviction stay in their homes, but those funds may only be used to help people who are actually facing eviction, said Marshall Vogts, director of community development at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. As long as the moratorium remains in place, the state cannot provide those funds to those who need them. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Survey: Economic growth continues but slowing in mid-America region: A monthly manufacturing survey shows economic growth continuing in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma, but surging coronavirus cases are starting to put a damper on expectations. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Farmers Union creates organization for consumers to get beef straight from Oklahoma: When the pandemic disrupted supply chains across the country, many grocery store meat shelves were empty. Now, Oklahoma ranchers are finding more ways to sell local beef straight to consumers. [KOSU]

Devon’s and WPX’s efforts to form Oklahoma’s newest energy giant are done. Now, workforce integration begins: Devon Energy and WPX Energy have closed on their agreement to create a new company that holds a dominant position in the Delaware Basin. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Thunder proposes going first in MAPS 4 [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa city planning officials to hold online public meetings to discuss infill, comprehensive plan and more [Tulsa World]
  • Broken Arrow City Council still shows no appetite for mask measure [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Legislators invite public to redistricting town hall meeting in Ponca City [Ponca City News]

Quote of the Day

“A trend that’s not sustainable.”

-Dr. Jennifer Clark, OSU Center for Health Sciences faculty expert on health care delivery sciences and former hospital administrator, noting the average percentage of patients with COVID in hospitals has doubled since November to 30% from 15%. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage decrease in Oklahoma’s overall public school enrollment as of the Oct. 1 student count. This is the first downturn in public school enrollment in 19 years, which officials say was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. [Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education via NonDoc]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Coronavirus Puts a Spotlight on Paid Leave Policies: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials recommend that people who are sick with COVID-19 should stay home and that employers should consider implementing a telecommuting program when possible. Benefits such as sick leave and family leave can help employees follow these guidelines. However, the U.S. does not have national standards on paid family or sick leave. Our current system is a patchwork of policies that are determined by employers, state and local laws, or negotiated through labor contracts. Offer rates vary between employers, the reasons for needing leave, and the employment status of their workers. The lack of a national policy means some employees are forced to take unpaid leave, or come to work when they are ill. The lack of paid leave disproportionately impacts certain populations, including low-income persons, who are less likely to have access to these benefits, and could have public health consequences if people cannot afford to take time off. Lack of paid leave also has a large impact on women, who take on the bulk of health care responsibilities for their family members and may have to miss work as a result. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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