In the Know: OK sets virus records again | Hospitals only admitting ‘sickest of sick’ | State leaders ignored effectiveness of mask orders

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

CoverOK, Oklahoma’s Medicaid advocacy coalition, will be holding a webinar on what Medicaid expansion means for our communities and how advocates can play a role in the Oklahoma legislative process. [Learn more or register]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma reports record number of COVID-19 cases on Sunday: Oklahoma’s health commissioner said the recent holiday season likely played a major role in the record number of COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 6,487 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, and 23 additional deaths. The number of daily cases was 24% higher than the previous record, set two days prior. [The Oklahoman

  • OSDH: Spike in COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma partly due to holidays, gatherings [KFOR]
  • 250K sign up for COVID vaccine in Oklahoma as new case numbers break records [The Oklahoman]
  • CVS delays prompt Oklahoma to step in with vaccinations for veteran centers [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Tulsans over 65 begin receiving vaccine Monday as many struggle to find appointments [KTUL]

Only COVID-19’s ‘sickest of the sick’ admitted as hospitals improvise to handle surge. Some ways are sustainable; others, like putting patients in hallways, aren’t: Oklahoma hospitals want a break, but worsening COVID-19 indicators aren’t pointing toward a reprieve yet. Some hospitals are putting patients in hallways, renovating conference rooms into ERs, converting entire wings into COVID units, limiting nonemergency procedures and surgeries, and admitting only the “sickest of the sick” COVID patients, according to health experts. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘The public should be gravely concerned.’ Integris could begin prioritizing patient access to care based on likelihood to recover [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa clinic’s chief medical officer pens letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt, pleading for more action [Tulsa World]

Stitt, state task force, ignored information proving the effectiveness of statewide mask mandates when selecting COVID-19 mitigation measures: Gov. Kevin Stitt and other members of Oklahoma’s COVID-19 task force implemented some proven methods to reduce the spread of the disease, while ignoring others that worked around the country. In a court case to determine whether Stitt can impose a curfew on bars and restaurants, evidence submitted by the state to justify the curfew also acknowledges the effectiveness of mask mandates in reducing the spread of COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

  • Editorial: When the White House said Oklahoma’s COVID response was too weak, Gov. Kevin Stitt quit listening [Tulsa World Editorial]

Health News

‘God, please keep us safe’: Amid COVID, an Oklahoma nursing home faces impossible decisions: Oklahoma has had some of the nation’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, intensifying the struggle nursing home workers face. Long-term care residents and staff account for 3% of the state’s infections and 30% of deaths. At least 765 Oklahomans who lived and worked in a place like Beadles Nursing Home in Alva have died. They were somebody’s dad. Someone’s strict professor. A beloved aunt. A loyal friend. [Oklahoma Watch]

Pandemic affecting health care, Lawton hospital CEO says: While health care professionals are on the front line in the battle against COVID-19, the medical community as a whole is facing problems, said Elizabeth Jones, CEO of Southwestern Medical Center. Jones said the health care industry “is not thriving.” While health care facilities have ramped up this year to care for patients with COVID-19, they have had to cut back on other medical services to balance needs and demands, something that has had to be done since the early days of the pandemic nine months ago. [Lawton Constitution

Oklahoma medical professionals concerned about possible rule change to childhoood vaccine exemptions: Oklahoma health officials are considering a policy reversal, which would end a new requirement on parents seeking vaccine exemptions for their kids. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Former Stitt staffer lobbying for company bidding on state Medicaid contract: A former staffer of Gov. Kevin Stitt is lobbying for a health care company that’s bidding on a multimillion-dollar state contract to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Managed care is a bad investment for Oklahoma, but could be especially harmful for patients, providers, and Indigenous communities.

Lobbyists agree to pay financial penalties in ethics case: Two well-known Oklahoma lobbyists will not face criminal charges for their involvement in a PAC that made illegal donations totaling $27,750. [The Oklahoman]

Political notebook: Tulsa-area representative elected to House’s No. 2 slot: Tuesday’s organizational day for the Legislature produced some interesting developments in the House, including the formal election of Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, as speaker pro tem, the No. 2 post in House leadership. [Tulsa World]

Order barring enforcement of state’s service curfew still in force: Oklahoma County District Judge Susan Stallings extended a temporary restraining order against Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state on Friday following an evidentiary hearing. The case involved a challenge over the enforcement of Stitt’s executive order that prohibited serving bar and restaurant customers after 11 p.m. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa World editorial: Good state revenue news should lead lawmakers to make sustainable, equitable choices to produce structural economic growth: The state Legislature will have $8.46 billion to appropriate next year, an 8% increase over the amount in the current year budget. In any other year, 8% growth would be outstanding, an opportunity to do big things at the state Capitol. This year, it’s still outstanding news, but not without some obvious reservations. There are good options for quickly making Oklahoma’s economy more robust, which would increase tax revenue, as Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Paul Shinn pointed out when the budget numbers first came out. [Tulsa World Editorial] OK Policy: Revenue estimates don’t make budgets. Leaders do.

Federal Government News

Randy Krehbiel: Whatever Oklahoma’s members of Congress were trying to do, it didn’t work: Many suspect all or part of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, except U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, were trying to finesse the voters when they agreed to protest several states’ electoral votes on Wednesday. If so, it obviously didn’t work. [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World]

  • Wayne Greene: Sen. James Lankford likes Oklahoma’s voting system, which doesn’t live up to Lankford’s standards [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World
  • Futile effort to help Trump may help shape some lawmakers’ legacies [The Oklahoman]
  • Rep. Tom Cole: Impeachment of Trump would mean more national trauma [The Oklahoman]
  • National Review: James Lankford’s abdication of responsibility [National Review]
  • National Review exec. editor says Lankford ‘aided and abetted’ insurrectionist mob [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County Jail administrators, trustees to be investigated over beating death, DA says: A Chickasha man was charged Friday with first-degree murder for the death of his fellow inmate. The DA now has agents investigating whether jail administrators and jail trustees bear any blame for the death. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

How Oklahoma teachers talked about the Capitol riot with students: Watching the news from his social studies classroom, Taft Middle School teacher Eric Parker realized he’d have to scrap the next day’s lesson plan. A mob was storming the U.S. Capitol. Rioters, supporting President Donald Trump, violently disrupted the U.S. Congress on Wednesday as members certified Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November General Election. At least five people would die as a result of the attack. The next morning, Parker created a slideshow of pictures from the melee and added discussion prompts for his eighth-grade students. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma in-school quarantine experiment abandoned: A program trumpeted by Oklahoma health officials late last year that would allow students exposed to the coronavirus to quarantine together in school has been abandoned. [KOSU]

The week in coveducation: Timeline unclear for teacher vaccinations: The state saw some big news in the education world this week with an announcement from the State Department of Education that Oklahoma public school enrollment has dropped. The timeline for getting all Oklahoma teachers vaccinated was also found to be unclear. [NonDoc]

General News

Led by Black minister, predominantly white church wrestles with history of racism in the American Church: A member of the Rev. Valerie Jones Steele’s church didn’t know about “dog whistle” terms like “welfare queens,” but she learned about them one night while sitting in the pews of her Oklahoma City house of worship. The coded messaging didn’t come up in one of Steele’s sermons. Instead, Gayle Thiele, who is white, learned about such racist rhetoric and terminology during a recent book and video discussion series at Quail Springs United Methodist Church, where Steele is senior minister. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC council candidate posts pro-Trump rhetoric; has never voted in a city election [The Oklahoman]
  • Canadian County sheriff says he wasn’t involved in US Capitol rioting [The Oklahoman]
  • D.C. riots: Newkirk mayor describes what he saw at U.S. Capitol in social media posts [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Out here, we have a lot of people who feel like if the government is telling you to do something, then they’re going to do the opposite. I don’t want to tell people what to do, but it seems like we’re seeing less personal responsibility and that’s discouraging.” 

-Alva Mayor Kelly Parker, who also is adminsistrator of Share Convalescent Home in Alva [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


Number of new COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday, which is a record. The latest report brings Oklahoma’s seven-day average to 3,899, which also is the highest the state has ever seen. [KFOR]

Policy Note

Beyond Politics — Promoting Covid-19 Vaccination in the United States: The United States has invested more than $10 billion in Operation Warp Speed to fast-track SARS-CoV-2 vaccines from conception to market in 1 year. The result is 11 candidates reaching the final stage of Food and Drug Administration testing — a phenomenal improvement over past development timelines. Indeed, two SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are already available to Americans. Given this level of investment, skill, and good fortune in developing a vaccine, it will be tragic if we fail to curtail the virus because Americans refuse to be vaccinated. [New England Journal of Medicine]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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