In The Know: Oklahoma lagging in COVID-19 sequencing | State National Guard member warned about vaccine mandate | Supreme Court sets date on McGirt | 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.

Oklahoma News

Why has Oklahoma ranked last in COVID-19 sequencing for months? Totals mask some recent progress: As researchers race to learn about the new omicron variant, genomic sequencing in Oklahoma and across the world will be crucial in learning where and how the strain spreads. Oklahoma has long ranked last out of all other states in the percentage of COVID-19 samples it has sequenced out of its total cases. [The Oklahoman]

  • About 20% of last month’s COVID-19 cases are ‘breakthrough cases,’ health commissioner says [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma COVID hospitalizations top 600, most since October [AP News
  • 1,711 new infections of the coronavirus were confirmed in Oklahoma on Friday [KOSU]
  • Virus by the numbers: 9 charts that show how COVID-19 is spreading in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma National Guard leader warns unvaccinated members: The adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard is warning members that refusing to receive the coronavirus vaccine could end their military careers. In an letter posted on the state Guard’s website dated Thursday, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino said Oklahoma Army and Air Force members will eventually be subject to the U.S. Defense Department’s vaccination mandate. [AP News] The head of the Oklahoma National Guard said Thursday he cannot permanently offer local guard members “safe harbor” from a federal requirement that all members of the military get vaccinated for COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Supreme Court sets date with Oklahoma to respond to 40-plus McGirt appeals: The state of Oklahoma, with more than 40 petitions filed seeking to overturn or limit the McGirt ruling, is getting its shot next month after the U.S. Supreme Court last week picked a date to consider appeals related to its landmark decision. When the nine justices gather Jan. 7, a Tulsa man’s case will be in the spotlight: The state appealed after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated a 2017 conviction and 35-year prison sentence for Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta, 36, based on the McGirt ruling. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Gov. Stitt could take the witness stand in a former state trooper’s civil trial over cheating and blackmail allegations: Gov. Kevin Stitt may be called to testify if a former Oklahoma Highway Patrolman’s claims that the Department of Public Safety launched a retaliatory investigation after he raised concerns about cheating in the agency’s promotional process go to trial next month. [The Frontier]

A new ‘Wild, Wild West’: Regulating state’s medical marijuana industry requires team effort: When a small, illegal medical marijuana grow operation was discovered near Fairmont by the Office of the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal earlier this year, everybody soon got to work. After the state notified the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Cory Rink said the two agencies together contacted the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. [Enid News & Eagle]

Ex-cabinet secretary files $60M claim over bribery charge: A former member of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet has filed a claim for $60 million damages with the state attorney general’s office, alleging he was wrongly charged with bribery. [AP News]

A lawsuit says Oklahoma went too far in labeling requirements for food like Tofurky: A meat substitute trade group contends an Oklahoma food-labeling law violates the U.S. Constitution and undercuts the industry, so it’s suing in federal court. [KOSU]

From ‘grandiose’ idea to ‘what foster care is’: A foster parent’s journey in Oklahoma’s system: In five years, Crowl, now 41, has fostered 16 kids ranging from infants as young as 15 months old to teenagers six months from aging out of the system. All but three have been reunified with their families after moving out of her home, she said. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

State taps funding to improve water infrastructure: Funding included in the recently passed $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill may allow some communities in Oklahoma to take on water improvement projects that might not have been possible before. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Indian boarding school alumni watch U.S. investigation: Tribes across the Southwest dread the possibility that thousands of unmarked graves might be uncovered by a federal investigation into abandoned Native American boarding schools expected to wrap up early next year. [NonDoc]

OKC council to weigh competing recommendations on exempting OKANA resort from design review: Two conflicting recommendations are heading to the Oklahoma City Council as it will decide whether to exempt the planned $300 million OKANA resort from design review guidelines. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma making headway to improve mental health care access: any Oklahomans struggle with mental health issues, but at least they will have better access to help. Such was the assessment of the state’s top mental health official, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges, during an interview last week. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma hopes to reverse health care workforce crisis: Oklahoma lawmakers are planning to invest money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in ways to add to numbers of nurses and other health care providers in the state, which has been swept along with the rest of the nation into a workforce crisis battering the health care industry. [The Journal Record]

Small Court Victories Change Nothing for Women Seeking Abortions in Texas: At Trust Women, a clinic with locations in Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kan., the Texas law has pressed resources to the breaking point. In Oklahoma, about 60 percents of patients are now from Texas. The Kansas clinic is receiving patients from Oklahoma who can’t get appointments because of the influx from Texas. [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

It wasn’t the 2021 Tulsa’s police chief had hoped for, but his eyes are set on 2022: The year after the year that seemed to alter all time wasn’t nearly as bad as its predecessor had been to the Tulsa Police Department, but it didn’t necessarily bring what the chief had hoped for in the new year, either. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Inflation skyrockets; root causes require new strategies: Inflation is at its highest point in nearly 40 years, and economists agree it is not likely to get better for at least another year. However, economists do not agree on how the situation may be resolved. [The Journal Record]

‘Everybody has a concern.’ New Cleveland Co. sheriff’s unit hopes to assist Norman homeless population: A newly formed team of five Cleveland County sheriff’s deputies will focus on addressing quality of life issues in the county. The unit will start this week as Norman, the county’s largest city, works to solve issues between downtown business owners and the city’s homeless population. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Economy by the numbers: 10 charts that show how the economy is performing in Tulsa and Oklahoma: Find out where gas is the cheapest, how the unemployment rate has changed recently, how weekly earnings compare across the state and more with these charts and maps. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Is math education racist? Debate rages over changes to how US teaches the subject: Math teacher Telannia Norfar once passed out graphs showing racial demographics of prison populations and asked students what they noticed. Many were shocked by the disproportionate incarceration of Black people. That was almost a decade ago. “Now I have to be careful,” said Norfar, who teaches upper-level math courses at Northwest Classen High School. [The Oklahoman]

Epic Charter School co-founders sue for $6.8 million from the school they established: The co-founders of Epic Charter Schools have sued the school system they founded for $6.84 million. A company owned by Epic co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney filed a breach of contract lawsuit on Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court against the school system, which they established and earned millions from over the past decade. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Oklahomans Take One Small Step Forward, Together: Meeting a stranger can be difficult for some people. Meeting a stranger with opposing beliefs can be even more difficult. But this year, Oklahomans have signed up to do it — to talk to someone they know ahead of time thinks differently than they do. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Grass fire forces evacuations in southwestern Oklahoma [AP News]
  • ‘More vibrancy to the city’: Mural at Homeland store celebrates Black history in northeast OKC [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“It would be strange to think that we’re a physically unhealthy state — which we are — but somehow magically we have really healthy brains. And we don’t. Our mental health is about on par with our physical health. We’re not at the place where we’re doing as much as possible to prevent mental illness. That’s going to take us some time.”

—Carrie Slatton-Hodges, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner, speaking about Oklahoma’s progress in providing access to mental health care, including the expansion of Medicaid and other developments. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate is 7.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is higher than the national rate of 5.6. 

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

Policy Note

Health of Black, Native moms key in fight to improve infant death disparities, experts say: The U.S. infant mortality rate continued its downward trend in 2019, but Black babies still died twice as often as white babies, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this week. Experts say the latest numbers showing little progress closing racial gaps in birth outcomes are more worrisome as the nation faces threats to maternal health care. [USA Today]

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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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