In The Know: Oklahomans dying of COVID 2x national rate | Nursing shortage exacerbated | Vaccinations increase | 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

Oklahomans dying of COVID nearly 2 times the U.S. rate as ‘unnecessary suffering’ overwhelms hospitals: The unavoidable agony in the pandemic is behind us, but Oklahoma is in the thick of “unnecessary suffering” as overwhelmed hospitals and distraught health care workers try to cope, according to a COVID data expert. Oklahomans are dying of COVID at nearly twice the rate of the U.S. — a top 10 ranking in the country — in a state that also rates poorly for cumulative vaccinations. More than 90% of the state’s hospitalized COVID patients since July 1 have been unvaccinated people. That date is about when the delta variant-fueled surge began here. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s nursing shortage existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has worsened it: Oklahoma hospitals are again overwhelmed as the spread of COVID-19 is surging through the state, but this time, they’re facing the wave with even further strain on health care workers. The state has dealt with a nursing shortage for at least two decades, Oklahoma nursing leaders said. But the pandemic has worsened it, with the stresses driving some burned-out nurses out of the industry or to other states, amid greater demands on the health care system. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma COVID vaccinations increase as Delta variant spreads: COVID-19 vaccinations are accelerating in Oklahoma as the state sees a rapid rise in cases from the delta variant and students return to school and colleges. More than 71,000 doses were given last week, up more than 40% from a month ago, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The state ranked ninth in the nation for doses given by population. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • OK Episcopal diocese launches campaign to promote COVID-19 vaccines [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma venues, performers roll out COVID-19 vaccine requirements [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Policy Expert: Every effort must be made to overcome vaccine resistance in long-term care workers: The for-profit nursing home industry in Oklahoma says it will see a large number of staff quit in reaction to President Biden’s recent vaccine mandate for nursing home workers. KWGS’s Elizabeth Caldwell spoke to Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Long-Term Quality Care, about that prediction. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Final census counts further alter outlook for Tulsa-area congressional, legislative districts: Unexpectedly high population counts in Oklahoma’s two largest urban areas are causing officials to rethink the state’s congressional and legislative redistricting plans, officials said this week. Final 2020 census counts show that Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Tulsa County, will have to shed twice as many people through redistricting as previously thought, while neighboring CD 2 will have to gain far more than expected. [Tulsa World]

As OMRF hits 75-year milestone, here are 5 of its scientists’ key discoveries: Saturday marked the 75th anniversary of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. In that time, the foundation’s researchers have made discoveries that paved the way for new life-saving drugs and made strides in studying autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and diseases of aging. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Wedding certificate and cell phone: How a U.S. veteran’s wife fled Afghanistan: Whipped by the Taliban and shoved from behind by other desperate Afghans, marriage certificate in hand, Sharifa Afzali thrust her cell phone at the U.S. soldier barring the Kabul airport gate. On the other end was her husband, a U.S. Army veteran in Oklahoma. [Reuters]

‘Every new neighbor needs a network’: Oklahoma agencies want to be ready to aid Afghan refugees: While it remains uncertain whether Afghan refugees will be sent to Oklahoma, numerous nonprofit and government agencies want to be prepared for their possible arrival. Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City recently hosted a meeting to discuss some of the projected needs of refugees fleeing Afghanistan if make their way to the state. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma governor orders flags at half-staff to honor those killed in Afghanistan [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Delaware Tribe Chief Chet Brooks dies; his knowledge was ‘irreplaceable’: People turned to Delaware Tribe Chief Chet Brooks for his knowledge of the past. He could recite every treaty the United States ever made with the Delaware. When his tribe’s federal recognition was imperiled in the 1970s, Brooks met the Secretary of the Interior on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He brought with him a list of 26 treaties that proved the Delaware existed. [The Oklahoman]

Native American law expert sees McGirt staying, some issues to resolve: A federal prosecutor turned private practice Native American law attorney says the despite the current stalemate between Gov. Kevin Stitt and tribes, there is a way forward — and there needs to be, because the McGirt decision is likely here to stay. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Attorneys for Julius Jones believe investigation by Pardon and Parole Board recommends Jones not be executed: An investigator for the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board wrote in her report under “Investigator recommendation” that death prisoner Julius Jones be granted life in prison, either with or without the possibility of parole. [The Frontier]

  • Julius Jones’ attorneys push back on Oklahoma AG’s request for execution date [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Supreme Court allows evictions to resume during pandemic, help available to Oklahomans: The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is allowing evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly 3.5 million people in the United States said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to Census Bureau data from early August. [KFOR]

  • Tulsa braces for courthouse rush after eviction moratorium ruled unlawful by Supreme Court [Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: Tulsa getting closer to finding permanent solution to high evictions [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
  • Eviction issues, McGirt among real estate summit topics [The Journal Record]
  • How COVID-19 pushed Americans to the brink of homelessness [News21 / NonDoc]

Housing crunch creating big demand for apartments: High buyer demand for single-family homes is translating to skyrocketing prices for sellers, multiple competing offers and a significant shortage of available inventory. And that demand is spilling into an increased demand for apartments. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

OKC warehouse market is humming and hopping like a hare: Housing isn’t the only humming real estate sector: Industrial, usually as slow and steady as a tortoise, is hopping like a hare in Oklahoma City in response to its own short supply. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

‘Incestuous culture’: Mannix Barnes, Robert Everman connected far beyond Western Heights: When the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously Aug. 26 to ask for the resignation of Western Heights Public Schools Board Chairman Robert Everman, state board member Trent Smith said there were “a million reasons” for the request, “not the least of which are his incestuous business relationship with former superintendent Mannix Barnes (and) his blatant disregard for use of taxpayer dollars.” [NonDoc]

General News

58 years after MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Oklahomans march to state Capitol: On the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington, Oklahomans gathered for the first “March for Our Rights.” On Aug. 28, 1963, a crowd of about 250,000 people heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famed “I Have A Dream” speech. That speech would bring together leaders from several civil rights groups to converge on the National Mall to make their voices heard and their demands of the government known. [The Oklahoman]

  • OKC march boosts tribal sovereignty, justice for Julius Jones, voting rights [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma emergency personnel deployed to Louisiana for Hurricane Ida response [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]
  • ‘A very exciting time’: How OKC’s recognition for public art is transforming the community [The Oklahoman]
  • New security checkpoint, gates to open in mid-September at Will Rogers World Airport [The Oklahoman]
  • City of Tulsa letting 5 Downtown property owners out of tax covenants because of the pandemic [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsans raised $2.4 million for Tulsa Immigrant Relief Fund, continue to support community [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa’s Carnegie Elementary reopening Monday following staff absences last week [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“It’s one thing to have had the death (rate) at the beginning of this pandemic because we didn’t know any better. All of the deaths that we have now, so many of them are unnecessary and preventable. And that burden is not something we should ask anyone to bear — particularly our health care providers.”

— Dr. Jennifer Clark, who leads Project ECHO’s COVID-19 data and information sessions for Oklahoma State University, describing Oklahomans dying of COVID nearly 2 times the U.S. rate as ‘unnecessary suffering’ with the availability of vaccines and advanced therapeutics. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who died while incarcerated in Oklahoma’s 11 largest jails, between 2009-2019. The jails combined had an average annual mortality rate of 2.16 deaths per 1,000 inmates, the second highest in the nation behind West Virginia.

[Source: Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

Jail deaths in America: data and key findings of Dying Inside: The U.S. government does not release jail by jail mortality data, keeping the public and policy makers in the dark about facilities with high rates of death. In a first-of-its-kind accounting, Reuters obtained and is releasing that data to the public. The report showed deaths in Oklahoma’s largest county jails have trended upward over the past decade, an indication that some inmates aren’t receiving adequate medical and mental health care. [ReutersOklahoma Watch]

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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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