In The Know: Oklahoma’s largest school district will defy mask mandate law | Documents show bleak outlook for COVID hospitalizations

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

Oklahoma lawsuit seeks to overturn ban on school mask mandates: A state medical group and several Oklahoma parents are alleging a state law that largely prohibits public schools from implementing mask mandates is unconstitutional. The Oklahoma State Medical Association on Thursday asked a judge to prevent the state from enforcing Senate Bill 658, which disallows school districts from imposing mask mandates unless the governor has declared a state of emergency. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt earlier this year signed the law prohibiting public schools, technology centers, and colleges and universities from requiring vaccinations or masks unless the state has declared an emergency. [AP News] Besides the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the named plaintiffs are parents of children with serious medical conditions who are enrolled in public schools in Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Norman. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma’s largest school district will defy state law and mandate masks [The Oklahoman]
  • Santa Fe South defies law; will require masks [The Journal Record]
  • TPS Board authorizes counsel to pursue legal action against state for banning school mask mandates [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Pediatricians reinforce the importance of masking and vaccination [The Oklahoman]

Internal documents reveal health officials’ bleak outlook on Oklahoma’s COVID hospitalizations: As coronavirus hospitalizations surge past 1,000 daily, Oklahoma health officials are raising concerns that the state’s hospital services are strained with no solution in sight. In a weekly update to state agencies, the Oklahoma State Department of Health designated the state’s hospital system as “unstable,” stating that, “Services (are) disrupted and no solution (is) identified or in progress.” [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Hospitals face ‘dire’ situation as delta variant takes hold [The Journal Record]
  • Hospital ICU COVID admissions swell; OSDH looks to establish “emergency rules” [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: Tulsa County jail sees cases climb along with community; 85% of inmates are unvaccinated [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations at highest level since January [The Frontier]
  • Ascension St. John limiting services due to COVID-19 surge [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • CDC says almost all of Oklahoma should be masking again; top state official says it’s a ‘personal choice’ [The Oklahoman]
  • State health officials urge Oklahomans to get vaccine [The Oklahoman] | [The Lawton Constitution]
  • OU football: Vaccination or negative test required for Sooners’ season-opening game at Tulane [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma court: Supreme Court McGirt ruling not retroactive: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday found a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations by or against tribal citizens does not apply retroactively. The ruling could affect hundreds of state convictions that the court previously overturned, many of which resulted in federal charges and convictions, including murder convictions. [AP News] The court said applying new procedural rules to convictions previously upheld on appeal “invites burdensome litigation and potential reversals unrelated to accurate verdicts, undermining the deterrent effect of the criminal law.” [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Census data indicates two-thirds of Oklahoma counties lost population during the last decade: Two-thirds of Oklahoma’s 77 counties lost population over the past decade while the state’s largest metropolitan statistical area was one of 14 nationwide to add at least 100,000 residents, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday. Those findings followed national trends that found just over half the counties in the United States lost population from 2010 to 2020 while the largest metropolitan areas — and particularly suburbs — grew. [Tulsa World]

What we know about the Oklahoma unemployment lawsuit and if federal benefits will be reinstated: Oklahomans who are out of work are awaiting a state Supreme Court ruling on whether or not to reinstate federal unemployment benefits made available by the federal government amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘We can’t just flip a switch’ to restart COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits, state says [The Oklahoman]
  • State unemployment claims continue to decline slightly [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmaker calls for special session to address ‘several issues’ related to COVID-19: A lawmaker’s call for a special session on COVID-19 appears to face an uphill battle. Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, on Thursday sent lawmakers an email seeking two-thirds of members in both chambers to approve a special session for Aug. 30. The Oklahoma Constitution requires two-thirds. Roberts has been critical of health care organizations that are requiring vaccinations for employees. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation chief thanks Biden for proposed boost in tribal broadband money: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told President Joe Biden on Wednesday that the broadband portion of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill will help the tribe continue connecting its youth, elders and other members to the internet. [The Oklahoman]

Kiowa effort leads to hotel tax exemptions for tribal governments in Norman: Tribal governments will no longer pay city taxes on hotel stays in Norman, after the city council voted unanimously late Tuesday to change the rules. Other public agencies have been exempt from the hotel tax since voters approved it four decades ago. Tribal governments were left out. Their exclusion came under scrutiny after hotel staffers told Kiowa Tribe officials their tax-exempt status was not valid in Norman. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

The Source Podcast: OKC police have been told how to improve. Will it make a difference?: Oklahoma City police are still navigating the wake of George Floyd’s murder and national outcry over policing. The Oklahoman’s Jana Hayes covers ways the Oklahoma City Police Department has been told it could improve — and whether those recommendations will ever become reality. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

A ‘green’ fuel’s demand is exploding, and Oklahoma could soon be a leader in its production: What’s lighter than air, all around us and potentially could be a key part of Oklahoma’s energy industry? Hydrogen. The basic chemical emits no greenhouse gasses when it is burned as a fuel. And thanks to Oklahoma’s existing infrastructure and energy-generating abilities, the state could be primed to be a leader in hydrogen production, generating cleaner fuel for everyday consumption across the nation. [The Oklahoman]

AEG Presents is requiring proof of vaccination. Will Oklahoma music festivals be affected?: AEG Presents, a global leader in concerts and live events — among them Rocklahoma and the new Born & Raised Music Festival — announced Thursday that it will be requiring proof of vaccination for entry into its owned and operated clubs, theaters and festivals. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Judge rules in favor of state takeover at Western Heights Schools: After months of confusion and power struggles in Western Heights Public Schools, an Oklahoma County district judge has decided the Oklahoma State Department of Education was right to take over the troubled school district. Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons ruled Thursday the southwest Oklahoma City district must accept the state intervention and a state-appointed interim superintendent. [The Oklahoman] An emergency petition, filed by the state on July 22, states that the the Western Heights district has refused to perform certain acts required by law, including acknowledging the authority, powers and duties of the State Board of Education, State Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. [NonDoc]

General News

Sit-in reenactment will start celebration marking 63rd anniversary of OKC movement: The 63rd anniversary of the Oklahoma City Sit-in Movement will kick off with a reenactment of the 1958 Oklahoma City sit-in at Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City Sit-in March to Kaiser’s Grateful Bean Cafe will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Frontline Church, 1104 N Robinson. The reenactment and other Freedom Fiesta Celebration activities are being coordinated by the the Clara Luper Legacy Committee. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma family celebrates two new grants for historic Black-owned fueling station [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Leaving private schools the chance to protect their kids by requiring masks while leaving public school kids unprotected is unconscionable. Local school boards, across the board, should be able to determine policies that impact their kids on a local level.”

-Sam Blackstock, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families, said it is reasonable for schools to implement science-backed mitigation measures to ensure kids stay healthy and in the classroom throughout the school year.  

Number of the Day


About 90% of COVID patients that Oklahoma City’s SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital admits have not been fully vaccinated, according to hospital officials [Journal Record]

Policy Note

Round one of child tax credit payments slashed hunger rates, U.S. data shows: The percentage of American families with kids who report not having enough to eat fell dramatically after the first child tax credit payments were distributed last month, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The government’s finding shows that the monthly payments are having a major and immediate impact on millions of households, potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s push to extend the tax credit past the end of this year, when it is set to expire. [Politico]

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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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