In The Know: OK’s virus surge slowing, but health officials remain wary | Making government serve the people | 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.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Making government serve the people: When it comes to how our governments work, budgets should be policy tools that reflect how we intend our governments to operate and signify what we want them to accomplish. At least that’s the way that it should be. However, many governments – like the state of Oklahoma – build public budgets based on the availability of revenue. This means the upcoming year’s budget follows a similar allocation pattern from the previous year. As a result, policy priorities from previous officials continue to echo far into the future, sometimes well after the usefulness of the initial appropriation or revenue measure. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

‘Definitely slowed down’: COVID-19 peak might be past, but variant likely already in Oklahoma, experts say: Oklahoma’s COVID-19 surge might finally have peaked, or perhaps it could be entering a plateau phase. What happens next, though, still isn’t certain. Dr. Jennifer Clark said the more contagious COVID-19 variant confirmed in at least 20 states so far presents an unknown variable. Clark said cases across the globe and U.S. appear to be trending downward, or at least plateauing. In Oklahoma, COVID-19 hospitalizations have stabilized. The rate isn’t sustainable long-term, she said, but they are at a more manageable level of late. [Tulsa World] A sharp rise in new cases would be a problem because while hospitalizations have been ticking down, they’re still high, and intensive care units are full. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Dire rankings for Oklahoma in final White House Coronavius Task Force Report [KOSU]
  • ‘Just didn’t feel right’: Oklahoma’s reported COVID-19 cases this week likely low [The Oklahoman]
  • County cases fall, southern Oklahoma remains virus hotspot [The Daily Ardmoreite]
  • COVID hospitalizations slowly falling, but 48 more deaths reported [Public Radio Tulsa] | [Tulsa World]

13,000 get COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma through tribal health care services: More than 13,000 tribal citizens in Oklahoma have received COVID-19 vaccinations through Cherokee Nation, Osage Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation health care services. The Cherokee Nation is now scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations for Cherokee Nation teachers and child care workers, and tribal citizens 55 and older, a progression in the tribe’s vaccine distribution plan. Phase 2A also covers “critical infrastructure staff.” [Tulsa World]

  • Corrections officials say inmates, prison staff will be vaccinated in February [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Volunteers sought at Oklahoma coronavirus vaccination sites [AP News]
  • What Oklahomans need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine while signing up in Phase 2 [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Health Dept. to host vaccination clinic at Owasso High School on Friday [Tulsa World]

Health News

State leaders to hold ribbon cutting for Oklahoma Pandemic Center: Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and state Cabinet leaders will hold a ribbon cutting Thursday for the new Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence (OPCIE) and the newly relocated Public Health Lab in Stillwater. [FOX23]

Chickasaw entrepreneur sets sights on native health: Seventeen percent of the nation’s tribal members are in fair or poor health and Native Americans have a shorter life expectancy than any other race in the country, said Tribal Diagnostics Chief Executive Cory Littlepage. [The Journal Record]

Cherokee Nation, OSU leaders celebrate ‘shared vision’ of completed med school: A modest ceremony was held Jan. 15 to celebrate the long-anticipated opening of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah. [Cherokee Pheonix]

State Government News

Seminole chief: No new oil, gas tax within tribal boundaries: The chief of the Seminole Nation said Wednesday the Oklahoma-based tribe has no current plans to tax oil and gas production on all land within its traditional reservation boundaries, a move that drew quick praise from the state’s attorney general. [AP News]

State lawmakers to consider bill addressing data privacy: Legislation filed Wednesday with bipartisan support would address concerns over data privacy and data manipulation. The Oklahoma Computer Data Privacy Act, House Bill 1602, would, if passed, require internet technology companies to obtain explicit permission to collect and sell personal data of consumers. [The Journal Record]

Senator’s bill would outlaw immunization, mask requirements: An Oklahoma lawmaker filed a bill that criminalizes schools and state or local government requiring protective face coverings and immunizations. [McAlester News-Capital]

States continue pursuit to end ticket quotas: Legislators in multiple states, including Oklahoma, pursue action that is intended to put an end to police going on ticket-writing sprees. [Land Line]

Oklahoma Rep. files bill to establish Bigfoot hunting season: A bill to establish a Bigfoot hunting season was introduced in Oklahoma Wednesday. Representative Justin Humphrey wants Oklahoma Wildlife Commission to establish a Bigfoot hunting season. [FOX25]

NAACP criticizes Oklahoma AG for challenging election results: Oklahoma’s attorney general damaged relations with the state’s Black community when he challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election, the head of the state’s NAACP said. Anthony Douglas, who also serves on the national board of directors for the NAACP, said Mike Hunter used Oklahoma taxpayer money to involve himself in litigation that perpetuated the unfounded idea that voter fraud had occurred, particularly in areas that have predominantly Black communities. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Federal Government News

Weeks after voting to deny Biden the presidency, Rep. Bice praises parts of his initial agenda: Rep. Stephanie Bice, the newly elected Republican from Oklahoma City who voted this month to prevent certification of President Joe Biden’s election, joined some of her colleagues Wednesday in congratulating the new president and praised parts of his initial agenda. [The Frontier]

‘You do your duty’: Oklahoma National Guard sends 394 members to support Inauguration Day: Hundreds of Oklahomans did not expect to witness history at President Joe Biden’s inauguration today, but the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol shifted their plans. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Federal prisoners complain a private prison in Oklahoma isn’t following COVID-19 safety guidelines: Testing, masking, and quarantine standards are a few of the concerns Jan Cervenka has with the COVID-19 response at Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton. Cervenka is 23. He believes he caught the disease around the end of October and says those were some of his hardest days in prison. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Economy & Business News

Marijuana eclipsed alcohol last year in Oklahoma: Marijuana surpassed alcohol as the revenue-producing palliative of choice in Oklahoma last year. Beverage taxes and licenses produced a little over $133 million in 2020, Oklahoma Tax Commission ledgers reflect. In comparison, medical marijuana produced more than $170 million in taxes and license fees last year, records of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and the Tax Commission indicate. [The Southwest Ledger]

Education News

Catoosa schools shifting to distance learning for two weeks: Citing climbing COVID-19 case numbers, Catoosa Public Schools announced Wednesday evening that it is pivoting to distance learning. [Tulsa World]

  • Students bouncing from online to in-person school causes inconsistencies leaving parents concerned [KFOR]

General News

Library plans series of events to mark race massacre centennial: The Tulsa City-County Library will host a series of events from February to May that will explore the history and impact of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Cheat sheet: 35-year teacher, parents vie for Putnam City School Board Office 3 [NonDoc]
  • Senate redistricting town hall meeting [Ponca City News]

Quote of the Day

“Our ICU capacity — we have no wiggle room. Most regions are dealing in single digits at any given time. The other day … the regional medical system that tracks beds was zero across the boards. And so, this is where we’re most concerned and where we have been concerned across the pandemic.”

-Dr. Jennifer Clark during her weekly COVID-19 update as part of OSU Center for Health Sciences’ Project ECHO program [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Increase in pretrial detention rate in 59 rural Oklahoma counties from 2000 to 2015 [Vera Institute for Justice

Policy Note

Prisons Are Releasing People Without COVID-19 Tests Or Quarantines: Even as prisons have proved hotspots of COVID-19, the pandemic has posed new challenges for the people who leave them—and the communities they re-enter. Even as some states have accelerated the release of prisoners to stem contagion, relatively few systematically test or quarantine people before they leave. In turn, reentry facilities and probation and parole systems across the country are scrambling, often with few resources or safety protocols, to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. [The Marshall Project]

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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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