In The Know: State facing nursing shortage | Vaccines expected for public in early 2021 | CARES funds help keep free testing

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 nurses ask Stitt administration for recruiting help amid shortage: Facing a nursing shortage even before the pandemic, nurses and educators said Thursday they met with Stitt administration officials this week about recruiting more nurses and imposing a mask mandate. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma Christian University nursing students to help fill gap for hospitals [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID-19: 24 more deaths reported in Oklahoma; 474 remain in ICUs [Tulsa World]

COVID-19 vaccinations expected to be available to the general public early next year: Oklahomans could be receiving free COVID-19 vaccinations during the first quarter of next year, Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said Thursday. “We anticipate the general public will have access to the vaccine in the first part of 2021,” Frye said during an Oklahoma State Department of Health press conference to discuss the state’s distribution plan. [Tulsa World] The federal government is paying for COVID-19 vaccines to be administered free of cost the public. [CNHI via McAlester News Capital]

$5.8 million in federal relief will allow free COVID-19 testing to continue at IMMY labs: The State Department of Health has allocated an additional $5.8 million in federal CARES Act funding to IMMY Labs to ensure COVID-19 testing can continue throughout the holiday season, the agency announced Thursday evening. [The Oklahoman] IMMY Labs expected to stop offering free testing because it had run short on state funding amid a testing boom before Thanksgiving. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Oklahoma Medicaid providers to get COVID bonus: Oklahoma Human Services is providing a retroactive rate adjustment for Medicaid waiver providers, which serve Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and low-income seniors. This has been a challenging year for those providers. [KTEN] Payments will be a one-time 20% retroactive rate adjustment for services rendered April 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2020. It will be issued on Feb. 21, 2021 after all of the approval processes have been completed. [KFOR]

University of Oklahoma to conduct air quality study near large-scale poultry farms: The University of Oklahoma’s Hudson College of Public Health plans to study the effects of large-scale poultry operations’ impact on air quality for those living near the commercial farms, which can hold tens of thousands of birds in a single chicken house. [The Frontier]

Op-Ed: Nursing home residents and staff need our help: Since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in Oklahoma, our nursing homes have been on high alert. Our residents have sacrificed a tremendous amount of freedom and socialization to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health of their friends and neighbors. Our families have endured separation from loved ones for an extended period of time. Nursing home staff, sometimes working in close proximity to infected residents, risk their health and even their lives to provide compassionate care to the elderly and sick. Owners and administrators, meanwhile, face skyrocketing costs for personal protective equipment, overtime, testing and other safety precautions that have left many of our homes in financially untenable positions. [Steven Buck Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

State Government News

Another Oklahoma town faces lengthy state audit probe: A special audit of the City of Pauls Valley will take about six months to complete and could cost the city government thousands of dollars, State Auditor Cindy Byrd said. The audit comes after a successful petition drive in the town collected signatures from 374 residents requesting an audit to determine if sales tax revenue has been used for its designated purposes. [NonDoc]

State jobless claims plummet, while unemployment rate increased from September to October: Two government economic reports released this week showed a contrast in jobless conditions across the state. A U.S. Labor Department jobless report released Thursday shows a stark drop in weekly state unemployment claims, while other reports reflect an increase in the regional unemployment rate from September and October. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Inhofe pushed forward with defense bill that ignores Trump demands: Sen. Jim Inhofe pushed forward with the annual defense bill on Thursday, despite a second veto threat and a suggestion from President Donald Trump that the Oklahoma Republican had “cold feet.” [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Tahlequah officers involved in fatal shooting face civil rights suit after appeals court reverses qualified immunity decision: Two police officers who shot and killed a hammer-wielding man in Tahlequah more than four years ago face a civil rights suit after a federal court panel ruled this week they don’t have qualified immunity. [The Oklahoman]

Norman City Council illegally cut police budget, judge rules: A judge has ruled the City Council broke the law in June when it voted to reduce the police department’s budget by $865,000 and reallocate the money. Carter County Associate District Judge Thomas K. Baldwin declared the votes invalid because of “a willful violation” of the Open Meeting Act. [The Oklahoman] A prepared statement from the City of Norman reveals it respectfully disagreed with the ruling. [The Norman Transcript]

Mark Berry to take reins at Delaware County Sheriff’s Office after investigation resolved: Embattled Delaware County Sheriff-elect Mark Berry is allowed to take his post and is expected to be sworn into office before January, said District Attorney Kenny Wright. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Local organization offers resources as CDC eviction moratorium set to expire: Protections in place that prevent people from being evicted from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire at the end of the month, but a local group wants to make sure tenants know all their options. [NewsOn6] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Disaster-prone OKC now faces new disaster of increasing homelessness: At the beginning of the year, Oklahoma City was facing a historically large increase in its homeless population. The point-in-time count, a volunteer-based initiative that counts the homeless population every year, reported to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department that there are nearly 1,500 people in Oklahoma City that are homeless daily. [OKC Free Press]

City shows continued improvement in 2020 Equality Indicators Report: The city released its annual Equality Indicators Report on Thursday, with Tulsa’s overall score improving over last year’s. The report, first issued in 2018, looks at dozens of equality indicators, such as education, income and access to public transportation to compare groups likely to experience inequalities, such as racial minorities, to groups less likely to experience them. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

800 business, nonprofit applications shut down Oklahoma County’s COVID-19 financial relief program: Oklahoma County’s $15 million COVID-19 relief program for small businesses and nonprofits had to stop taking applications just days after opening because of high demand. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma County Commissioners continue to hear public on CARES Act money [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma Corporation Commission reasserts regulatory authority after McGirt: A majority of Oklahoma’s elected Corporation Commission have decided the agency continues to have the authority to continue to regulate oil and gas activities inside Indian Country. [The Oklahoman]

Online sales keeping doors open: This year more than ever, Oklahomans will do much of their Christmas shopping online. But that does not necessary spell doom for local, brick-and-mortar retail – not if those stores are also selling their products online. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Mustang High School launching in-school quarantine pilot program: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has developed a policy change to allow students who have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine in school. Participation is optional for schools, and they must meet specific criteria including the availability of facilities that allow students to follow social distancing guidelines, as well as frequent COVID testing for students. [NonDoc] 20 students will participate in pilot program at Mustang High School [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • House Democrats doubt safety of in-school quarantine [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman Public Schools updates quarantine guidance, will not adopt in-school quarantine policy [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma AG weighs in on student discrimination question: In a legal opinion affecting dozens of religious schools, Oklahoma’s attorney general said state-funded scholarships cannot be withheld from a private school unless it discriminates against students based on race, color or national origin. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“As nurses, we believe it is vital that we continue to ask for a statewide (mask) mandate. We would not be facing such a significant shortage of nurses if we could mitigate and control the spread of the virus.”

-Cathy Pierce, Chief Nurse Executive for OU Medicine [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoman adults living in households with children who sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat in the past week in October 2020.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hunger Pains: Keeping Kids Fed During the Pandemic Stretches the Limits of Bureaucracy: When schools closed in March, the first concern for many educators was not online learning. It was food. “Food insecurity raised its head immediately.” [The 74 Million]

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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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