In The Know: State health officials ask Gov. for emergency order as CDC issues new mask guidance | Hospitalizations continue rising

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

State health officials call for emergency order amid COVID-19 surge, react to CDC mask guidance: In Oklahoma doctor’s demeanor grew grim when asked her response to the near-reversal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking guidance. Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, spoke slowly: “This is absolutely preventable.” She said the members of eight different medical associations “are effectively in 100% agreement that we do need an emergency order” from Gov. Kevin Stitt — which he has said he will not issue. [Tulsa World] If Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to grow on their current trajectory — and they have climbed dramatically in recent weeks — hospitals could soon be overwhelmed, health leaders warned Tuesday. [The Oklahoman e-edition] An emergency order would also allow public schools to issue mask mandates. [AP News] A medical official said it’s illegal for hospitals to convert spaces to treatment rooms without an exception from the governor. The state department of health said in a video message yesterday statewide hospitalizations are currently at a manageable level but the numbers are moving in the wrong direction. [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Medicaid expansion “a boon” for underserved Bartlesville area residents: Bartlesville’s Family Healthcare Clinic is getting an influx of new patients since Medicaid expansion took effect July 1 – many of whom haven’t been to a doctor in years. “What we have seen in our clinic is a big boon, if you will, because folks who have been to the doctor maybe only once or twice in their lives are now able to come in and get their basic health care needs met,” said Molly Collins, the clinic’s executive director. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

All Ascension St. John associates given Nov. 12 deadline for COVID vaccination: Associates of one of Tulsa’s largest health care systems got an order on Tuesday — get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 12. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa mayor announces COVID policy changes for city employees to increase vaccinations [Tulsa World]

State Government News

A year from statewide primaries, here’s how much Gov. Stitt has raised for his reelection campaign: Gov. Kevin Stitt raised more than $773,000 from April through June for his reelection effort, achieving $1.2 million in his account a year before the 2022 primary. Stitt’s money came mostly from individual Oklahomans, according to his latest campaign finance report, and he has not added any personal funds. Stitt’s Republican primary opponent, former state Sen. Ervin Yen, collected $12,784 in the second quarter of the year and had $168,134 in his account at the end of June. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

U.S. Rep. Mullin: Democrats, media share blame for insurrection: In a newly released interview about his experience inside the House chamber during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Rep. Markwayne Mullin said Democrats and the media share in the blame for the insurrectionists’ violent attempt to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Lawmakers threaten to withhold major funds from Native tribes over treatment of descendants of the enslaved: Members of Congress on Tuesday threatened to withhold tens of millions of dollars in federal funding from four Native American tribes in Oklahoma, adding to renewed public pressure to end policies that discriminate against descendants of Black people who were enslaved by the tribes before the Civil War. [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

Crackdown on distracted, speeding turnpike violators in the works: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is supplying seven to nine new vehicles for state troopers seeking to crack down on distracted driving, aggressive driving and speeding. In addition, the OTA hopes to add additional troopers to its ranks following an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy that begins Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • Law enforcement job fair aims to bolster ranks amid retirements, public perceptions [Tulsa World]

Tulsa police chief says his tweet accomplished its goal — drawing attention to outbreak of gun violence: Police Chief Wendell Franklin is well aware that the tweet he posted Monday has drawn a fair amount of attention on social media, and he’s fine with that. That was his goal. But critics of the tweet said all Franklin’s message had done was to sow more dissension in the community. [Tulsa World]

Final Oklahoma County Jail youthful offenders relocated to Pawnee County Detention Center: All remaining juveniles have been moved out of the Oklahoma County Jail, one week after the decision was made to do so. The 11 remaining youthful offenders are being held in the Pawnee County Detention Center. They were moved Monday afternoon, after nearly a week of working to find suitable arrangements, according to a statement issued by jail administration. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Musician’s nonprofit awards $300,000 in seed funding to two Tulsa start-ups: Grammy Award-winning Pharrell Williams and his nonprofit initiative, Black Ambition, has awarded a total of $300,000 in seed money to a pair of Tulsa-based start-ups. Quirkchat received $250,000 and Boddle Learning $50,000. [Tulsa World]

Education News

New state law keeps schools from slowing expected COVID spread, in the way of CDC’s new masking guidelines: Despite newly revised federal masking guidelines due to low vaccination rates, Enid area schools’ hands are tied from slowing down a surge in reported COVID-19 case outbreaks that health officials say to expect in the coming weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. [Enid News & Eagle]

  • Masks are a choice, said Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister in response to Tuesday’s updated guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s not a mandate. It’s a choice—a gift to others,” said Hofmeister in a statement. [Lawton Constitution]
  • CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

General News

Grant County sales tax expired for 3 months, but the government kept collecting: A 1 percent Grant County sales tax — which voters originally passed in 2011 to help fund county law enforcement and fire department operations — had expired on April 30 and, because of a number of delays in setting an election date, had not yet been renewed but was still collected for three months. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Transit saw sharp drop in ridership in Fiscal Year 2021, even as pandemic briefly waned [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Enid reports ‘fantastic start’ of fiscal year for hotel tax revenue after low winter months of pandemic [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Luther Threatt Station on list to share in $3 million Black history preservation grant [Luther News]

Quote of the Day

“Even during the darkest days of our peak, in December of the pandemic, we did not have the number of positives being admitted to the ICU that we do now.”

-Dr. David Kendrick, founder and CEO of MyHealth Access Network and chair of the Department of Medical Informatics at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. He noted that there has also been a shift to younger unvaccinated COVID patients needing ICU beds. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans currently enrolled in Medicaid expansion, as of 7/26/21 [Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

Policy Note

How Connecting Justice-Involved Individuals to Medicaid Can Help Address the Opioid Epidemic: The ACA Medicaid expansion provided new opportunities to connect individuals leaving incarceration to coverage and services that can mitigate these risks and help people successfully transition into the community with services to support recovery and treatment. [KFF]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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