In The Know: State hospitalization rate 4th nationally | EMSA: ‘No safety valve’ due to staff shortages | Virus outbreak at Muskogee jail

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: A changing Oklahoma: Latest data from the 2020 census released this month show two trends: Oklahoma is more diverse than ever, and our population is increasingly concentrating in urban centers. Both are consistent with national trends, and there are important takeaways for those who want to see our state succeed. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

COVID-19: High hospitalization rate puts Oklahoma fourth in the U.S.: Oklahoma continues to be among the worst in the nation in several COVID-19 severity indicators, federal data released Monday show. The state remained in the federal government’s red ranking, which indicates the worst severity, in at least three categories over the previous seven days: test positivity, documented cases per capita and virus hospitalizations per capita. Oklahoma has the highest test positivity rate in the nation at 23.1%, according to the latest data available. It is fourth in the U.S. with 21.9 confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100 inpatient beds and is ranked 13th for new cases per capita, with about 397 cases per 100,000 residents. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘There is no safety valve’: EMSA faces continued pressure due to staff shortages, COVID-19 surge [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma nurses and doctors beg unvaccinated to help stressed ICUs: ‘I have zipped up too many body bags’ [The Washington Post]
  • Oklahoma coronavirus hospitalizations again top 1,500 [AP News] | [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma City will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for police and fire recruits [The Frontier]
  • City of Tulsa developing COVID vaccination incentive for employees [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa City Council passes mask resolution, no mandate [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Editorial: FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine means there’s no good reason not to protect yourself, others [Editorial / Tulsa World]
  • Children and COVID19: State Data Report [CDC]

COVID outbreak at Muskogee jail reported; 8 staff, 50% of inmates are positive for virus: Jailers in Muskogee warn of “critical mode” as a COVID-19 outbreak has affected half of the jail’s inmates and eight detention center employees. According to a news release from the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office, the jail on Wednesday had 135 positive cases, none of them “requiring any further treatment or hospitalization.” [Tulsa World] [KTUL] [KOTV]

Health News

Ivermectin and COVID-19: A medical can of worms: At Tractor Supply in Edmond on a recent Wednesday, grills and smokers flanked the entrance, baby chicks chirped under heat lamps, and a sign in the aisle containing horse deworming medications warned, “Despite media reports that ivermectin could potentially be used to treat people with COVID-19, these products are not safe or approved for human use and could cause severe personal injury or death.” [NonDoc]

  • State poison agency: Danger in taking animal heartworm medication for attempted COVID treatment [Tulsa World]
  • FDA to humans: ‘You are not a horse’ [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma adds basic dental coverage to Medicaid amid a dire lack of care: Up until this year, that half of the population with no way to get to the dentist included adults on Medicaid. SoonerCare covered extractions, but the legislature hadn’t funded preventative services — like cleanings, fillings and dentures — in decades. That’s changing. The Legislature decided to take up the federal government’s long-standing offer to cover such services. Karen Luce, the director of dental services at Oklahoma Health Care Authority, says it’s been a long time coming. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State Government News

Veto referendum to undo law that protects Oklahoma drivers fleeing riots falls short on signatures: Opponents of a new law that grants immunity to motorists who unintentionally hurt or kill people while fleeing from a riot failed to collect enough signatures to trigger a statewide vote on the measure. About an hour before the signature-gathering deadline, supporters of State Question 816 — a referendum petition that would give Oklahomans a say in whether the state law remains on the books — realized they fell short of the 59,320 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. [The Okahoman]

Oil and gas disposal well under investigation as earthquakes shake southeast Oklahoma: The strongest in a swarm of earthquakes that have been shaking eastern Oklahoma this month caught the attention of numerous residents in Quinton on Tuesday. The unusual activity, which scientists have linked in other locations to injected saltwater produced as part of the recovery of oil and gas, prompted the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s induced seismicity department to direct the owner of a nearby well to suspend operations on Aug. 16. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma men try to help Afghan interpreter get family to safety: Two Oklahomans who fought in Afghanistan say their optimism is fading after nearly a week of unsuccessful attempts to rescue the stranded family of a wartime interpreter who put his life on the line to keep one of them safe. After learning that the family home of the Afghan interpreter had been “marked” by the Taliban, Justin Chizmar and state Rep. Josh West have been trying to extract the family of the interpreter nicknamed Sam. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Owasso doctor, former legislator, dies in Oologah Lake: A former state legislator and Owasso doctor died Tuesday afternoon in Oologah Lake, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Dr. George Dale Derby, 72, was medical director of anesthesia and chairman of the board at Bailey Medical Center. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

USDA notes investments made in rural Oklahoma: More than $114 million has been invested in small Oklahoma businesses as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative to invest in rural areas, according to USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Justin Maxson. Maxson referred to the figure on Tuesday in a release about progress made by the USDA in its goal to provide a record level of working capital and other support for rural areas in fiscal year 2021. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Congressional Delegation not happy with Democrats’ $3.5T budget resolution: President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats’ budget resolution for a $3.5 trillion spending plan, which passed the House of Representatives Tuesday on a party line vote, does not have any fans among Oklahoma’s all-Republican House delegation. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Lankford, Stitt blast Biden over OPEC request: It has been two weeks since President Joe Biden asked the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to help lower gasoline prices by releasing more oil onto the global market. Thus far, OPEC has not responded in any way that would indicate it plans to comply with Biden’s request. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Alan Melot wins Citizen Potawatomi Nation District 1: Candidate Alan Melot won the runoff election for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Legislature District 1 seat with 150 votes over David Slavin with 93 votes, according to unofficial results announced today. In the June 26 general election, Alan Melot received 101 votes (34.5 percent of total votes cast) and David Slavin received 77 votes (26.3 percent of votes). Melot — who resides in Joplin, Missouri — thanked CPN citizens for their support. [NonDoc]

Jimcy McGirt, whose Supreme Court case reshaped Oklahoma courts, sentenced to three life terms: Jimcy McGirt, convicted of sexually abusing a four-year-old girl in 1996, received three life sentences on Wednesday from a federal judge who said McGirt’s impact on criminal jurisdiction in Oklahoma played no part in his decision. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Seeking to Reduce, Treat Effects of Childhood Trauma: Before they start honing their writing skills, incarcerated women enrolled in Liz Kollaja’s therapeutic poetry class are asked to take an Adverse Childhood Experience quiz. The brief survey is designed to gauge how rough a person’s childhood was. Nationally, 45% of children have experienced at least one of 10 ACEs, ranging from having a parent incarcerated to being physically and emotionally abused. Those with a score of three or higher face an elevated risk of psychological and medical problems. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa going through rental assistance money a lot faster than most cities: With 80% of the money still waiting to be used, the federal government offered new incentives Wednesday for local officials to move faster in distributing emergency rental assistance, but Tulsa already seems well ahead of the curve. Nationwide, officials have distributed only $5.1 billion of the $25 billion in federal stimulus money set aside for people who have fallen behind on rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data from the U.S. Treasury. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Many of Oklahoma’s biggest businesses aren’t mandating vaccines for employees. That could change: While an increasing number of large businesses across the nation are implementing vaccine requirements for employees, many of Oklahoma’s most prominent companies are not. Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy, Continental Resources, Homeland Stores, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, ONE GAS, Paycom, Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and others are just some Oklahoma-based companies that don’t require vaccines for employees. Some are offering financial incentives for those who choose to get vaccinated, but none have put in place a rule against being unvaccinated. [The Oklahoman]

Private aviation booming amid COVID-19: A growing number of business and leisure travelers returning to the skies are turning to private aviation services as a preferable option to commercial airline travel. Forbes reports new research shows private aviation is set to emerge from the COVID-era as much as 10% larger than it was before the virus. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Former Lawton teacher named to state education job: A former Lawton Public Schools teacher has been named to a position with the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Kathy Dodd has been named Chief Innovation Officer and Deputy Superintendent of Federal Programs for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. [The Lawton Constitution]

Tahlequah school board declines to join lawsuit against state mask law: By a 3-2 count, the Tahlequah school board rejected a resolution Wednesday to join a lawsuit challenging a state law barring public school districts from requiring masks on campus. Among other provisions, Senate Bill 658 prohibits boards of education for public school districts from enacting a mask requirement unless a state of emergency is declared by Gov. Kevin Stitt for that specific area. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Homicides in City of OKC so far outpace those of 2019, 2020 [OKC Free Press]
  • Two Ninnekah board members resign, school leaders suspended after coach sex abuse claims [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC woman helps girls leave Afghanistan [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“We have a huge unvaccinated population. We’re really in a bad spot due to our population still allowing this to be a political problem. The public trusts us when they have a heart attack, cancer, or when they get sick, and they trust us to provide care. I don’t know why they are not trusting us when we tell them to get vaccinated and wear a mask.”

-Cameron Mantor, acting medical director for OU Health hospitals [Washington Post]

Number of the Day


Share of babies living in poverty who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits in Oklahoma [Zero to Three]

Policy Note

The social insurance system in the US: Policies to protect workers and families: The social insurance system in the United States, implemented by federal, state, and local government agencies, provides protection against what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the vicissitudes of life: disability, the loss of earnings in old age, being laid off, and other setbacks. The social insurance system also provides support to help people meet their basic needs and gain the skills and services they need to enter and succeed in the workforce. It encompasses a wide range of government programs, from the Social Security system, to Unemployment Insurance (UI), to early childhood education. Nearly everyone in the United States directly benefits from the social insurance system at some point in their lives. Moreover, everyone indirectly benefits from it—either from knowing the system would be there for them during some unexpected hardship or simply because it helps to support the overall economy. [Brookings]

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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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