In The Know: Surge of COVID patients, young and unvaccinated | Health officials increase call for vaccinations as hospitalizations rise

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

‘It’s a crisis’: COVID-19 hospitalizations soaring at record pace as virus spreads faster than ever in Oklahoma: COVID-19 hospitalizations have skyrocketed at record rates to reach levels now that Oklahoma endured in fall 2020 as the virus spreads more efficiently than ever in the state. In only a month, COVID hospitalizations have gone from lows similar to June 2020 after quarantine to then what took four months to hit October 2020 levels — when then-president Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force advised Gov. Kevin Stitt that “many preventable deaths” were happening in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

New surge of COVID patients, young and unvaccinated, ‘very scary’ for Saint Francis physicians: Apathy and complacency — not anti-vaccine sentiment or denial of the existence of the pandemic — drove the vast majority of new COVID-19 patients filling up hospital beds in Tulsa to choose not to be vaccinated. And physicians on the front lines of the latest surge in cases say the consequences have been both stunning and devastating. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘I feel like I’m sending my kids into the lion’s den.’ Back-to-school worries grow amid COVID surge [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Mask bullies’ concern state parents as fall semester looms [The Oklahoman]
  • These 4 maps show how COVID is affecting Oklahoma today [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma GOP likens vaccine mandates to persecution of Jews: The Oklahoma Republican Party faced fierce criticism Friday for a Facebook post likening COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany. [AP News]

  • Oklahoma GOP leader defends comments comparing vaccine mandates to Jewish persecution [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma GOP chairman doubles down on comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust [KOSU]
  • Top Republicans denounce Oklahoma GOP for comparing vaccine mandates to Jewish persecution [The Oklahoman]
  • Jewish Federation of Tulsa calls out state GOP for using Star of David in vaccine dispute [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma GOP leader compares vaccine mandates to the Holocaust: ‘Take away the star and add a vaccine passport’ [Washington Post

State Government News

Legislative action to block COVID-19 vaccine mandates appears unlikely: Despite mounting political pressure, it appears unlikely state lawmakers will be called into a special legislative session to address COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A vocal contingent of roughly two dozen Republican legislators is pressuring the state’s top elected officials to take action to prohibit local hospitals from implementing COVID-19 vaccine requirements for their employees. [The Oklahoman]

Lawmakers seek studies on prison staffing, other criminal justice issues: State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, has spent much of the summer sounding the alarm over Oklahoma’s prison understaffing problem. On June 18 he asked Gov. Kevin Stitt to declare a state of emergency, arguing that low staffing numbers have elevated the risk of riots and violence in state prisons. He’s appeared on weekly Facebook Live broadcasts with Bobby Cleveland, director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals group, to provide updates on what he’s hearing from prison workers. [Oklahoma Watch]

State unravels massive fraud in Oklahoma unemployment claims: Throughout the pandemic, fraudsters, hackers and thieves have stolen what could easily exceed a half-a-billion state and federal dollars meant to be used as unemployment assistance for Oklahomans. It is believed to be the largest theft of public money in Oklahoma state history. [The Oklahoman]

‘Ridiculous’: Oklahoma cannabis patients, workers rally at state Capitol: Medical marijuana patients and people who work in the fledgling industry rallied at the Oklahoma state Capitol on Friday to show support for the state’s marijuana laws and to call for increased transparency from the state entity that regulates cannabis. [The Oklahoman] At least 100 medical cannabis patients and business owners went to the Oklahoma Capitol and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority’s new office on Friday with a message for the agency’s leadership: improve transparency or resign. [Tulsa World]

Sources: Talks underway to potentially remove Bennett as chair: Following a Facebook video in which Oklahoma GOP Chairman John Bennett continued to equate the treatment of unvaccinated Americans to that of Jews during the Holocaust, a source with direct knowledge said conversations about possibly removing Bennett from office are in progress. [The Norman Transcript]

AG candidate Gentner Drummond has already raised more than half a million: Tulsa attorney and Osage County rancher Gentner Drummond raised $546,763 in the first month of his second bid to become attorney general. The election is next year. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Stitt, other Oklahoma officials urge Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade: Gov. Kevin Stitt and several other Oklahoma elected officials urged the U.S. Supreme Court last week to overturn its longstanding protections for abortion, as a recent poll showed a narrow majority of Oklahomans favor state restrictions. [The Oklahoman]

Appropriations package moves without Oklahoma delegation’s amendments: The U.S. House passed a major appropriations bill along party lines Thursday, without amendments proposed by members of the Oklahoma delegation. The bill passed by a vote of 219-208, with only Democrats voting for the bill and only Republicans voting against. The bill includes funds for several government departments and agencies for fiscal year 2022. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

Newspapers face challenge with postal rate increase: A planned postal rate increase by the United States Postal Service to offset projected losses has stoked opposition from publishers and mailers, as well as members of Congress. “We believe that the PRC, Postal Regulatory Commission, did not have the authority to approve a rate increase above the rate of inflation, which is what they did,” said Brett Wesner, National Newspaper Association chairman and owner of 10 newspapers in western Oklahoma, including the Cordell Beacon. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

Tribal Nations News

Promised Land recap: Osage Nation seeks reservation reaffirmation: As with most complex civil issues, many people will readily admit that they have not been keeping up with the cascade of news about the affirmed Indian Country reservations in eastern Oklahoma. To be sure, many tribal citizens, state leaders, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, other lawyers and victim advocacy groups are particularly focused on the topic. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

‘This evening is about hope’: Prison nonprofit, Oklahoma partners push for justice reform: While Oklahoma no longer ranks No. 1 overall for incarceration rates, the state is still high on the list, and community leaders and nonprofits like Prison Fellowship say further work is necessary. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

‘A sandbag operation’: With moratorium ending, Tulsa braces for a potential flood of evictions: As Tulsa went into lockdown, most parents stopped bringing their children to the day care center where she worked. And Brooke, like an estimated 20.6 million other Americans in the spring of 2020, lost her job during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World]

  • Federal eviction moratorium expired July 31 [KFOR]
  • How Oklahoma evictions might spike after July [AP News / Tulsa World]
  • How Oklahomans can get help as the eviction moratorium ends [News On 6]
  • ‘A time bomb ticking’: See rental arrears in Oklahoma County [Patch]

Economy & Business News

Energy professionals in limbo amid industry transition: While most industries across the country are struggling to find people they need to produce the goods and provide the services now in high demand in a post-COVID economy, there is at least one industry awash in talent just itching to find a job. [The Journal Record]

Education News

All aboard: Regents vote for OU to join the SEC in 2025: Hitch up the wagon and get some apples for the ponies — the University of Oklahoma’s athletic programs are headed to the SEC in 2025, if not earlier. The OU Board of Regents voted unanimously today to join the University of Texas in leaving the Big 12 Conference for the powerful Southeastern Conference, which accepted the two schools’ request for membership Thursday. [NonDoc]

  • SEC welcomes Texas, Oklahoma after boards accept invitations [AP News]
  • The Source podcast: What an SEC move will mean for OU, Texas and the Big 12 [The Oklahoman]

General News

Exhumed remains reburied at Oaklawn amid protests from Greenwood descendants: The remains of 19 people exhumed from Oaklawn Cemetery earlier this summer were reinterred Friday over the loud objections of 25 to 30 possible descendants of those individuals. [Tulsa World] Kristi Williams is a member of the Graves Investigation Public Oversight Committee. She protested the reinterment, and said the remains shouldn’t be buried yet because they haven’t been identified. [Public Radio Tulsa] Kristi Williams is a descendant of Massacre survivors. Her great aunt escaped Greenwood’s famous Dreamland Theatre during the racist, city-sanctioned attack on the community in 1921. [Black Wall Street Times]

Faith coalition to give survivors funds as Tulsa Race Massacre ‘atonement’: The leader of a Tulsa faith coalition said the organization plans to deliver donations to 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors within the week. Aliya Shimi, executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries, said the organization has raised money for the last three known race massacre survivors as part of its Greenwood Restoration and Reparation Fund. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Closed school set to become community resource center for eastside OKC [The Oklahoman]
  • Big economic development projects on OKC Council agenda [The Journal Record]
  • OKC Mayor David Holt re-election campaign funds top $500,000 [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC Pride Alliance Parade small but enthusiastic in spite of heat, COVID [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“(W)e are now currently suffering from massive disinformation. It is heartbreaking to see lies and deception from all sides of the political spectrum costing people their lives, purely to gain more attention for themselves.”

-Bartlesville physicians’ letter to the community entitled, “Believe science. Get the vaccine.” [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children aged 12-17 who are fully vaccinated, which is a little more than 1 in 6. (As of July 23, 2021) [CDC

Policy Note

State Juvenile Justice Reforms Can Boost Opportunity, Particularly for Communities of Color: States can expand opportunity and build stronger, more prosperous, and inclusive communities by reducing the incarceration of children and young adults and increasing the use of sensible alternatives that advance equitable outcomes. The number of youth being arrested and incarcerated has fallen dramatically over the past two decades, giving states an opportunity to close youth prisons and invest the savings into community-based approaches that nurture children and young adults while building stronger communities. These policy improvements would particularly benefit communities of color since young people of color are still much more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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