In The Know: Virus becomes Tulsa Co.’s 4th leading cause of death | Vaccinations begin at nursing homes | Look at stimulus package

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.

NOTE:  Our daily In The Know news digest and our Weekly Wonk enewsletter will be on hiatus until Monday, Jan. 4.    

New from OK Policy

Virtual public meetings protect health, allow democratic representation during pandemic (Guest Post): Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide and in Oklahoma, as well as the increased risk associated with indoor gatherings, both the Governor and the Legislature have so far refused to convene a brief special session to allow governmental agencies to continue to meet virtually. This decision, or lack thereof, comes in spite of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s repeated pleas for vulnerable populations to stay home in a state that ranks in the bottom 10 for health. A special session, which can be called by either the Governor or the state Legislature, can immediately address this policy failure. Our state faces a substantial surge in COVID-19 cases due to holiday gatherings, and every day their delayed action yields increased danger for the public and local public servants. [Laura Bellis / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

COVID-19 becomes Tulsa County’s fourth-leading cause of death as public health officials urge safe holiday gatherings: In only 10 months, COVID-19 became the fourth-leading cause of death for Tulsa County residents on Tuesday when the death toll was overlaid on the list of 2018’s top mortality causes, according to the Tulsa Health Department. The department used 2018 for its novel coronavirus comparison because 2018 is the most recent year for which county mortality data are finalized. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma City hospitals see longer wait times as COVID-19 patient numbers remain elevated [NewsOn6]
  • COVID-19 hospitalization numbers in Oklahoma remain flat but very high [KOCO]
  • COVID-19: Hospitalizations reach new high; 22 more deaths reported [Tulsa World]
  • Southeast region in Tier 3 of state’s hospital surge plan [McAlester News-Capital]
  • ‘Almost haunted by it’: Nurse’s family mourns 3 coronavirus deaths, loss of grandmother amid ICU shortage [Tulsa World]
  • Norman residents react to judge’s restraining order on Stitt’s bar order [The Norman Transcript]
  • Tulsa Health Department staff read ‘Mean Tweets’ received during pandemic [YouTube]

Oklahoma inmates and corrections staff will wait on COVID-19 vaccine: Oklahoma inmates, a group four times more likely to contract the coronavirus than the general population, won’t receive initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Residents and workers in congregate living facilities are assigned to phase 2E of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, immediately behind older adults and teachers. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • COVID-19 vaccinations begin at Oklahoma nursing homes, long-term care facilities [The Oklahoman]
  • Misinformation poses threat to rural COVID-19 vaccination rates in Oklahoma [KOSU]
  • Second phase of vaccines may start next week [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
  • Health leader expects 175,000 vaccinations by year’s end [AP News]
  • Ascension St. John experiencing COVID vaccine difficulties, leaders blame THD [KJRH]
  • Veteran caregivers react after COVID vaccine distributed in Green Country [KTUL]
  • Distribution of Moderna COVID vaccine underway in Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • If someone has already had COVID-19 and recovered, do they still need to be vaccinated? [Tulsa World]

State & Local Government News

Republican state lawmakers urge congressional delegation to fight Electoral College result: Thirty-nine Republican members of the Oklahoma Legislature said Tuesday they want the state’s congressional delegation to object when Electoral College votes are counted on Jan. 6. Democrat Joe Biden is expected to be declared the winner following what has historically been a formality in the presidential election process. [Tulsa World] Twenty-four Republican members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and 15 Republican members of the State Senate signed letters. [The Lawton Constitution]

Indicted state Cabinet member David Ostrowe now on leave: A member of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet who was indicted last week on an attempted bribery charge has taken a leave of absence, the Tulsa World learned Tuesday. David Ostrowe, Stitt’s secretary of digital transformation and administration, was indicted by the state’s multicounty grand jury on allegations that he tried to pressure two members of the Oklahoma Tax Commission to drop penalties and late fees owed by a business owned by former state Sen. Jason Smalley. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma electrical failures are renewing a debate over the effectiveness of underground power lines: The Public Utilities Division of Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission is querying electric service providers across much of Oklahoma about how they handled outages caused by October’s ice storm and about how they propose to mitigate potential impacts caused by future similar events. [The Oklahoman]

Will Oklahoma County officials vote to pay themselves $122,637 a year?: Oklahoma County’s elected officials will meet Wednesday morning for a possible vote on raising their own salaries $17,375 a year. The assessor, treasurer, court clerk, county clerk, sheriff and three county commissioners now make $105,262.50 annually. The proposed raise would increase it to $122,637.50. The raise would go into effect Jan. 1. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Most Oklahoma lawmakers vote for coronavirus relief package: Most members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation voted Monday for the $900 billion coronavirus relief package and the catch-all spending bill covering federal government operations for the next nine months, though some complained that compromise took far too long. [The Oklahoman] At 5,593 pages, the coronavirus relief and omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress Monday night was just too long for 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin. [Tulsa World]

  • What the stimulus package means for unemployed Oklahomans [The Oklahoman]
  • Federal coronavirus relief bill welcomed by state restaurant industry [Tulsa World] | [The Journal Record]
  • Massive spending, relief bill includes Oklahoma provisions [The Oklahoman]
  • Furloughed American Airlines workers in Tulsa to be recalled with extension of Payroll Support Program [Tulsa World]

Trump pardons man who made moonshine in Oklahoma: President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted a full pardon to a man who pleaded guilty in 1952 to helping his wife’s uncle illegally distill moonshine in Oklahoma, the White House announced. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Norman could hire two for homeless outreach: The City of Norman could hire two full-time employees to expand its housing outreach program, a staff member said Tuesday. Lisa Krieg, the city’s grants manager, told the Ad Hoc Committee to Address Homelessness that the team would fill a need for consistent outreach to encampment areas. [The Norman Transcript]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma City developers thrilled to reveal plans for ambitious R&D center: Aviation, aerospace, bioscience and energy research and development are planned for a mixed-use project “focused on collaborative innovation” — in Oklahoma City’s Innovation District — revealed Tuesday by two of the city’s leading developers, Gardner Tanenbaum and Robinson Park Investments. [The Oklahoman]

FX comedy series ‘Reservation Dogs’ set in rural Oklahoma, written by Oklahoma filmmaker: Rural Oklahoma will be the setting for “Reservation Dogs,” a half-hour comedy series from Oklahoma and Native American filmmaker Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Termination hearing set for Indigenous-focused charter school in Oklahoma City: The Indigenous-focused Sovereign Community School in Oklahoma City is facing termination over its finances. Last month, the State Board of Education voted to put the school on probation. Then, on Dec. 17, the board voted unanimously to schedule a termination hearing in 90 days citing the school’s financial stability and concern over enough classes for high school graduation. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“Why people don’t take this more serious — I don’t know. There are a lot of selfish people out there. I can’t stand a mask … but I still wear it and make sure that I do it.”

-Calvin Gaston of Grove, who has lost three family members to COVID-19, along with a fourth due to a heart attack during an ICU bed shortage in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Americans who personally know someone who has been hospitalized or died due to COVID-19. The rate is higher for Black Americans (71%) and Latinx (61%), and lower for whites at 49% and Asians at 48%.

[Source: Pew Research]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Largest Increase In U.S. Poverty Recorded In 2020: Due to the coronavirus pandemic’s decimation of the labor market and the months-long expiration of benefits from the government relief package keeping families afloat, the poverty rate in the United States surged from 9.3% in June to 11.7% in November, according to a report released Wednesday by analysts at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, creating the biggest increase in a single year since the government began tracking poverty in 1960. [Forbes]

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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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