In The Know: Virus cases declines, average daily death toll climbs | Lawmakers speak out against managed care proposal | More

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

‘The data is accurate’: Oklahoma health commissioner confirms downward trend in COVID-19 cases: Oklahoma’s commissioner of Health on Thursday confirmed a downward trend in new daily COVID-19 infections. A day after publicly second-guessing a recent drop in new COVID-19 cases reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said the trend is accurate. [The Oklahoman] Frye told legislators Wednesday that a potential glitch in the department’s reporting system may have led to fewer than 2,000 newly confirmed cases daily this week after topping 3,100 per day during six of the previous seven days, the Oklahoman reported. [AP News]

  • COVID-19: 55 more fatal cases bring Oklahoma’s average daily death toll to new high [Tulsa World]
  • How to get your second coronavirus vaccine in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]
  • Amid distribution challenges, Tulsa officials ready to ramp up vaccination efforts with increased supplies [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa COVID update: ‘Some good news & some bad news’, Bynum says [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Over 500,000 Oklahomans registered for coronavirus vaccine as of Thursday [KTUL]
  • Oklahoma COVID vaccine portal is troubling many seniors, help means long call waits [KJRH]
  • Cherokee Nation moves to next phase in vaccine distribution [KOSU]

State senators argue over plans to move Medicaid onto managed care contractors: Oklahoma lawmakers are duking it out over plans to move Medicaid patients to managed care contractors. On Thursday, a group of Republican state senators joined ranks with those who oppose the change. State Sen. George Burns (R-Pollard) and eight other state senators sent him a letter urging him to change course. The letter pointed out that the move won’t save the state money, and that those Sen. Burns knows who are familiar with managed care companies said they only benefit out-of-state insurance companies and their stockholders. [KFOR] OK Policy: Managed care is a bad investment for Oklahoma, but could be especially harmful for patients, providers, and Indigenous communities.

Health News

Veterans centers improving after COVID-19 outbreaks: The state’s seven veterans centers are expected to return to normal operations soon after a battle with COVID-19. As residents and staff members are vaccinated, the centers will be reopening and accepting new admissions, Joel Kintsel, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director, told a state Senate panel on Thursday. [Tulsa World]

  • 40 vets dead in Ardmore Veterans Center COVID-19 outbreak [KXII]

Oklahoma officials celebrate state health Pandemic Center opening, Public Health Lab relocation: Gov. Kevin Stitt and top state officials held a ribbon cutting Thursday for the newly relocated Public Health Lab and new Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence (OPCIE) in Stillwater, Okla. [KOSU]

State Government News

Some lawmakers concerned about Capitol becoming superspreader site: Concerns are mounting that Oklahoma’s state Capitol could become a COVID-19 superspreader site as the Legislature prepares to convene with no apparent mask enforcement for visitors or legislators. [CNHI via The Norman Trasncript]

In-state weekly unemployment claims dip by 15% sustaining six-month overall decline in Oklahoma: First-time jobless claims in Oklahoma declined 15% the week ending Saturday compared to revised figures from the week before, according to a government report. While jobless claim figures often are revised upward after they are initially reported, this is the first time since late July that the revised initial claims figure was more than 7,000 for one week. [Tulsa World]

Boren introduces ‘equitable’ school funding resolution: Oklahoma state Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, has filed a resolution that would allow Oklahomans the chance to vote on raising the standard for school funding in the Oklahoma state Constitution. [The Norman Transcript]

State legislatures make “unprecedented” push on anti-protest bills: The rate of new bills being offered sped up dramatically this month as lawmakers kicked off their legislative sessions at the very moment that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Bills quickly arose in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island. [The Intercept]

Norman’s state senators file differing election legislation: Norman’s state senators are taking different approaches to election-centric legislation in the bills they’ve filed for the 2021 legislative session. This period saw Oklahoma state Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, lead the charge in filing election-related bills, filing three on the topic. [The Norman Transcript]

State newspaper group opposes public notice bill: An Oklahoma senator’s proposed measure giving government entities the option of publishing legal and meeting notices in newspapers or on their websites has drawn opposition from the state’s press association. [Southwest Ledger]

Legislators launch mental health forum: Twenty-eight members of the Oklahoma Legislature recently formed a bipartisan, bicameral caucus to serve as a forum for legislators to discuss solutions to the state’s ongoing mental health and addiction crisis. [Southwest Ledger]

Proposed anti-transgender bill concerns equality advocates: An Oklahoma lawmaker’s proposal to prohibit transgender females from competing in school-sponsored athletic events has drawn the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union and a statewide LGBTQ rights group. [Southwest Ledger]

Grego files bill to reduce state park fees: District 17 State Rep. Jim Grego, R-Wilburton, is adamant about what will top his agenda for the 2021 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. “My number one passion will be the park fees,” Grego said. [McAlester News-Capital]

Senator files Second Amendment Sanctuary bill: A lawmaker filed a bill to declare Oklahoma a Second Amendment Sanctuary state. District 7 State Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, filed Senate Bill 631 as “state preemption of federal infringement of Second Amendment rights.” [McAlester News-Capital]

A Bigfoot hunting season in Oklahoma? Here’s why a lawmaker filed this unusual bill: State Rep. Justin Humphrey admits his legislation to establish a Bigfoot hunting season is primarily intended to draw tourists to southeast Oklahoma and not to bag the fabled creature. Humphrey, R-Lane, told The Oklahoman on Thursday that he is not a Bigfoot believer but keeps an open mind. [The Oklahoman] Humphrey said he doesn’t want people to actually kill Bigfoot, so he will be working with state wildlife and tourism officials to craft final language for his bill that might allow only for the trapping of Bigfoot. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Lankford, Inhofe pan Biden’s early moves on energy and environment: Oklahoma’s congressional delegation was quick to denounce new President Joe Biden’s opening moves on energy and environmental policy. Within hours of Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe issued a statement complaining about the new chief executive’s orders canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and beginning the process of rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. [Tulsa World]

  • Biden’s Keystone XL revocation is already alarming advocates for North America’s energy industry and exciting environmentalists [The Oklahoman]
  • Biden’s administration pauses ongoing energy development efforts on federal land for 60 days [The Oklahoman]

Seminole Tribe clarifies position on taxing oil and gas production: The Seminole Nation on Wednesday clarified its position on taxing oil and gas production on reservation land, saying that it was only seeking to tax activity on land under federal supervision. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma represented on inauguration stage as Biden calls for unity: Native sons who rose from small towns to touch the hearts of worldwide audiences, Garth Brooks and Woody Guthrie, represented Oklahoma during Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa County assistant prosecutor censured after interns found practicing law; justices place blame with DA, first assistant: A Tulsa County prosecutor received a public censure from the Oklahoma Bar Association after admitting during a professional tribunal last year that interns she supervised represented the agency in numerous criminal cases without being properly licensed. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Biden extends federal eviction moratorium; Oklahoma County applies for rental assistance: On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order requesting that federal eviction protections be extended through the end of March for renters facing financial hardship because of the pandemic. [The Oklahoman] 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.

Businesses come to a head over downtown homelessness with permitting issue: Seventeen downtown Enid businesses are objecting to Five80 Coffeehouse’s plans to add outdoor seating, in response to ongoing efforts to provide services to Enid’s homeless population downtown. [Enid News & Eagle]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma’s burgeoning film industry will be spotlighted at prestigious film fest: For the fourth consecutive year, a movie filmed primarily in Oklahoma will make its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. [The Oklahoman]

Choctaw test range sparks new industry in SE Oklahoma: When James Grimsley began leading operations at the Choctaw Nation’s massive flight-testing range southeast of McAlester a few years ago, his focus was on advancing drone technology into the future. Drones are still the focus, he says, but they are not necessarily the future. Rather, they are a bridge to the future. [The Journal Record]

Poultry, livestock producers could see relief from latest stimulus package: Congress has assigned $13 billion in the new COVID-19 relief bill to help farmers who have been affected by the pandemic. Those dollars include $1 billion for contract poultry and livestock growers, and would cover up to 80% of losses. [KOSU]

Education News

Rising COVID-19 cases within district prompt four Broken Arrow schools to go to distance learning: For the second time in two days, a suburban high school is pivoting to distance learning due to rising COVID-19 numbers. [Tulsa World] The district did not adopt a new policy eliminating quarantine for in-school exposures when both people were wearing masks. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Muscogee (Creek) Nation oral history project will document COVID-19’s impact on citizens: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s National Library and Archives received $100,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to document citizens’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council holds off regulating medical marijuana [The Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt forms campaign committee for 2022 re-election bid [The Oklahoman]
  • City wants people to submit ‘Tulsa Thanks You’ videos for health care workers [Tulsa World]
  • Diverse, equitable, inclusive initiatives top of mind for 2021 Tulsa Regional Chamber Chair [Public Radio Tulsa] | [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Senate redistricting meeting provides information, community involvement [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Lawton City Planning Commission recommends dual use medical marijuana facilities [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“If (legislators) wash their hands, if they physically distance, if they wear a mask that covers their nose and if they get vaccinated, then we are rocking and good to go. Some may not buy into some of these mitigation measures, but they all matter.”

-Dr. Jean Hausheer, past president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said the likelihood of a COVID-19 superspreader event depends on how the legislators behave [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day


Number of Broken Arrow students who are in quarantine as of Thursday, Jan. 22, due to close contact exposure. This represents about 8% of all students enrolled for in-person instruction and marks an increase of 565 students since the close of business Tuesday. Due to rising virus numbers, four Broken Arrow school sites are moving to distance learning. Last week, Gov. Stitt touted Broken Arrow’s in-person offerings in criticizing Tulsa Public Schools’ reliance on distance learning for much of the year. [Tulsa World]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

White House Launches New Strategy to Combat COVID-19, Reopen Schools: The White House has launched a new, more centralized strategy to combat COVID-19 and reopen schools Thursday, formalizing pledges he made during the campaign and the transition. The 200-page federal plan, and executive orders he signed Thursday, call for “sustained and coordinated” efforts with the cooperation of states and new resources, guidance, and data for schools as they continue to respond to the pandemic. The school reopening pledge comes as states and districts around the country take a patchwork of approaches. While many school districts have held in-person learning with modifications like mask wearing a social distancing, some large urban school districts have remained in or switched back to remote learning amid new surges in virus rates. [Education Week]

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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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