In The Know: Virus cases declining, as fatality rate increases | Prisons stopped virus testing | COVID-19 leave good for employees, communities

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: COVID-19 leave supports employees, protects communities: The COVID-19 virus does more than just sicken one individual. It directly affects every member of the person’s immediate family, their loved ones, and their workplace. Business owners can support employees with ill family members by offering them paid family leave to help ensure families can recover safely. This also can mitigate the virus’s spread in our communities. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

COVID-19: Dip in case count among good signs for Oklahoma while fatality average jumps 59%: For the first time since May, the number of active COVID-19 infections in Oklahoma has dropped, but that doesn’t mean hospital systems are “out of the woods” in dealing with often-fatal cases. “Nationally, deaths are way up from COVID-19,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Health chief quality officer, adding that the fatality toll follows the hospitalizations metric. [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Oklahomans among those claiming religious exemptions to vaccine mandates [The Oklahoman]
  • This Tulsa pastor will sign a religious exemption for vaccines if you donate to his church [Washington Post]
  • TPS confirms teacher’s death from COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma is reporting an average of 2,209 infections per day in the past week. [KOSU]

Oklahoma prisons have stopped widespread COVID testing even as cases spike again across the state: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has backed away from earlier promises to adopt mandatory COVID-19 testing for staff and other precautionary measures even as a new surge of the Delta variant has swept across the state. The agency relaxed many COVID testing requirements for prisoners and prison staff after the number of confirmed cases in the prison system fell to nearly zero earlier this year. [The Frontier]

  • Another Oklahoma County jail inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Stitt to seek investigative audit of State Education Department 10 months after lawmakers’ request: Two lawmakers say Gov. Kevin Stitt is asking for an investigative audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s oversight of public school cost accounting. “Tomorrow, they will be requesting an audit of the State Department of Education,” said Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Health care facility says Medicaid is working, no need for a change: At Morton Comprehensive Health Center they’ve enrolled over 1,200 people in the state’s Medicaid program, with the recent expansion making it more accessible to those who need it. “Yesterday, I went into our enrollment center that we have here and there was a patient that had never had insurance her whole life,” said Morton CEO Susan Savage. But the recent talks of moving SoonerCare into the hands of private companies have Savage worried about the impact it could have on patients. [KTUL]

Editorial: Get a vaccine to honestly honor those who died from COVID-19: Each day another story surfaces of a once healthy person struck down by COVID-19. Those are firefighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, lawmakers and people from all walks of life. Each left communities grieving. Tributes found online contain an outpouring of emotion with remembrances of full lives of family, friends and love. Go Fund Me sites pop up to pay for medical bills or to help with children left behind. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma medical groups expand free therapy program for doctors amid COVID-19 fallout: Frontline hospital doctors have, of course, been swamped. We’ve all heard the tragic — and traumatic — stories about seeing patients die in isolation, watching them say their last goodbyes to family via iPad. A less told story: many physicians weren’t swamped. At the beginning, hospitals and practices were downsizing. People weren’t coming in for regular appointments, they were delaying care. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Mental Health Experts Worry Pandemic May Have Pushed Up Oklahoma’s Already High Youth Suicide Rate: Mental health experts don’t have a clear picture of how COVID has affected Oklahoma’s already high youth suicide rate, but they fear the pandemic has increased it. For 2019, Oklahoma’s youth suicide rate was about double the national average, but preliminary data shows a slight decline in 2020. In a regular state survey of sixth through 12th grade students, however, one in 10 of the 89,000 kids who completed it said they attempted suicide in the past 12 months. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Okla. Hospital Association: Recent Ivermectin Story ‘Sensationalized’: The Oklahoma Hospital Association reacts to stories that an emergency room doctor lied to the media about rampant ivermectin overdoses in the state. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State & Local Government News

Legislators look at shift in family and children services: Child welfare services could be more effective — and less expensive — if they were more proactive than reactive, an Oklahoma House of Representatives subcommittee was told Tuesday. “Sixty percent of child protective services responses nationally are for neglect only, … but our interventions have been predominantly focused on addressing … physical abuse,” said Claire Anderson, a senior policy advisor with the Chapin Hall child welfare research center at the University of Chicago. [Tulsa World]

House committee hears of death, pain and trauma inflicted by high-speed pursuits by law enforcement: In a tearful voice, Melissa Bruckman described for state lawmakers how a stolen vehicle wasn’t worth her husband’s life nor the risk to anyone else that day in May 2017 when state troopers and Sapulpa officers chased an eluder the wrong way on U.S. 75. [Tulsa World]

The new Latino landscape: The swift growth of U.S. Latinos is reshaping big states and small towns. Meet the faces of a new era. The Latino population in Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas grew by 19.6 percent over the last decade. [NBC News]

Election 2022: An Early Look at Whether Oklahoma Could Expand, Shrink Voting Access: Earlier this year, Oklahoma became one of the few Republican-led states to expand, rather than restrict voting access. In a move that will cost the state $40,000 per election, lawmakers passed House Bill 2663 with bipartisan support as they added an extra early-voting day for general elections. The new law comes as Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas and several other states responded to unfounded and refuted claims about the 2020 presidential election by enacting laws making it harder to vote. [Oklahoma Watch]

Sept. 14 special election: 14 of 18 schools pass bonds, Lawton mayor re-elected: Dozens of local jurisdictions across Oklahoma held public votes during the Sept. 14 special election. Lawton re-elected its mayor, Coweta approved a sales tax and the community of Bethel Acres in Pottawatomie County authorized the creation of a town charter after reportedly realizing it did not have one. [NonDoc]

  • Edmond sales tax vote set for Oct. 12; voter registration deadline is Friday [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Methane fee opposed by energy industry wins committee approval: A U.S. House committee has approved a new fee on methane emissions, despite warnings from the energy industry and Republican lawmakers that the move would raise costs for heating homes and a variety of other activities. [The Oklahoman]

OU alumnae Maggie Nichols: FBI handling of Nassar case ‘disgusting and shameful’: Former University of Oklahoma gymnast Maggie Nichols told a key U.S. Senate panel Wednesday that she was directed not to say anything that could compromise an FBI investigation into sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, then the national gymnastics team’s doctor. [NonDoc] Maggie Nichols was joined by Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney as the four testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

First Americans Museum spent years learning from Oklahoma tribes before opening: Curators consulted for years with tribal leaders before the museum opened. They learned about cultures as diverse as the tribes’ original homelands, which covered most of the contiguous U.S., as well as parts of Mexico and Canada. The federal government systematically and forcibly removed them from those lands to present-day Oklahoma in the 1800s. [The Oklahoman]

Osage Nation Principal Chief Standing Bear announces bid for reelection: Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey M. Standing Bear is seeking a third term as principal chief, he announced Wednesday. A tribal law attorney before becoming chief, Standing Bear has been in office since 2014. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

High schoolers help Tulsa Police demonstrate traffic stop to illustrate ‘do’s and dont’s’: Maj. Laurel Roberts hung her torso out of the front passenger window of the SUV, turning to yell at an officer who was approaching from a motorcycle behind with red-and-blue lights ablaze. “What’s going on? Why are you stopping us?” the Tulsa police administrator asked before quickly dipping back inside to grab her smartphone to film. “Do you know who my dad is?” [Tulsa World]

Five years ago, Terence Crutcher was killed by a Tulsa police officer. The city has never been the same: Five years ago, on Sept. 16, 2016, Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot dead by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby. He was Black and unarmed. She was white and carried a gun. All of it was captured on video. And the city has never been the same. [Tulsa World]

  • Terence Crutcher Foundation Marking 5 Years Since Police Killing With Vigil, Community Events [Public Radio Tulsa]

On Death Row Half His Life, Oklahoma Man May Be a Step Closer to Release: A panel has recommended that Julius Jones’s sentence in a 1999 murder be commuted. His case, which has prompted public demonstrations and celebrity advocacy, is now on the governor’s desk. [New York Times]

Oklahoma’s death penalty history: Botched executions, wrong drugs, exonerations: With a parole board recommending Julius Jones’ commutation from death to life in prison with the possibility of parole, Oklahoma’s history of executions has come to light. The state that was the first to allow more than one way to execute someone has a storied and complicated history, including last-minute exonerations and botched deaths. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Economic Opportunity

In Oklahoma and six other states, landlords can evict renters for reporting health and safety violations: Most states have housing laws that bar landlords from retaliating against renters for things like filing formal complaints about housing conditions. Seven states don’t have that protection for renters, which housing advocates say enables slumlords to continue leasing unsafe, unlivable properties by evicting renters who issue complaints. [Big If True]

Economy & Business News

Expert: Employment won’t recover for a year: U.S. employment won’t recover to pre-pandemic levels until mid- to late 2022, Oklahoma economist Russell Evans said Tuesday in a presentation at the 2021 Commercial Real Estate Summit. “We would need 325,000 new jobs per month for a year to get back,” said Evans, who is the interim business dean at Oklahoma City University. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma’s energy industry is rebounding. But can it be sustained?: An economic bounce has boosted the outlook for many players in the Oklahoma oil and gas industry, but there’s trepidation about how far the industry can soar. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“This dramatic increase in ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) prevalence among the youngest adults puts the next generation of children at risk. Each time we see the ACE prevalence in a population increase, it is essentially a future claim against the budgets of the state.”

-Laura Potter, co-founder of ACE Interface and a national consultant on adverse childhood experiences, speaking at an Oklahoma House subcommittee hearing about child well-being [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of job losses in low-wage industries from February 2020 to August 2021, which is four times higher than the -3.5% average job loss across all pay ranges [CBPP]

Policy Note

Strengthening Paid Leave Policies Could Yield Positive Work and Health Outcomes: The pandemic has called attention to large gaps in access to paid family and medical leave to care for an ill loved one or recover from one’s own illness or injury—leave that helps protect people from the financial consequences of a health shock. At both the state and national levels, support is increasing for a comprehensive paid leave benefit. [Urban Institute]

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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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