In The Know: Virus hospitalizations continue to climb | Officials: Vaccine mandate would hurt nursing home staffing | 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.

We’re Hiring

Deadline: Today, Aug. 23: Regional Organizer for Together Oklahoma, 3 available positions: OK Policy is currently hiring for three regional organizers in Northeast, Southwest, and Central Oklahoma. Regional Organizers provide structured leadership in the development and implementation of community-based advocacy actions that further policy goals identified by OK Policy, and work closely with Together Oklahoma (TOK) chapters, which are composed of volunteers that form OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy arm. Applications close on August 23, 2021 at 5:00 PM (CST). Click here to learn more and apply.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma Health Department to resume reporting hospital capacity data amid surge: The Oklahoma Health Department will begin reporting hospital capacity data again as hospitals are struggling with an influx of patients during the state’s latest COVID-19 surge. The Oklahoma Hospital Association recently completed a survey of hospitals across the state to give health leaders a clearer picture of staffed bed capacity in the state, Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said at a briefing Thursday with reporters. According to the survey, there are 5,913 staffed beds statewide, 946 of which are intensive-care unit beds. [The Oklahoman]

  • As COVID spread hits chicken-pox level, forecasts vary on ‘normal’ life resuming in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa ER nurse wants world to see her 3-year-old’s battle against COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • COVID testing has ramped back up around Tulsa, affecting high positivity rate [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by over 270% in the last month [The Frontier]
  • Epidemiologist Warns Oklahoma’s Delta Variant–Driven COVID Surge Is Not Waning [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tribes cancel Labor Day events amid COVID-19 uptick [NonDoc]
  • State Health Department: Vaccine Supply Sufficient To Start COVID-19 Boosters Sept. 20 If Approved [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • What have Oklahoma health leaders said so far about COVID-19 booster shots? [Tulsa World]

State officials stand by school mask ban despite pressure: State leaders are doubling down on a controversial school masking ban, despite a warning from the country’s highest education official that it could jeopardize federal funding and despite a plea from a high-profile Oklahoma business owner to rescind it. The two Aug. 18 letters come as pressure grows on lawmakers to repeal Senate Bill 658, which among other things prohibits school boards from requiring students to wear masks as they return to in-person instruction. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Cherokee Nation donates thousands of masks to school districts in Oklahoma [FOX 23]
  • Editorial: Can Oklahoma districts keep students in school and safe without ‘mandating’ masks? [Editorial / Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19 surge bringing back mask mandates [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma leaders say COVID vaccine mandate for nursing home staff could mean ‘catastrophe’: Oklahoma nursing home leaders are worried that the Biden administration’s plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees could exacerbate staffing shortages or even force facilities to close. [The Oklahoman] Steven Buck is the CEO of Care Providers Oklahoma. He said at a press conference today the vaccine mandate will worsen an already bad staff shortage. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Mental health online: Police posts of crises may traumatize: The videos are difficult to watch. In one, a man dangles over the edge of an Oklahoma City overpass, his legs swinging in midair as police grab his arms and pull him from the brink. In another, a woman hangs high above the Los Angeles Harbor as a half-dozen officers drag her, head-first, up the side of the bridge. The panicked voices of cops cry out, “We got you, we got you!” just before they pin her to the ground and pull out handcuffs. [AP News]

State Government News

Gov. Stitt’s office assists getting people with Oklahoma ties out of Afghanistan: Gov. Kevin Stitt thanked the government of Qatar on Friday for helping his office get Americans out of Afghanistan. Stitt’s office played a role in getting around 15 people with ties to Oklahoma out of Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, sources in his office said Friday on background. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘You did your part’: Oklahoma National Guard leader says U.S. troops in Afghanistan did what country asked [Tulsa World]

After sexual assault and masturbation video allegation, John Woods out as OU lobbyist: Earlier this month, a former executive assistant in the Oklahoma State Senate requested and received an emergency protective order against then-University of Oklahoma executive director of government affairs John Woods after alleging he sexually assaulted her in a parking lot and then sent her a video of himself masturbating. [NonDoc]

Grading Oklahoma: Our state’s roads aren’t the worst in the nation, but they’re 40th in safety: Grading Oklahoma this week looks at Oklahoma’s roadways. While the state struggles in some metrics, it has seen a drastic improvement in its bridge infrastructure since 2004. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Rep. Kevin Hern assets boosted by stocks as taxpayers help lawmaker’s company make payroll: In late March 2020, when the stock market was reeling from the onset of the pandemic, a trust owned by U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern purchased more than $1 million worth of stock, mostly in well-known companies like Microsoft, Home Depot and Amazon. The Hern Family Revocable Trust had assets last year worth between $18 million and $58 million, with the value boosted by those stock purchases, which would have yielded at least $700,000 in profit between March 26 and Dec. 31. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Editorial: Reforms needed in OHP use of high-speed chases and high-risk techniques to end them: High-speed pursuits, intentionally sending vehicles spinning with a maneuver called tactical vehicle intervention and using tire deflation spikes are all potentially dangerous moves that require careful thought, supervision and review. Eighteen people have died in 15 OHP pursuits in the past five years. Don’t be quick to dismiss that statistic and the underlying issue as the sole responsibility of the person being pursued by troopers. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

State files more petitions seeking high court reversal of McGirt: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has filed more petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court asking justices to overturn last year’s ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation still exists. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

With or without a moratorium, Tulsa is seeing eviction cases rise: A brief gap in a federal eviction moratorium allowed local courts to move forward this month on some cases that had been pending for as long as a year. President Joe Biden initially said he wouldn’t extend the moratorium, which had been in place in one form or another since summer 2020, then changed his mind just three days later, despite federal courts suggesting that it would likely be declared unconstitutional. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Solar energy company EightTwenty seeks to shine light on industry potential in Oklahoma: EightTwenty is less than a year old, but the new solar energy company’s owners are ambitiously plotting to take on what they see as an untapped market. In just the past few weeks, the company led by the former president of Heartland Payment Systems has bid to build a headquarters on Urban Renewal land east of Bricktown while partners in the company have proposed taking over construction of The Hill and turn the Deep Deuce development into a zero-energy neighborhood. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

OU, OSU welcome record-breaking, diverse freshman classes: The 2021 fall semester is underway at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, and both universities are boasting historic enrollments. In a statement released Friday, OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. announced that the university’s incoming freshman class is “the largest, most diverse, and most academically qualified class in (OU’s) history.” [Tulsa World]

OSUIT in Okmulgee sends students ‘Upward Bound’: Graduating with a few college credits already completed can give high school students a significant head start in their education and career. In Okmulgee, students have the opportunity to get some of those credits — and a number of other services from the nearby Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. [NonDoc]

General News

‘I never imagined this’: Downtown OKC post office renamed for Clara Luper: Blocks from where she initiated one of the nation’s first sit-in movements, civil rights icon Clara Luper is now memorialized in the name of the downtown Oklahoma City post office. Luper’s descendants, former students and original “sit-inners” joined local dignitaries Saturday morning for the dedication of the Clara Luper Post Office Building, 305 NW 5. The facility was formerly called the Center City Station. [The Oklahoman] | [OKC Free Press]

  • New artwork honoring civil rights leader Clara Luper on display in Midtown OKC [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Norman Council to vote on resolution encouraging masks, vaccinations [The Norman Transcript]
  • ‘We lost a piece of history.’ Rural Oklahoma communities seek help to save historic downtown buildings [The Oklahoman]
  • Is conservative Jason Padgett’s campaign for Oklahoma City mayor over? [The Oklahoman]
  • Ninnekah community furious at school district’s ‘failure to act’ in sexual abuse scandal [The Oklahoman]
  • Editorial: Tulsa City Council and Mayor G.T. Bynum must protect Tulsans from COVID-19 [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“So forgive me, but I am angry. I am angry that I have done EVERYTHING right. Angry that I come to work and exhaust myself to treat unvaccinated patients. Only to bring it home to my babies. Can you imagine my frustration? My guilt? My fear?”

-Amelia Cannon, a Tulsa ER nurse, talking about her 3-year-old daughter being hospitalized from COVID-19 [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahomans in poverty receiving cash assistance from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), ranking Oklahoma 10th lowest in helping families in need. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

Chart Book: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at 25: Twenty-five years ago last week, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program as the nation’s primary source of cash assistance to families with children when they fall on hard times or have very low incomes. TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a program that had been in existence since 1935. Since TANF’s creation, the accessibility and adequacy of cash assistance has fallen dramatically and, in some states, primarily in the South and where Black children are likelier to live, TANF cash assistance has all but disappeared. [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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