In The Know: What’s preventing Oklahomans from returning to work | COVID immunity rising, but health system still overwhelmed

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

Shortage of workers, child care hinder state’s economic recovery: Oklahoma’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be hindered by a mismatch in labor supply and demand along with a shortage of quality, affordable child care options, experts told a state Senate committee Tuesday. [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital] Oklahomans are not returning to low paying jobs and state lawmakers are now trying to figure out how to solve the problem. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is returning to pre-pandemic levels after soaring in April of last year. [News 9] “The pandemic did reveal that our unemployment system is broke as far as good workers,” said Paul Shinn, budget and tax senior policy analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute. [KOCO] “This is a long term problem,” said Josie Philips of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Concerns were voiced at a State Senate interim study on Tuesday, examining roadblocks that are keeping Oklahomans from returning to work during the pandemic. [KFOR

OU epidemiologist estimates delta variant pushed state’s population immunity to 78%, doesn’t expect COVID-19 uptick until winter: About 78% of the state’s population probably has immunity against COVID-19 after vaccination or natural infection — but don’t take that level of protection for granted, a University of Oklahoma epidemiologist said Tuesday. Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, also an OU public health professor, said a series of facts remains unchanged: hospitals are full, health care providers are overwhelmed and emergency room waits are long. Wendelboe estimates the delta variant-driven surge boosted Oklahoma’s population immunity to 78% from 61% in mid-July. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma City teacher, who required mask wearing in his classroom, is hospitalized with COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • 1 in 400 Oklahomans have died of COVID-19 as death toll approaches 10,000 [The Frontier]
  • Muscogee Nation offering COVID infusions at former Cancer Treatment Center [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

‘A reminder that you’re not alone’: Suicide prevention touring exhibit stops off at TCC, OSU: To end the silence surrounding mental health and ultimately prevent more suicides are the goals behind a national touring exhibit that is visiting two Oklahoma college campuses this week [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Editorial: Court fee system needs to be reworked: Damion Shade with Oklahoma Policy Institute said the state has relied on a fee-for-service model to fund law enforcement entities, victim resources, trauma treatment care, mental health resources, crime reduction resources and just to keep the lights on in the courtrooms. He said judges, prosecutors and court staff are dependent on increasing user fees for their survival. [Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Lawmakers review Vista at Shadow Mountain case, contemplate legislative fixes for landlords, tenants: A legislative study triggered in part by the poor treatment earlier this year of the residents at the Vista at Shadow Mountain apartments offered few solutions for such debacles but did provide an outlet for complaints, criticism and suggestions about the often fraught relationship between landlords and tenants. [Tulsa World]

Police would benefit from assistance of mental health professionals on calls, legislative study shows: A bi-partisan study held Sept. 13 by Oklahoma’s House Public Safety Committee affirmed that law enforcement would benefit from enhanced participation by mental health professionals on crisis calls. Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, and Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, requested the study to establish the need for more mental health crisis units and help the police identify mental health crises more accurately, according to a news release from the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Medicaid Office Says Oklahoma Law Limiting Medicaid Support Is Illegal: There’s a roughly 13 year waiting list for people to get home and community-based care for their family members with disabilities. While the state works to eliminate this waiting list, one of their efforts is now being called illegal by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). There was a law passed this year that said a family had to live in Oklahoma for five years before they could apply for certain types of Medicaid support. [News 9]

Obscure board recommends 7.67 percent judicial pay raise, ball in Legislature’s court: The Oklahoma Board on Judicial Compensation held its biannual meeting today and voted to recommend a 7.67 percent across-the-board pay raise for judges, which would take effect in 2022 unless modified or rejected by the Oklahoma Legislature. [NonDoc]

Fraudulently licensed marijuana grows may soon plateau, state narcotics bureau spokesman says: Mark Woodward, the OBN’s public information officer, told a state House of Representatives committee he expects hundreds of OBN grower licenses will be rejected for renewal or allowed to expire in the coming months. [Tulsa World]

Climate Change Expected To Continue Stressing Oklahoma’s Electric Grid To The Brink: As demand crept up on supply, generators strained against the load. If the grid ran out of reserves for very long, generators would have to turn themselves off, or risk permanent damage, making the power deficit worse. The only way to prevent that was to cut the demand for power on the consumer end, everywhere, immediately. That task fell to the Southwest Power Pool. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

US House Democrats seek to limit state restrictions on abortion: Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, argued on the House floor on Tuesday that the Democratic legislation aimed at countering the Texas law represented “the greatest threat to the protection of innocent unborn life” since the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. [The Oklahoman]

  • Texas doctor who violated abortion law owns Tulsa clinic challenging state restrictions [Tulsa World]
  • Planned Parenthood health centers in Oklahoma have seen a 646% increase in Texas patients since SB 8 went into effect [Vox]

‘Part of the Oklahoma standard’: Muslim advocacy group prepares to welcome Afghan refugees: Afghan refugees will receive a guide book informing them of their civil rights when they settle in Oklahoma, as part of a welcome kit courtesy of a Muslim advocacy group. Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Rights-Oklahoma chapter, said his organization plans to present the “Know Your Rights” guides to Afghan refugees when they arrive. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma court lifts stays in 2 McGirt-related decisions: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday lifted stays in two cases it overturned based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state has no jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal lands by non-American Indians against Native Americans. [AP News]

‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’: Choctaw Freedmen Cite History, Ties To Tribal Nation In Fight For Citizenship: Before they were removed to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, the Five Tribes — including the Choctaw — lived in the Southeast, where it was common to practice chattel slavery. And during the removal, those enslaved by some Tribal citizens came with them. [KOSU]

History surfaces in Clinton after native boy says his hair was cut at school: Just down the street from Washington Elementary School, a boy stood among a crowd of protestors, a mask pulled up over his nose and baseball cap pulled down above his eyes. The boy was Dominique Lonebear, a student at the school, who had reported the week before that two other students had held him down in the school bathroom and cut off several inches of his hair, which had previously hung halfway down his back. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

‘A long time coming’: More Oklahoma communities implementing police body cameras: All over the country in recent years, body-worn cameras (or body cams) have become a key tool for building transparency and trust between law enforcement and the public — and for determining what happened after an incident occurs. Oklahoma is no exception, and municipalities around the state have worked to get body cameras up and running in their police departments. [NonDoc]

‘We’ll shut you down’: Residents call for Oklahoma County Jail Trust to resign: Several residents on Monday called for the resignations of all eight Oklahoma County jail trustees and jail administrator Greg Williams. The calls for resignation came during the trust’s meeting to consider recommendations for the jail’s improvement. [The Oklahoman]

Clemency Hearing For Death Row Inmate John Marion Grant Scheduled As Execution Date Draws Near: Oct. 28 could be the date for Oklahoma’s first execution in years. 60-year-old John Marion Grant is the first of seven men in line to be executed. Grant was sentenced to death for the 1998 stabbing and killing of 58-year-old Dick Conner Correctional Center employee Gay Carter. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

OG&E wants $875 million from its customers. Here’s what to know about the request: Oklahoma Gas & Electric began alerting customers this month of a request it intends to make before regulatory officials that would allow the utility to charge its customers an additional $875 million over the next 13 years. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“The biggest component to getting Oklahomans back to work is giving them the freedom to do so. This means ensuring that their children are cared for while the parents are away, providing workers a job environment safe from COVID, and helping Oklahomans find jobs that can provide the security and dignity they deserve.”

-Paul Shinn, Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst for OK Policy [Oklahoma Senate]

Number of the Day


Among the state’s counties, Texas County in the panhandle had the state’s largest percentage of Hispanic residents at 50.6%. Nowata and McIntosh counties have the lowest Hispanic population at 2.6%. [U.S. Census]

Policy Note

Health Equity Report Card: The Salud America! “Health Equity Report Card” report provides county-level data for Latinx communities on a variety of health-related conditions compared to the rest of the state and nation. The data show how counties stack up in housing, transportation, poverty, healthcare, mental health, environmental issues, and access to healthy food and active spaces. [Salud America!]

NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Each week, OK Policy will share policy notes and numbers to recognize this commemoration.

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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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