Monday, Aug. 16, 2021
Capitol Watch

What the New Census Data Means For Oklahoma

Oklahoma saw a large exodus from many of its rural counties during the last decade. But urban areas saw steep increases, as the state’s entire population grew by about 5.5% in the past 10 years. (Credit: Census Bureau)

By Trevor Brown | Capitol/Investigative Reporter

Oklahoma lawmakers will be representing a much more diverse, urban-centric and larger population than in the past.

New Census data released Thursday reveals that Oklahoma grew its population by more than 200,000 over the past decade. That growth was hardly uniform.

As the map (above) shows, many rural counties lost a significant portion of their population during the past decade. But growth in the metro areas, namely Oklahoma City and Tulsa, has more than made up for those losses.

After jumping on a media briefing on Thursday put on by the Census Bureau, another big takeaway that caught my eye was how much the state has changed racially.

In 2010, more than two-thirds of the state (68.7%) identified as white alone. New Census figures show that percentage dropped to 60.8% in 2020. This was largely driven by an increase in people identifying as two or more races. The number of people identifying as Latino or Hispanic was also on the rise.

Myself and the rest of the Oklahoma Watch staff (including Rebecca Najera and Lionel Ramos, our new Report for America reporters who are focusing on race and equality) plan to dive deeper into the findings in the coming weeks and months.

The long-awaited Census data is not just important for illustrating new trends of the state’s racial, geographic and socio-economic demographics.

It also will be used by lawmakers to finish redrawing the state’s congressional districts during a special session planned later this year.

The Legislature redistricted legislative districts based on preliminary numbers earlier this year. But they may make tweaks or changes, depending on what the new information shows.

What are you most interested in about the Census data or how lawmakers will use it? As always, send your thoughts or question to me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or find me on Twitter at @tbrownokc and your comments could help shape our upcoming coverage.

From Oklahoma Watch

A nurse fills out a form outside of the emergency room at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City as the hospital prepared for an influx of coronavirus patients in April 2020. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

As COVID Cases Rise, Oklahoma Sees Increased Insurance Signups

There hasn’t been much positive health-care news to report on lately as COVID-19 cases, hospitalization and deaths once again are spiking in Oklahoma.

But in my latest for Oklahoma Watch I looked at one silver lining that is emerging out of the past year and half: More Oklahomans are getting health insurance.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced this week that at least 34,500 Oklahoma residents have gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange, commonly known as Obamacare, thanks to a special enrollment period that ended Sunday. 

That number, which is in addition to the 150,000-plus Oklahomans who have gained coverage through Medicaid expansion, is expected to climb when final numbers arrive. [Read More]

Tweet Watch

In last week’s newsletter, I wrote about the chances for a special session to address the state’s mounting COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

In short, a group of Republicans wants Gov. Kevin Stitt to call a special session to pass a bill that would ban private businesses from requiring their workers to get vaccinated. House Democrats, meanwhile, wants Stitt and the GOP-led Legislature to reverse course and overturn the recently passed Senate Bill 658, which bans mask or vaccine mandates in public schools.

Only the governor or the Legislature, by having two-thirds of its members sign on, can call a special session. But despite an effort by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, it still doesn’t look like anything is coming anytime soon.

What I’m Reading This Week

  • A state medical group and several Oklahoma parents are alleging a state law that largely prohibits public schools from implementing mask mandates is unconstitutional. [The Oklahoman]
  • As coronavirus hospitalizations surge past 1,000 daily, Oklahoma health officials are raising concerns that the state’s hospital services are strained with no solution in sight. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday found a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations by or against tribal citizens does not apply retroactively. [The Associated Press]
  • An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee on Wednesday heard arguments in two cases challenging the state’s decision to end the additional federal benefits early. [Tulsa World]
  • Changes to Oklahoma City police’s de-escalation and use-of-force procedures are prioritized in a consultant’s preliminary recommendations for community policing and law enforcement policy. [The Oklahoman]

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