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PM NewsBrief: Aug. 19, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.

Use of ARPA funds under discussion

The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding met Tuesday at the Capitol to discuss possible projects to be paid for with American Rescue Plan Act money.

The committee heard presentations from a few entities, including the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance.

OMA is partially state-funded and describes itself as a network of experts working with manufacturers to help them grow. President and CEO Dave Rowland says there is a severe shortage of skilled workers.

“We all agree that workforce is a generational problem that’s not going to be solved easily. It’s gonna take a diverse set of solutions, and it’s gonna take a consortium of public-private organizations working together,” said Rowland.

Unions have historically helped provide training and apprenticeships, but union membership has been on the decline in recent decades. Oklahoma became a “right to work state” in 2001.

Rowland said OMA hasn’t submitted an ARPA request to the committee yet but wants to.

High levels of manganese turns tap water yellow in Altus

Residents of the southwestern Oklahoma city of Altus may have noticed yellow water coming from their taps this week.

City officials say that’s due to higher-than-normal manganese levels.

Altus resident Debbie Vogt says brown-ish yellow water came out of her sink when she went to brush her teeth Wednesday morning. Vogt opted not to find out how it tasted, but the City of Altus warns that the flavor and smell may be unpleasant.

Chris Riffle with the city says the water contained about seven times as much manganese as normal on Wednesday. While manganese can cause health problems at high concentrations over long periods of time, Riffle says the water isn’t dangerous – just kind of gross.

“At no time did anything indicate a risk to public safety. It was really just to the point of having some yellowy, browny, smelly water compared to what people normally see.” said Riffle.

Still, Vogt says she and many other residents are sticking with bottled water until the tap water clears up. Riffle says that manganese levels are already coming down and should be back to normal before the weekend.

OU and OSU report record freshman classes

A record number of freshmen are enrolled at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University this fall.

OU is welcoming more than 4,700 students and OSU is bringing in more than 4,600.

Both classes represent multiple percentage point increases at their respective colleges. And though overall enrollment within Oklahoma higher education institutions is stagnating, the state’s two largest universities are continuing to show growth.

Classes start at OU and OSU next week.

Update on COVID data in Oklahoma

Oklahoma recorded 147 more fatalities from COVID-19.

In its weekly update, the Health Department increased the Provisional Death Count to 16,519 along with about 9,700 new positive tests for the Coronavirus.

The number of active cases has declined to fewer than 18,000.

The agency also reports 360 COVID-19 patients in Oklahoma hospital beds including 90 in intensive care and 26 children.

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