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PM NewsBrief: Sept. 2, 2022

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This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.

COVID-19 update

Seventy-six more COVID-19 fatalities bring Oklahoma’s Provisional Death Count to 16, 720.

In its weekly update, the State Department of Health reports nearly 11,000 new positive tests for the Coronavirus since Aug. 25.

The number of active cases has increased to more than 17,000.

The agency also reports 361 COVID-19 patients in Oklahoma hospital beds including 89 in intensive care and 31 children.

Oklahoma’s electricity prices climbing faster than any other state

From last June to this June, electricity prices surged by 49% across all sectors and by 31% for residential customers, outpacing increases in any other state.

The average increase nationally was significantly lower, at 14%. Oklahomans saw their prices surge from about 7 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 11 cents.

But while the rate of increase is notable, Oklahoma’s electricity prices are still ranked 18th-most affordable in the country. Though, last June, Oklahoma was ranked first.

Last year, 45% of Oklahoma’s in-state electricity was generated from renewable resources - the vast majority of which came from wind energy. That same year, for the first time, wind energy provided the largest share of Oklahoma’s net energy generation, and natural gas slipped to the second-largest source.

Labor Day weekend travel

Travel for Labor Day weekend is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Triple-A Oklahoma’s Leslie Gamble says travel volume will likely be at levels seen before COVID-19 hit the nation, despite higher gas prices.

Most plan to drive for the holiday, but many will fly. The American Automobile Association reports Labor Day airfares are up 20% from last year and 30% from the same period in 2020.

USDA designates nine Oklahoma counties as natural disaster areas

Farmers across nine Oklahoma counties are qualified to apply for emergency loans to help them recover from drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated nine counties in Oklahoma as a natural disaster area. That means the areas suffered from severe drought effects during the usual growing season.

The nine counties include: Adair, Haskell, Muskogee, Cherokee, Latimer, Okfuskee, Delaware, McIntosh and Ottawa.

Emergency loans through the federal agency can be used to help cover the costs of losses due to the drought, such as equipment items or livestock. The application deadline for farmers in these nine counties is April third of next year.

The USDA encourages farmers to contact their county Farm Service Agency office to help them apply for emergency loans.

Oklahoma City Council suspends sister city relationship with Ulyanovsk

Oklahoma City is suspending one of its sister city relationships.

The Oklahoma City Council voted to suspend its sister city relationship with Ulyanovsk, Russia in support of Ukraine.

Mayor David Holt says this decision follows a recommendation from Sister Cities OKC. Although Sister Cities International encourages the continuation of American-Russian relationships despite the invasion of Ukraine to maintain any positive connections, Holt says this situation is different.

"We have not had any municipal level contact with this city in at least 15 years, which is unique compared to our other sister cities."

The suspension is indefinite but comes with the possibility of reversal.

Oklahoma’s bridges conditions

Recently the governor and the state transportation director celebrated a number-5 ranking for the fewest number of bridges in “poor” condition. But a report from The Oklahoman reveals that number doesn't quite tell the whole story.

The state transportation department is only responsible for about 13 percent of all bridges across the state. Most are locally controlled-known as “off system” bridges-meaning the state does not have authority over how those bridges are maintained.

According to a state official, county governments control about 60 percent of the bridges in Oklahoma, and he says more than 15-hundred are in need of immediate repair.

The newspaper analyzed data that revealed Oklahoma is a bottom 10 state when taking into consideration the condition of all bridges, not just ones under state control.

Nearly one out of 10 bridges in the state is rated "poor" by the Federal Highway Administration.

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