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PM NewsBrief: Sept. 23, 2022

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This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster

Officials, administrators and entrepreneurs met with the U.S. Economic Development Administration Wednesday in Oklahoma City to discuss a $35 million initiative to build a biotech cluster in the city.

The Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster was one of 21 winning projects of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Challenge that saw over 500 applicants from around the country. The projects include a new cancer center, a biotech startup program, and a clinical trial facility, among others.

"These investments are unprecedented. Really, once in a generation investments in this case, the $35 million that will help to rapidly expand your region’s bio-innovation cluster," said Dennis Alvord, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer.

The cluster will be near the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences building in central Oklahoma City.

Shelf life extended for some at-home COVID-19 tests

If you have an expired COVID-19 test you may not want to toss it just yet. The Food and Drug Administration recently extended the shelf life for many at-home COVID tests, so it may be OK to use it past the printed expiration date on the box.

This comes as test manufacturers have been able to gather more data over time about their tests’ stability. Many manufacturers have requested and have been granted shelf-life extensions from the FDA.

For example, one brand of tests that have printed expiration dates in July are now good until January of next year, according to the FDA.

To check if your COVID test is still good, visit the FDA’s website.

USDA awards $31 million to Oklahoma for rural broadband development

Seven Oklahoma counties will receive rural high-speed Internet assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than $31 million in loans and grants will help develop broadband access for rural Oklahomans in Choctaw, McCurtain, Osage, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton and Grady counties.

Valliant Telephone Company, Southern Plains Cable and the Osage Nation received the federal funds to help connect more than 8,000 people, 260 businesses and 130 farms to high-speed internet.

The federal funding comes from the USDA’s ReConnect Program — which aims to help rural communities get access to broadband internet.

Castro-Huerta Hearing on Capitol Hill

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill testified earlier this week before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples hearing on how the Castro-Huerta ruling affects tribal sovereignty.

Hill highlighted the need for sufficient federal resources to support the public safety efforts of tribal nations after the historic McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in 2020.

She also wants Congress to protect tribal sovereignty in light of the Castro-Huerta decision in June that narrowed the McGirt ruling.

"Castro Huerta did not overturn McGirt. But it did issue a strong signal that despite clear federal legislation that preempted state jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country as well as decades of prior court decisions...that we have not yet departed from an era where the rule of strong can prevail."

Hill also highlighted Cherokee Nation's historic budget that has made significant investments in its criminal justice system.

More school counselors

The Oklahoma State Department of Education is adding resources to improve student mental health.

The School Counselor Corps is adding more than 300 counselors and mental health professionals to Oklahoma public schools. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister launched the corps last year. She says it supports existing mental health resources and for some schools, is establishing them for the first time.

"So, this is an incredible initial effort to also work to support students and help them be all they can be and graduate," said Hofmeister.

The corps is a three-year initiative utilizing $35 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

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