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PM NewsBrief: Oct. 21, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.

Altered OTA agendas for the ACCESS turnpike project

Metadata from publicly posted meeting agendas appear to indicate Oklahoma turnpike staff altered agendas for two meetings leading up to the announcement of the proposed $5 billion dollar ACCESS turnpike project.

Attorney Richard Labarthe produced documents showing metadata taken from agendas indicate the OTA’s January and February agenda documents were modified after the meetings took place. StateImpact independently verified this data.

For the January 25 meeting, data show the agenda was last modified on February 13.

For the February 22 meeting, which occurred just hours before the ACCESS project was announced, data show the agenda was last modified the next day, February 23.

The OTA says the modifications aren’t nefarious, but were done to add certification signatures. After-the-fact modifications aren’t found on any other agendas posted by the agency for the last two years, nor are certification signatures.

StateImpact filed an Open Records Request Wednesday, October 19th for the original agenda documents.

COVID subvarients

The federal government has detected two new COVID strains that appear to be more contagious and more resistant to a preventative treatment used for people who are immunocompromised.

The two new strains are Omicron subvariants. They’re known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. They account for more than one in 10 cases nationwide, according to data from the CDC.

Health officials say the state’s public health laboratory has been screening samples for the strains, but no cases have been detected.

Those subvariants don’t seem to be more resistant to vaccines or Paxlovid treatments, but according to reporting by Politico, they do seem to be more resistant to Evusheld. That’s a monoclonal antibody treatment used as preventative protection for people with compromised immune systems.

Bird Flu

Oklahoma agriculture officials confirmed multiple cases of bird flu during a virtual town hall meeting Thursday. Chicken owners can help contain the spread of the disease

Agriculture officials have confirmed three cases of bird flu in non-commercial backyard chicken flocks.

Assistant State Veterinarian, Dr. Alicia Gorczyca-Southerland, says all three positive cases happened because the chickens had contact with waterfowl like geese and ducks.

She says people can prevent the spread of the disease by keeping birds in their coops and taking biosecurity measures.

“Coming into our yard.” “This is always a good idea to do is have dedicated shoes and clothes for the coop area. Block access to those ponds - The other important thing is don't be feeding wild waterfowl right now we really want to stop encouraging them from coming into our yard.”

People can report sick-looking or dead birds to their local veterinarian or the state veterinarian’s office at (405) 522-6141.

Oklahoma ACT scores

The vast majority of Oklahoma’s class of 2022 took the ACT after a lull in participation due to the pandemic. That means the average test score suffered as a result.

Oklahoma’s class of 2022 had the third-lowest average ACT score in the nation at 17.9. Only Mississippi and Nevada - where practically every high school senior took the test - had lower scores.

It’s a sharp decline from the class of 2021, which scored an average of 19.7, though far fewer members of that class took the standardized test.

Scores are down nationally. The class of 2022 had the poorest performance on the exam since 1991. Test administrators say that shows the detriment of COVID-19 on students.

Colleges historically used the ACT as a factor for admission. Though through the pandemic, many have made tests optional.

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