In The Know: AG says virus data can be released; police killing rate in OKC draws scrutiny; statewide protests continue; and more

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Why data matters: Oklahomans have a right to independently monitor the virus and its impacts within our communities. Access to data ensures that government agencies and officials are held accountable, and residents can ask informed questions about how our government operates. This is as true for the COVID-19 crisis as it is for other areas of public life. The importance of data was very much on my mind following this past weekend’s events. As many of you did, I watched news unfold about protests both in Oklahoma and around the nation as our communities expressed pain and outrage stemming from systemic racism. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Local COVID-19 data can be released, Attorney General advises: Just days after the state health department took down localized COVID-19 data, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter provided health officials with a legal basis for making the information public again. [Oklahoma Watch] The agency made the move after consulting with Attorney General Mike Hunter, who advised them releasing epidemiological information for statistical purposes is legal as long as no individual person can be identified. [AP News] The change Monday was made because of concerns that releasing the information would violate state laws on medical record confidentiality. The emergency declaration had allowed the governor to suspend those laws. [The Oklahoman]

Chief calls report ‘extremely flawed’ but data appears accurate in labeling OKC with second highest police killing rate: Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley disputed the accuracy of a widely shared report that claims his department has one of the highest rates of police killings but a review of the data by The Frontier showed the rate to be correct. The website reports Oklahoma City police have killed 48 people since 2013, the second highest rate in the nation based on the city’s population. Last year’s report had Oklahoma City with the highest rate, which has also been shared in recent media reports. [The Frontier]

Statewide protest-related coverage

  • Demonstrators protest alongside local law enforcement at Stillwater rally [Stillwater News Press]
  • Voices From The Crowd: Stillwater holds ‘We Can’t Breathe’ protest in honor of George Floyd [Stillwater News Press]
  • ‘Sharing the same soil’: Hundreds protest in Stillwater [The Oklahoman]
  • Stillwater police chief objects to armed man at protest [The Oklahoman]
  • Stillwater protesters urge support beyond social media [KOSU]
  • Health Department: Masks, other precautions urged to limit possible COVID-19 spread among protesters [Tulsa World]
  • Despite accounts from local reporters, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin says police not targeting media during protests [Tulsa World]
  • Peaceful protest begins with prayer outside Tulsa police headquarters [Tulsa World]
  • ‘How can the Church be silent under the motif of love?’: Ministers discuss the Christian response to racism [The Oklahoman]
  • Nearly 50 arrested after protests in Oklahoma City, Tulsa during past few days [AP News]
  • Downtown OKC curfew lifted [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC Mayor Holt talks with protesters Tuesday after lifting curfew [Free Press OKC]
  • Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, Rep. Ajay Pittman join protesters Tuesday [Norman Transcript]
  • Protest against racism, for love grows in Chickasha [The Express Star]
  • “Speak your voice, things will change” (video) [The Express Star]
  • Lawton city officials extend olive branch of understanding [Southwest Ledger]
  • Protesters march in downtown Enid in reaction to George Floyd’s death [Enid News & Eagle]
  • ‘Morning of Prayer’ gathering is planned in Edmond [The Oklahoman]
  • George Floyd Protests in Oklahoma: We’d like to hear your story [Oklahoma Watch]

Framework released for Oklahoma schools opening amid outbreak: Noting the upcoming school year will be far different, the state Department of Education Wednesday released a framework of recommendations for Oklahoma school districts planning to reopen amid the COVID-19 outbreak. [CNHI via The Ada News] Oklahoma schools reopening plan recommends wearing masks [AP News] OK State Department of Education: Return to Learn Oklahoma [PDF]

Things to know before voting in Oklahoma’s June 30 primary election: Voting in the June 30 primary election will look different than previous elections due to the novel coronavirus. Here’s what you should know if you plan to vote in the upcoming election. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma Election Board: Information about COVID-19 and the 2020 Elections. Voter registration deadline is Friday; mail absentee ballot request deadline is June 23.

COVID-19: Two more deaths reported with 113 new cases across Oklahoma: The deaths of two more people from COVID-19 were reported in Oklahoma on Wednesday. Additionally, 113 new confirmed cases were confirmed, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma. 

State Government News

94 Oklahoma cities, counties apply for reimbursement for coronavirus expenses: Cities and counties in Oklahoma have until June 10 to submit their first round of applications to the states CARES FORWARD team to receive reimbursement funding for local government expenses incurred as a result of the coronavirus. [FOX25]

House Leader asks ‘What exactly is going on at the department of health?’: House Minority Leader Emily Virgin released a statement questioning Governor Stitt’s recent decisions. Virgin claims that Governor Stitt is misusing taxpayer money by retaining former Interim Commissioner of Health Gary Cox in a six-week advisory role. [FOX25]

OSDH provides contact tracing guidance, increases tracers: In light of increased contact tracing efforts in the state, the Oklahoma State Department of Health released a Contact Tracing Overview document to inform the public on what to expect when contacted by a health department contact tracer. [Oklahoma State Department of Health / Enid News & Eagle]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa metro area jobless rate increases from 2.8% to 15% from March to April: The Tulsa metropolitan area unemployment rate hit 15% in April, more than five times the rate in March, showing a stark contrast from the early days of COVID-19 to when its full impact was on display, figures released Wednesday show. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Effects of COVID-19 keeping regional manufacturing in recession: The manufacturing sector in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma is stuck in recession. That’s according to the Mid-America Business Conditions Index, a monthly survey out of Creighton University. On the 0 to 100 scale where numbers above 50 indicate growth, the index increased from 35.1 in April to 43.5, still down from where it was in March. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tulsa-based Ross Group Construction settles federal small business fraud claims case for $2.8 million: A Tulsa-based construction company has agreed to pay the federal government $2.8 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it set up front companies to fraudulently obtain government construction contracts meant for small disadvantaged businesses. [The Frontier]

Commission agrees to let oil producers shut down based on market conditions: If oil producers determine that market conditions have rendered the oil they are producing a “waste product,” they are free to shut down their wells and curb production, according to an interim order approved by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Wednesday. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Editorial: End Tulsa’s involvement with the federal 287(g) immigration program: It is time to end Tulsa’s participation in the 287(g) program. Named after a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the program has been criticized nationally and locally for wasting money, encouraging racial profiling and eroding trust between immigrants and law enforcement. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

DOC: Visitations resume this weekend: Oklahoma Department of Corrections is set to resume inmate visitation this weekend, officials said. Visitation will be highly structured to accommodate social distancing. Visiting sessions will be two hours long and offered multiple days a week. More information will be available soon on visitation schedules. [Enid News & Eagle]

Health News

Mental Health Association to launch support group to help cope with George Floyd’s death and aftermath: Since George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis, friends have been telling their own stories to Carmen White Janak in Tulsa. “Things that I never knew happened to them,” Janak said Monday. “Things that they have been holding in for three, five, 10 years.” [Tulsa World]

State researchers receive $20 million NSF grant: A new $20 million National Science Foundation grant, administered by the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, will support interdisciplinary research to benefit Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]

General News

OSU: Three football players report COVID-19 positive: Oklahoma State’s plan of action for handling positive COVID-19 tests among its football players who returned to campus on Monday is immediately being put to the test. An Oklahoma State official says three players tested positive for COVID-19 in the first phase of testing to bring athletes back to campus, which began Monday. [The Oklahoman]

How Cherokee women navigate COVID-19: The Cherokee tribes in northeastern Oklahoma face these challenges and more. Many live in extremely rural areas, making food and supply delivery difficult. Elders everywhere are at a higher risk of succumbing to COVID-19. Cherokee elders are especially vital, as they are relied upon to transmit the Cherokee language and traditions to younger generations. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Council hears 5 budgets and 3.5 hours of public comments Tuesday [Free Press OKC]
  • Oklahoma City school employee tests positive for COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • Choctaw County sees spike in positive COVID-19 cases [KXII]
  • National Guard assists Lawton nursing homes with cleaning [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Sometimes these questions feel like big city issues, and they’re not. You have Black communities everywhere. It’s important for even these small-time communities to try to at least address (these issues).”

-Uriah Davis, speaker at Wednesday’s protest in Stillwater [Stillwater News Press]

Number of the Day


The median net worth of white households is about 10 times the median net worth of Black households. A report from the U.S. Federal Reserve found the median wealth for white families was about $171,000, while the median wealth for Black families was $17,600 and for Latino families was $20,700.  

[Source: U.S. Federal Reserve, Survey of Consumer Finances]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It’s not obesity. It’s slavery. We know why COVID-19 is killing so many Black people: The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy. It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health. [Dr. Sabrina Strings / New York Times

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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