In The Know: Congressional panel calls out state for lack of mask mandate | Prisons continue to be virus hot spot | More school closures

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.

Oklahoma News

As Oklahoma’s deadliest month ends, Congressional panel calls out state for lack of mask mandate: As Oklahoma concluded its deadliest month of the pandemic, a U.S. House subcommittee on Monday called out the state and others for not taking more steps recommended by the White House task force to protect people. [The Oklahoman]

  • Gov. Stitt to provide COVID-19 update following new CDC report [KTUL]
  • Decreased demand for COVID-19 testing allows Tulsa Health Department to return results faster [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: Death toll reaches 800 in Oklahoma; 713 new cases reported [Tulsa World]

More than half of inmates at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center have tested positive for COVID-19: More than half of the inmates at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft have tested positive for COVID-19. Some 504 offenders have tested positive, according to the agency’s website. The facility can house about 900 offenders. The agency declared the minimum-security prison for women a COVID-19 “hot spot” on Friday after 47 inmates tested positive. [Tulsa World]

  • Major prison outbreak sends Muskogee area’s COVID-19 numbers skyrocketing [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 cases skyrocket inside several Oklahoma prisons [KOSU]
  • Coronavirus outbreak at prison renews calls for vigilance [Muskogee Phoenix]

More schools announce closures as COVID-19 cases tick upward among students, employees: Another round of school closures has hit across northeastern Oklahoma districts because of new COVID-19 cases. Vinita High School, Beggs Public Schools, and Tahlequah Public Schools are among those affected. [Tulsa World]

  • Coronavirus-related closures hit more Green Country school districts [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • 84 Chisholm elementary students in quarantine; no school closure planned [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Lawton area schools confirm cases of COVID-19 [Lawton Constitution]
  • McAlester middle school student tests positive for COVID-19 [Enid News & Eagle]
  • School counselors deal with impact of pandemic [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]
  • ‘Forever memorable’: OKC schools return with virtual first day [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘It’s really weird to be teaching in a classroom with absolutely no students in it’: Tulsa Public Schools starts classes through distance learning [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma may use saliva-based COVID tests for college students [The Oklahoman]

Citizens urged to complete census: Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce President Jaime Henson challenged the community to self respond to the 2020 Census due to Sallisaw and Sequoyah County being behind in the census count. [Sequoyah County Times] In Lawton, City leaders already have announced plans for Lawton Census Week to focus attention on the fact that Lawton residents need to increase their participation in the 2020 Census. [Lawton Constitution]

Health News

Investigation in VA Center completed: Sen. Paul Rosino, Senate chair of the Legislative Veterans Caucus, said an independent investigation into social media posts alleging abuse and neglect at the Lawton Veterans Center has been completed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) Advocate General, and showed no substantiated findings. [Lawton Constitution] Exactly what investigators found remains a mystery, however, because agency officials are refusing to publicly release a copy of its report. [The Oklahoman]

OKCPS focusing on mental health for students this school year: Oklahoma City Public Schools officials said some students will learn social and emotional skills virtually. “Our elementary counselors have been working for the past month on recording and preparing these lessons,” said Dr. Ken Elliot, the OKCPS Mental Health Director. [News9]

State Government News

All House members named to redistricting committees: House Speaker Charles McCall appointed all House members to redistricting committees Monday. “House members work directly for the people,” said McCall, R-Atoka. “Because these are the people’s districts, the House is putting the people in charge of the redistricting process. Eight regional redistricting subcommittees will go to the public to ask citizens how House districts should look for the next decade. Each House member will serve on a regional subcommittee. [The Journal Record] The committees that are largely led by Republicans will create regional maps after reviewing public recommendations made through town hall meetings, citizen surveys and online submissions. [The Oklahoman]

Mine resistant vehicles more parade float than an enforcement tool: While these vehicles provide protection from gunfire and explosives, along with providing law enforcement with an intimidating display of force, they are just as often used for parades and community events, according to records obtained by The Frontier. [The Frontier]

Appeals court rejects Oklahoma City anti-panhandling law: An Oklahoma City law that places restrictions on panhandling on street medians is an unconstitutional violation of free speech, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver reversed the ruling of a federal judge in Oklahoma City who ruled in 2018 that the ordinance was constitutional. [AP News]

Federal Government News

More CARES Act funding due in Oklahoma: Small businesses across 46 counties in Oklahoma may get additional help from the federal government in their recovery from the coronavirus. The Economic Development Administration, an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department, announced nearly $2 million in funding for Sooner State businesses last week, made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Jail Trust faces more protests while accepting CARES money: In a regular meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) the Trust voted to accept over $37 million in CARES Act funds from the County. Additionally, the Trust heard a report on suicide prevention and care at the Jail. [OKC Free Press] A list detailing what the money will be spent on has not been released yet, and the roughly 40 demonstrators who addressed the trust during public comment were furious the money was accepted before a plan was announced. [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19 locked down prisons and limited services: Poetic Justice was running eight in-person programs in prisons in Oklahoma and California when they closed down to visitors and volunteers. The organization acted quickly, creating a distance learning option so that women behind bars could continue to receive remote guidance and support. [CNN]

Economic Opportunity

City of Tulsa to remove homeless encampments along Archer Street: The city is working with the Police Department to remove the growing number of homeless encampments along Archer Street north of downtown, the city’s housing director said Monday. [Tulsa World]

Dollars and sense: Men make more money than women. Always have. Probably will for a long time to come. It’s the gender pay gap. Or pay inequity. A discrepancy by any other name would smell as unfair. So, call it whatever. Measure it however. In virtually every apples to estrogen comparison, the bottom line tilts toward testosterone. OK Policy analyst Courtney Cullison says new policies are needed to share family responsibilities and take the burden off mothers. [Tulsa People]

Economy & Business News

Survey of nine-state region shows manufacturing growth picked up in August: The manufacturing industry in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma is in good shape, according to a monthly survey. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index for August was at 60 on a 0 to 100 scale where 50 is growth neutral, higher numbers indicate growth and lower numbers show contraction. It was at 57.4 in July. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Veteran teachers choosing retirement over COVID-19: Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is growing more severe with the spread of COVID-19. More teachers are opting for retirement than last year, and many say fear of going back into the classroom is the reason. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Superintendent invests in online tool to mitigate learning loss: In June, Oklahoma School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced a new online tool called Exact Path that all school district’s across Oklahoma could use for free to help students catch up after potential learning loss. [FOX25]

USDA extends school nutrition waivers, a boon for schools with students at home: The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday extended school nutrition waivers, allowing districts to continue practices like feeding kids whether they’re enrolled or not through the end of 2020. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Unusual removal trial starts for Judge Kendra Coleman: The ouster trial of suspended first-term Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman began Monday before a panel of fellow state judges and a Tulsa attorney on charges of gross neglect, oppression and ethics violations. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“The biggest challenge now in helping our virtual students is trying to stay connected with them so that we can help if they are in a dangerous situation or provide academic and emotional support.”

-Lindsey Schnoebelen, school counselor at Bartlesville’s Central Middle School [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s national rank among voter participation rate (52.3 percent) during the last presidential election.

[Source: World Population Review]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Automatic Voter Registration Boosts Turnout Among Young And Low Income People: Few voting reforms have generated as much buzz recently as automatic voter registration (AVR). But because this reform is so new—the very first AVR bill was passed in 2015—only now is enough data available to measure AVR’s effectiveness at bringing new voters to the polls. Below, we present the results of the very first comprehensive study of AVR and voter turnout. Our findings are two-fold: AVR modestly increases overall turnout, but it dramatically increases participation rates among young people and low-income people. [Data for Progress]

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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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