In The Know: Evictions continue as growing issue | Tulsa Health Department identifies high risk areas | Stillwater Medical activates surge plan

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

Rent assistance is keeping eviction numbers low — that may change in 2021: To the extreme shock of several housing advocates and service providers, the number of evictions in Oklahoma County has not been nearly as high as expected. Courthouse closures due to COVID, two federal eviction moratoriums and millions of government dollars in housing assistance have led to 38% fewer eviction filings in Oklahoma County this year compared to January through early September of last year. “Anticipating the larger bump has … spurred a lot of organizations to collaborate and work on a very short time frame when compared to other times,” said Ryan Gentzler, director of Open Justice Oklahoma (a program of OK Policy), which has been tracking evictions. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Health Department publishes its first COVID-19 hazard map; 12 ZIP codes at high risk: Tulsa County residents now can monitor COVID-19’s presence by ZIP code to better inform their decisions on what the hazard is where they live or venture locally. The Tulsa Health Department launched its own color-coded risk map Monday that is based on active cases in individual ZIP codes. [Tulsa World] “I think the more knowledge they have about where risk truly is allows them to follow recommendations and follow guidelines to keep themselves safe, and that’s really what we’re after,” Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Monday. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • COVID-19: 861 new cases reported in Oklahoma with 1 more fatality [Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: Even if state leaders fail to act to slow the COVID-19 pandemic in Oklahoma, each of us must [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Stillwater Medical activates surge plan to deal with spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations: Stillwater Medical Center activated its surge plan Monday after a spike in COVID-19 patients. SMC reported 15 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, an increase of seven over last week. SMC now has three COVID-19 patients in ICU, following a 5 p.m. update. The increase in COVID-19 patients coincides with an increase of non-COVID-19 patients. According to SMC, out of a 55-bed capacity, 38 are in use. Out of seven ICU beds, all seven are in use. [Stillwater News Press]

Health News

Long-term care centers report financial stresses from virus: Nursing homes and assisted living centers in Oklahoma and across the country have reported increasing financial stresses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living cautioned congressional leaders in Washington that additional financial relief is desperately needed and that without it many facilities could soon be in jeopardy. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Legislator wants colleague Rep. Terry O’Donnell investigated: A state representative called Monday for an investigation of a fellow House member whose wife became a tag agent. Rep. Collin Walke spoke out after The Oklahoman reported Rep. Terry O’Donnell introduced a bill last year that allowed spouses of legislators to serve as tag agents. [The Oklahoman] Author of tag agent legislation denies conflict after his wife took over Catoosa Tag Agency [Tulsa World]

State lawmakers exploring permanent rule changes to allow for continued virtual open meetings: State lawmakers are considering permanently adopting rule changes implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic which allow more lenience in governmental bodies holding open meetings virtually rather than in person. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Editorial: Forgive us if we take legislative efforts to “improve” state transparency laws with a grain of salt [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Comanche Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe to continue operating under compacts deemed invalid: The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe plan to continue operating their casinos under terms of their new gaming compacts even though the state Supreme Court has ruled they are invalid. The tribes believe only a federal court would have the authority to void the compacts. [The Oklahoman]

Would high court review Oklahoma City panhandling ruling?: The Oklahoma City Council could decide Tuesday to take its defense of a controversial panhandling ordinance to the United States Supreme Court. The ordinance prohibits individuals from being in medians where traffic is passing by at relatively high speeds. [The Oklahoman]

Legalization of recreational marijuana stricken from ballot: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday struck down an initiative petition seeking to legalize recreational marijuana. The challenge was brought by Paul Tay against State Question 813. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Military communities bearing up under pandemic: The communities adjacent to Tinker Air Force Base, Altus Air Force Base and Fort Sill are major centers of economic activity in Oklahoma. Despite impacts on tax collections realized especially in April and May, Midwest City, Altus and Lawton have responded well to challenges of COVID-19, the forum participants said.  [The Journal Record] Real estate booming in military towns in Oklahoma [The Journal Record]

What we know, and what we still don’t, about the Devon Energy, WPX Energy merger: On Monday, Tulsa-based WPX Energy and Oklahoma City-headquartered Devon Energy announced a plan to merge in an all-stock deal that would, based on Friday’s stock values for both, create a new company with a market capitalization of $12 billion. [The Oklahoman] Devon Energy has agreed to buy Tulsa-based WPX Energy for $2.56 billion in an all-stock deal that will send WPX to Devon’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. WPX employs 400 people in Tulsa. [Tulsa World] WPX Energy’s planned departure to Oklahoma City leaves Tulsa with a lot of space to fill [Tulsa World] At a press release Monday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum referred to the news as “disappointing” and “sad.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Consistency a challenge for Oklahoma schools in COVID-19 era: A month into the school year, COVID-19 continues to challenge Oklahoma school districts to find a consistent method of teaching during a pandemic. Districts that started the school year virtually, such as Putnam City and Oklahoma City Public Schools, have been preparing to return to the classroom in the coming weeks and months. Some who started classes in person have been forced online by rising COVID-19 cases. [The Oklahoman]

State Regents launch website to provide education resources for faculty, staff: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently launched a new website,, targeting Oklahoma institutions, administrators, faculty and staff who aim to improve online education at their institution and across the state. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

General News

Deadline approaches: Oklahomans are running out of time to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election. The deadline to register or change your registration is Oct. 9. [Enid News & Eagle]

  • Bracing for record turnout, Tulsa designates baseball stadium for early voting option [KOSU]

Despite obstacles, Ponca Tribe grows: The Ponca Tribe today has about 4,200 members, with many still settled in Ponca City. Chris Littlecook, a Title IX officer at Ponca City High School and involved member of the Ponca Tribe, said leaving his impact on the future of the tribe is important. [Gaylord News via Enid News & Eagle

Oklahoma Local News

  • Coronavirus in Oklahoma: OKC mask giveaways continue throughout October, 144,000 already handed out [The Oklahoman]
  • Federal funding allows Owasso PD to fill six new full-time officer positions [Tulsa World]
  • Federal grant to fund veterans cemetery in Ardmore [The Oklahoman]
  • Cherokee Nation contributes $12k to area schools [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Tulsa school board votes to extend Superintendent Deborah Gist’s contract another year [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Webster High School could be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2021 [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The assistance is an amazing Band-Aid. But the fact that we are closing in on 8,000 applicants for help tells me that there is a delayed response and things are accumulating.”

-Ginny Carl, director of Community CARES, which was formed to be a centralized group that would have access to and distribute roughly $24 million in housing assistance from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County and the state government to help those facing a loss of income caused by COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of evictions filed in Oklahoma courts since March 15, 2020, the day Oklahoma declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (As of Sept. 29, 2020) 

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

An eviction crisis is coming, housing lawyers warn: The evolving patchwork of pandemic-related policy that’s swept the United States housing market has left tenants and renters across the country in similar states of uncertainty as experts warn of a pending eviction crisis that will increase homelessness everywhere. Pandemic-related restrictions change frequently and sometimes differ greatly by jurisdictions, but the long-term effects of an eviction are largely universal: An eviction record can make it much more difficult to secure new housing. “Eviction is an incredibly traumatizing event that affects every area of a family’s life and livelihood and well-being,” says Emily A. Benfer, director of the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic at Columbia Law School and chair of the American Bar Association’s COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction. In some states including Arkansas, Georgia and Oklahoma, the new federal eviction moratorium is the only protection available. [American Bar Association Journal

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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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