In The Know: Families concerned about virus spread in prisons | College towns continue to see virus spikes | 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.

Oklahoma News

COVID-19 is spreading in state prisons. Families say Oklahoma is not doing enough: A coronavirus outbreak at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center has generated widespread criticism from inmates, their families and criminal justice reform advocates, who say the Oklahoma Department of Corrections isn’t doing enough to slow the spread of COVID-19 and is ill prepared to handle surges of the virus. On Monday, a group of protestors gathered outside of Eddie Warrior asking for enhanced safety protocols and more transparency from prison officials. [Oklahoma Watch]

Payne County sees spike in COVID-19 cases after OSU students return to campus: Payne County has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases after Oklahoma State University students returned to campus. According to Johns Hopkins data, Payne county is emerging as a hot spot in Oklahoma. It comes as college towns across the country are fighting spikes. [KOCO]

  • Oklahoma State faculty shares concerns about university’s COVID-19 response [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]
  • COVID-19: State logs 833 cases, one death on first day of ‘probable’ case reporting [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma football coach reportedly won’t disclose coronavirus infections for ‘competitive advantage’ [Forbes] | [ESPN] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Black, Native American and fighting for recognition in Indian Country: Enslaved people were also driven west along the Trail of Tears. After a historic Supreme Court ruling, their descendants are fighting to be counted as tribal members. [New York Times]

Health News

‘There definitely will be PTSD’: Pandemic adds new level of stress on Oklahoma front-line workers: The job of a doctor, nurse, any caretaker, can be stressful on its own. The coronavirus pandemic has added new stress and has highlighted a serious issue that will linger even when this is all over. [KOCO]

Scientists expand testing capabilities as active virus cases nears 10,000 in Oklahoma: Oklahoma scientists have developed a high-capacity COVID-19 testing method as the number of people confirmed to have contracted the virus in the state surpasses 65,000. [The Ardmoreite]

Native Americans encouraged to use both medicine and culture in treating opioid use disorder: Medication assisted treatment is considered the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder, but culturally adapted practices also could play an important role in both preventing and treating it among Native American populations. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Faster COVID-19 vaccine schedule brings skepticism and questions of politics: If good science allows a faster end to the COVID-19 pandemic through vaccination, everyone should celebrate and roll up their sleeves. But some experts and politicians are skeptical about the announcement of a pre-election distribution of a vaccine. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

State & Local Government News

DHS shortens lengthy waiting list for people with developmental disabilities awaiting community-based services: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is using $1.9 million in earmarked funds from the Oklahoma Legislature to provide community-based services to 270 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been on a waiting list for more than a decade. About 5,800 people remain on the waiting list, so the agency continues to fall far short of being able to serve everyone awaiting services. [The Oklahoman]

DHS to close offices across Southwest Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services will close offices in 35 counties throughout the state, including in Caddo, Kiowa, Tillman, Greer and Jefferson counties. The plan was announced this spring as a cost-cutting measure for the coming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. [Lawton Constitution]

State says more ‘HOPE Centers’ in the works than originally planned: On Aug. 3, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funding would go toward the establishment of 30 HOPE Centers, meant to provide services like meals, mental health care, counseling, internet access and more for kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Transportation Commission awards $90 million for I-44 expansion, bridge work to Tulsa company: The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Tuesday awarded a $90 million contract to widen Interstate 44 from west of the Arkansas River bridge to Union Avenue in Tulsa and reconstruct five bridges. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County to spend $5 million on hazard pay bonuses for public safety employees: Oklahoma County’s public safety employees will receive roughly $5,000 in bonuses through the end of the year after officials agreed to spend $5 million in “hero pay” for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

1980s county commissioners scandal lives on in Oklahoma’s tight control on counties, and Tulsa County lobbyist urges loosening the grip: For better and for worse, a nearly four-decade-old memory still has a hold on county government in Oklahoma. Terry Simonson, who represents Tulsa County’s interests at the state Capitol, thinks the Legislature should loosen that grip just a little. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Virus underscores importance of infrastructure investment: When Oklahoma finally is out from under the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps the importance of regularly upgrading state agency infrastructure will emerge as one enduring lesson for lawmakers. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

In defending Coleman, attorney asks Judge Ray Elliott about drug rumors: Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott told investigators of the Council on Judicial Complaints that Judge Kendra Coleman exhibited no tendencies of a drug user, but he shared with them a rumor he heard about her associating with a “known drug dealer,” Elliott said Tuesday to the Court on the Judiciary. [NonDoc]

OKC police release footage of fatal officer-involved shooting: Oklahoma City police have released bodycam footage of a fatal shooting in July. footage of fatal officer-involved shooting in July. [The Oklahoman]

Defense attorneys at odds over video showing Tulsa officers’ shooting; ruling expected Thursday: Video showing the shooting of two Tulsa police officers could become public this week after a judge is able to observe alleged “inconsistencies” between the footage and statements from investigators. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Experts: Ag industry responding well amid pandemic: Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Blayne Arthur said the ag industry responded well, all things considered, after being clobbered earlier this year by unprecedented challenges resulting from mass closures of restaurants and other large commercial buyers of meat and other groceries. [The Journal Record]

Spending in OKC stronger than expected, sales tax results show: A better-than-expected economic rebound led Oklahoma City’s city manager to lift the city’s hiring freeze Tuesday. While sales tax collections for the first quarter of the fiscal year are down 4.4% from this time last year, city budget managers had projected a 12% decline. [The Oklahoman]

OKC tax incentives depend on Skydweller’s location: Skydweller Aero Inc. is coming to Oklahoma – the question is where in Oklahoma City. The company may gain an additional $60,000 in tax incentives from the city if headquarters are established in the downtown area or the nearby Innovation District. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Under 400 now at home due to COVID-19 as more Enid students than staff cleared to return: Fewer than 400 Enid Public Schools students and staff remain at home due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, as more elementary classes have been cleared to return to school and one school saw an 80% decline of student quarantines in effect. [Enid News & Eagle]

  • More than 180 school districts in Oklahoma are reporting COVID-19 cases [KOSU]

OSU’s Project ECHO helping school leaders, teachers adjust to educating during a pandemic: Astill-new distance learning tool based at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa was adapted because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is now a resource for thousands of school leaders and teachers across the state. [Tulsa World]

Trial date set in dispute between state auditor and Epic: The State Auditor’s pursuit of records to account for at least $69 million spent by Epic Charter School’s management company is headed to trial Dec. 16. [Oklahoma Watch]

Opinion: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Oklahoma public schools: “I watch normally decent people work to deny fellow human beings and citizens where I clearly observe need. I watch people root for the failure of public education — something that was once a beacon across the world.” [Opinion / The Frontier]

General News

Voting twice illegal in election: Despite the president’s advice on the upcoming election, Oklahomans who try to vote twice in a single election could find themselves facing serious legal consequences, state and local officials said. [Norman Transcript]

Linking allies to action in the heart of the Black-bookstore boom: As the nation contemplates remaking itself, a new bookstore owner in Tulsa wants her white customers to go beyond just reading. [The New Yorker]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Metropolitan Library System locations reach ‘Grab & Go’ stage [The Oklahoman]
  • William Tisdale appointed to Tulsa County Board of Adjustment [The Oklahoma Eagle]
  • Tulsa Development Authority amends bylaws to reduce meeting frequency for 2020 [Tulsa World]
  • Proposed Tulsa hate crime ordinance would cover sexual orientation and gender identity [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Norman City Council limits bar, restaurant capacity to 75% [Norman Transcript] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Woodward County Commissioners discuss CARES funding, budget [Woodward News]
  • Comanche County Commissioners vote for special election [Lawton Constitution]
  • City council approves memo of understanding with McAlester police union [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“However I can build a world in which, in twenty years, my daughter isn’t fighting the same things we’re fighting for today, I wanna try.”

-Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, owner of Tulsa’s Fulton Street Books & Coffee [The New Yorker]

Number of the Day


The amount of previous federal COVID-19 relief money that could be used to address Oklahoma’s $2.1 billion revenue shortfall

[Source: U.S. Treasury]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Way Out Through State and Local Aid: If a bipartisan group of the nation’s top economists were trapped in an elevator with Republican members of Congress, what would they tell them about the need for state and local aid? “Towns across the country are already hemorrhaging red ink, and substantial federal aid is needed now in order to derail the worsening economic shock brought on by the pandemic.” That was the consensus among economists the Economic Policy Institute brought together recently to discuss the urgent need for state and local aid. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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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