In The Know: First vaccine given in state | New report shows Oklahoma children, families pain points | 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

New KIDS COUNT® pandemic policy report shows immediate action needed for Oklahoma children and families: The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on children and families in Oklahoma, and its toll on communities of color is even more severe. In November, Oklahoma saw a new record spike with daily cases doubling to more than 3,000 in a matter of weeks. While many families are grappling with the illness itself, many more are facing the unexpected economic toll of the pandemic from lost wages, lack of child care, and school closures. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

‘A historic day:’ First COVID-19 vaccines given in Oklahoma: Two minutes and a quick poke to a registered nurse’s shoulder muscle in Oklahoma City marked the beginning of a new chapter in the state’s battle against the coronavirus. [The Frontier] The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrived in Oklahoma on Monday morning, and the state began administering the shot to health workers at INTEGRIS Health a few hours later. [StateImpact Oklahoma] Long-term care providers and residents, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and pharmacy staff who will administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities are also slated to be among the first inoculated. [AP News]

COVID-19: 8 more deaths reported in Oklahoma; average for new cases still above 3,000: The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Monday reported 2,099 new COVID-19 cases and eight more deaths related to the virus. The additional deaths were identified in patients 65 or older in Bryan, Lincoln, Mayes and Tulsa counties, bringing the death toll for the state to 2,072. [Tulsa World]

  • State hospitals filling with COVID-19, active county cases surpass 300 [The Ardmoreite]
  • Half of Okarche family dies after contracting COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • Broken Arrow group’s letter protests City Council inaction: ‘Wearing this mask — it’s a simple gesture’ [Tulsa World]

Health News

Tulsa launches new ‘comprehensive’ effort to fight meth addiction: With methamphetamine remaining “Tulsa’s drug of choice,” more than a dozen government agencies and private organizations came together Monday to announce a new “comprehensive strategy” to fight a substance so powerful that it can be addictive after only one use. [Tulsa World] Interim State Mental Health Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges put it in perspective: In 2013, roughly one in 10 local treatment admissions were for meth. “Today, one-third of all Tulsa County substance abuse treatment admissions are for methamphetamine. That is just staggering,” Slatton-Hodges said. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief David Hill Op-Ed: Rural Oklahoma hospitals face COVID-19 crisis: Oklahoma hospitals are reaching an insurmountable situation in the fight against COVID-19. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is proud to be among Oklahoma’s rural health care providers, but the reality of our state’s overloaded health care system is that we can’t get our patients into critical care hospitals for the care they need. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

State Government News

Legislator: Marijuana regulation system inadequate: State Rep. Jon Echols said his office gets five times as many calls regarding the medical marijuana industry than it does on any other subject. Echols expressed his concern that the state’s fledgling regulatory infrastructure for the burgeoning industry is woefully inadequate for the task at hand during an interim study meeting at the state Capitol on Monday. [The Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority seeing benefits from quality assurance lab hired in August [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma state parks improvements ongoing as visitors grow during pandemic: Oklahoma’s state parks have seen a record number of visitors during the pandemic. Visits to the state’s nearly three dozen parks grew by 2.5 million in the last fiscal year. [The Oklahoman]

Odds legal sports betting in Oklahoma in 2021 are long, but there: Legal sports betting in Oklahoma could still be in the cards for the residents of the state but the final verdict won’t be happening any sooner as there is still much to talk about on the subject. [Legal Sports Betting]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma’s electors award 7 electoral votes to Trump, Pence: Oklahoma’s seven presidential electors officially awarded the state’s electoral votes to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Monday during a meeting at the state Capitol. [AP News] Oklahoma’s electors, like those of most states, are required by law to cast their ballots for the winner of the state’s popular vote. [Tulsa World] State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, has filed several pieces of legislation seeking to overhaul Oklahoma’s process of selecting electors. [CNHI via Claremore Daily Progress] Stitt did acknowledge that after all the counting, President-elect Joe Biden won the election. The acknowledgment comes after more than a month of legal maneuvering that recently included a failed attempt to throw out ballots in swing states by a number of Attorneys General including Oklahoma’s Mike Hunter. [KOSU]

Tribal leaders respond to the idea of an Indigenous Interior secretary: For weeks now, momentum has been building behind a push for the Department of the Interior to be run by an Indigenous person for the first time in history. Dozens of tribal leaders have called upon Biden to appoint U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M, an enrolled tribal member of the Laguna Pueblo. [High Country News]

Criminal Justice News

As COVID-19 spreads in state prisons, inmate families protest poor conditions: In closed Facebook groups, some exceeding 1,000 members, family members of inmates discuss commissary access to gang tensions and staff failing to follow COVID-19 protocols. When group members started sharing reports of poor conditions at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft in early September, dozens decided to rally outside of the prison. [Oklahoma Watch]

Mother of 15-year-old killed by Oklahoma police plans to sue: The mother of a 15-year-old boy who was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police last month filed paperwork Monday indicating she intends to sue the city over the killing. [AP News] The attorney for the mother of Stavian Rodriguez has given notice to the City of Oklahoma City of a tort claim for his death in the amount of $175,000, the maximum allowable under state law. [OKC Free Press] Eddy demanded police release body camera footage of the fatal shooting. [The Oklahoman

OKC Police body camera footage shows struggle preceding Olain Jefferson Jr.’s in-custody death: Oklahoma City Police released body camera footage last week of Olain Jefferson Jr. being restrained at an Oklahoma City hospital in late May. The Oklahoma City Chapter of Black Lives Matter demanded the footage be released after protests this summer. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

City of Stillwater creates resident assistance program, suspends utility cut-offs: The Stillwater City Council took steps Monday to provide some relief for residents who are still dealing with economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The City Council reinstated a moratorium on disconnecting utility accounts due to non-payment and allocated $150,000 from CARES Act funds to provide one-time individual assistance – up to $1,500 per household – to Stillwater residents who can document financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Grandparents raising students face extra challenges during COVID-19: Linda Chambers has had guardianship over her two grandchildren for the past four years. There were new things to learn, like getting the hang of school schedules and navigating programs through the Department of Human Services. [NonDoc]

Project Santa: COVID-19 throws family into prolonged struggle with jobs, health concerns: The Cobb family turned a corner in March, moving into a new house in east Tulsa to make more room for the family of nine. But three weeks later, like much of the world, the wheels came off. “We moved in March 1,” William Cobb said. “And March 20, I lost my job.” [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Servers talk about what working at a restaurant has been like during a pandemic: The restaurant industry is one of the most affected businesses of the pandemic and one of the most visible. Tulsa World staff photographer Mike Simons took some time and started meeting servers to see what life has been like. [Photo Gallery / Tulsa World]

Education News

Tulsa school board moves back start of ‘tiered’ return to in-person learning to late January: The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education on Monday approved Superintendent Deborah Gist’s recommendation for a “tiered shift” back to in-person learning beginning in late January, a plan Gist told parents would be “dependent on current COVID-19 health data and levels of community spread” at that time. [Tulsa World]

  • Enid Public Schools will return to school next semester with new COVID-19 plan [Enid News & Eagle]
  • McAlester school board takes COVID-19 precautions [Enid News & Eagle]

Attendance policies for many Oklahoma schools don’t require students to be present for virtual classes: Federally-mandated state testing is still scheduled for the end of the school year, and experts predict test scores will be lower than in the past due to a year of disrupted learning. That could complicate how schools decide to advance students to the next grade, as state exam results are among the criteria they consider. Data from school districts is usually a vital window into student performance. But when Big If True asked 15 Oklahoma school districts for data on this semester, most didn’t provide the information. [Big If True]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Merger of two large OKC marketing firms scrapped [The Oklahoman]
  • Cox Center transformation into Prairie Surf Studios requires more than new signage [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa County allocates $1.2 million in CARES funds for firefighter overtime [Tulsa World]
  • Lawton Council to look at amendments to mask ordinance [The Lawton Consitution]

Quote of the Day

“Every child in Oklahoma deserves to have their basic needs met, yet the latest KIDS COUNT® report clearly shows Oklahoma families are facing unimaginable choices as they care for their loved ones.”

-Ahniwake Rose, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about a new KIDS COUNT® report released Tuesday [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Number of children in Oklahoma who live in extreme poverty, which is below 50 percent of the federal poverty level. 

[Source: KIDS COUNT]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread economic damage and isolated families in unprecedented ways. Parents have had to juggle both educating and caring for their children and millions of Americans have lost not just their jobs, but their sense stability, source of income and health care. To succeed now and after the pandemic, families must have good health, both physical and mental, and the health care to maintain it. They must also have food and the money to buy it; safe, stable housing and communities; education and the means to access it; and quality child care so that parents can work. [KIDS COUNT]

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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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