In The Know: Hospital official: ‘Very, very dark winter’ ahead | Ice storm hits state | Pandemic blamed for enrollment decline

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

‘Vast majority’ of Tulsa’s record COVID-19 hospitalizations are from outside city, officials say: Tulsa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations a week ago were 20% above its record over the summer, with the “vast majority” of patients coming from outside the city limits, Mayor G.T. Bynum said Tuesday during a news conference. Unfortunately, Bynum pointed out, he and the City Council are powerless to enact any sort of mitigation strategies beyond Tulsa. Nonetheless, the mayor, city councilors and Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department plan to meet Friday to discuss the state of affairs and whether there is more that Tulsa itself can do. [Tulsa World]

  • Saint Francis Health System warns of ‘a very, very dark winter’ for COVID-19 in Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations begin creeping back up [AP News]
  • Tulsa Public Schools employee dies with COVID-19, district confirms [Tulsa World] [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 cases reported at Muskogee and Fort Gibson high schools [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Noting ‘spotty compliance’ with mask requirement, Tulsa Transit will let drivers deny boarding [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • The number of positive COVID-19 tests reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health increased by 1,010 to 118,409 on Tuesday. The Health Department reported 22 deaths, the largest single-day report during the pandemic. The state’s death toll rose to 1,273. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma ice storm a ‘worst nightmare,’ leaves 200,000 without power: A “worst nightmare” of an autumn ice storm wrecking trees and power lines across the metro area left more than 226,000 without power Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

  • Ice storm wreak havoc on power grid. [The Oklahoman]
  • Ice storm causes damage to Survivor Tree at Oklahoma City National Memorial [KOCO]

Education News

Tulsa Public Schools officials blame pandemic for 3,000 student drop in enrollment: Tulsa Public Schools officials said Monday the district lost about 3,000 students over the past year, three times what they expected based on the past few years. Chief Operations Officer Jorge Robles believes the pandemic is to blame. He said the drop is mostly due to lower enrollment in early grade levels, including steep declines in pre-K and third grade. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Unclaimed funds: Many Oklahoma schools yet to claim share of $12 million from CARES Act: With only three days left to apply, fewer than half of Oklahoma’s public school districts have claimed a share of $12 million in federal relief funds set aside to pay for online courses and instruction for students amid the pandemic. The “Learn Anywhere Oklahoma” initiative is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — or CARES — Act. Emergency funds from the federal government were set aside for each governor to address individual state needs. In Oklahoma, schools can claim a share of Learn Anywhere funds based on the number of students enrolled in the school district. The funds are used to purchase access to online courses — either for local teachers to use in their own instruction or for students to be enrolled in online courses with instructors employed by the state’s vendor, called Edmentum. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

DOC strategy seems to be slowing spread: The Department of Corrections’ strategy seems to be slowing the spread of the COVID-19 inside state prisons, an advocate said Tuesday. Bobby Cleveland, executive director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, said when he visited the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester last week, employees were complimentary of the agency’s approach. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

  • Sheriff says Tulsa County Jail COVID-19 outbreak decreasing among inmates, increasing among staff [Public Radio Tulsa]

Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, NSU join fight against domestic violence: Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron has declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and she and other Tahlequah leaders hope to open dialogue and unite advocates in an effort to end the scourge. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Election News

In a pandemic, door knocking a candidate conundrum: Among the many impossible-to-predict consequences that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on local candidates, its effect on door knocking and other in-person campaigning efforts could be the most significant. Whether to knock on constituents’ doors has become one of the most contentious campaign strategy questions of 2020. [NonDoc

Inhofe, Broyles, make final push as election day nears: The race between incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe and Democrat challenger Abby Broyles is one of contrasts. Inhofe is representative of Oklahoma’s conservative old guard, loyal to a brand of politics that’s battle tested in the state. Broyles would represent a dramatic departure from Inhofe’s politics. She’s progressive, with calls to decriminalize marijuana, reform policing, and address climate change. [The Frontier]

How the three state Supreme Court justices on the retention ballot ruled on recent major cases: From the validity of certain Indian gaming compacts to legislation implementing tax hikes, Oklahoma Supreme Court justices often are asked to rule on the constitutionality of bills and actions that can have a dramatic impact on the lives of Oklahomans. State voters will decide Nov. 3 whether three of the nine current Oklahoma Supreme Court justices will retain their jobs. [The Oklahoman]

OKC charter: Votes decide even mundane changes: The OKC charter serves as the governing document of the city and contains within it ordinances and laws. On Nov. 3, voters will have the option to vote for or against nine propositions. [NonDoc]

Infrastructure, county jail focus in Oklahoma County commissioner race: The race for Oklahoma County’s District Two commissioner seat pits a longtime incumbent against a first-time candidate who both say they will focus on improving local infrastructure and the county jail. [The Oklahoman]

State Questions explained: Learn more about SQ 805 and SQ 814 via these explainer videos. [Oklahoma Engaged] Oklahoma Engaged Live: Voice of the Voter, Episode 4 (audio) [Oklahoma Engaged via KGOU]

  • OK Policy has published non-partisan fact sheets on both state questions, as well as other voting resources at

Editorial: Report any bullying at the ballot box: Reports of voter intimidation at the polls aren’t something the Daily Press gets much of. This year, though, it may be different. A handful of local residents say they’ve been approached and threatened if they don’t vote a certain way. [Editorial / Tahlequah Daily Press]

  • The Frontier will be on the lookout for any problems that prevent people from voting. You can help us. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

Internet service is critical now more than ever, but in Oklahoma City there’s a divide in access among high-income and low-income areas: Internet service proviers face criticism for neglecting poorer neighborhoods, with some research describing the lack of infrastructure available to low-income residents as digital redlining, a modern mashup of a term historically used to describe how racial minorities were prevented from owning homes in some neighborhoods. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Broadband is more important than ever — here is how Oklahoma can respond

Economy & Business News

‘Reagan’ biopic filming in Oklahoma halts production after crew members test positive for COVID-19: Production has temporarily halted on the Oklahoma-made biopic “Reagan” after multiple people on set reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I believe in liberty, I believe in all those things. That’s why I joined the Army. That’s why I fought for the country. But these are things to keep America safe, and to keep our communities going. I don’t want to shut things down, and I want people to stay healthy and have their loved ones and everything like that. I don’t understand why people don’t understand what a big deal this is.”

-Dr. Roger Gallup, a pulmonologist and critical care physician working a COVID unit at Tulsa’s Saint Francis Hospital [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Adults and children in Oklahoma who receive assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is a time-limited cash assistance to low-income families with minor children who are deprived of parental support because of the absence, death, incapacity, or unemployment of at least one parent.

[Source: Spotlight on Poverty

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Family Cash Assistance Programs Marked by Historical Racism, Especially in South: Low benefits in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are rooted in historical racism, especially in the South, where cash assistance has been consistently weaker since policymakers created TANF’s predecessor nearly a century ago. The result is now a program that does not cover the basic needs of low-income families during times of joblessness, illness, or disability. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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