In The Know: Local officials continue raising alarm about virus | More schools pivoting to distance education | Statement from CoverOK coalition

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

Healthcare coalition releases statement in response to Oklahoma Health Care Authority RFP: In response to the OHCA’s recent proposal to transition to a managed care model the CoverOK coalition released the following statement: “We hope the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s approach to managed care does not endanger access to care for Oklahomans who need it most. If other states are any example, hasty approaches to managed care are harmful for patients and providers.” [Read full statement at] Note: OK Policy and Together Oklahoma are organizers of the CoverOK coalition. 

Oklahoma News

Local hospitals offer COVID-19 care criteria after mayor says respiratory system must be ‘in danger of collapse’ for admission: Mayor G.T. Bynum last week characterized the hurdle to be admitted into a local hospital for COVID-19 as exhibiting a respiratory system that is in “bad enough” condition or “in danger of collapse.” Officials with three of Tulsa’s four hospital systems say COVID-19 patients who meet criteria for hospital care are admitted — the primary or first consideration being a need for oxygen. While a person’s respiratory condition is paramount, they say, other factors such as age, comorbidities, lab results and ability to function are weighed, too. [Tulsa World]

  • Mayor Bynum to MSNBC on Tulsa’s COVID-19 surge: ‘We can’t control the spread of this virus anymore’ [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: 3,923 new cases, 12 more deaths; record statewide virus surge continues [Tulsa World] | [AP News]
  • Oklahoma coronavirus cases surpass 150,000, deaths top 1,500 [AP News]
  • Coronavirus continues march across Oklahoma as hospitalizations set record [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Capitol Insider: With Coronavirus cases spiking, expectations grow for “dark winter” [KGOU]
  • ‘We’re not in a good place’: 22 Tulsa County ZIP codes in severe COVID-19 risk category [Tulsa World]
  • Norman mayor calls on Stitt to implement mask mandate [The Oklahoman]

Districts face significant staffing issues, forcing them to close schools and send students to distance learning: Worsening COVID-19 infection rates across the Tulsa metro have led to debilitating staffing shortages throughout suburban districts, resulting in a near total shutdown of secondary schools. [Tulsa World]

  • State Board of Education will continue to ‘recommend’ mask policy in schools [NonDoc]
  • Coveducation recap: After one week, OKCPS moves back to remote learning. [NonDoc]
  • COVID-19 surge sends OKC schoolkids back home [The Oklahoman] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Tulsa Public Schools first-third graders return to school Monday [Tulsa World]
  • Glenpool, Skiatook join other area school districts, announce switch to virtual classes due to COVID-19 pandemic [Tulsa World]
  • Marlow district transiting middle, high school to virtual learning temporarily [The Duncan Banner]
  • Muskogee area schools opt for distance learning [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • ‘Red’ COVID-19 status takes Cherokee Co. schools to virtual [Enid News & Eagle]
  • TCC spring plan includes upping in-person classes with combination of other learning options [Tulsa World]

Pandemic may have slowed evictions in south Tulsa, but new wave may be coming: Covering a five-mile stretch of Memorial Road, ZIP code 74133 includes some of the busiest shopping areas in south Tulsa and some of the biggest suburban apartment complexes, where the relatively young and relatively well-off can live within minutes of Woodland Hills Mall and other popular destinations. [Tulsa World] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Health News

Oklahoma to Launch Health Information Exchange: Oklahoma is designing a statewide health information exchange to allow health information to flow securely to and from authorized organizations and individuals in Oklahoma. [Ponca City News]

COVID-19 affects holidays in long-term care facilities: The COVID-19 pandemic will likely change the way many celebrate the holidays. This will be the case for long-term care residents dealing with separation from their loved ones since March, according to Long-Term Care Ombudsman Gina Elliott with the Eastern Oklahoma Development District Area Agency on Aging. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

State Government News

Where dark money flowed in Oklahoma’s legislative races: In the days and weeks leading up to election day, dark money groups pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into key Oklahoma legislative races, with the vast majority of the money helping Republican candidates. [Oklahoma Watch]

Lawmakers ponder safety process for upcoming session as COVID-19 cases spike: Legislative leaders are working on plans to safely return to session Feb. 1 amid a record spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Oklahoma. Last week, it was announced the House was working with the Oklahoma State Department of Health on contact tracing after two asymptomatic members tested positive for COVID-19. [Tulsa World]

  • As in-person public meetings return, officials urge the public to attend virtually [Tulsa World]
  • Citing COVID-19 concerns, Oklahoma Senate cancels ceremonial swearing in ‘out of an abundance of caution’ [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma House Dems outraged over handling of COVID-19 cases at Capitol ceremony [Public Radio Tulsa]

35% pay raises for Oklahoma legislators take effect Wednesday: For the first time in more than two decades, Oklahoma legislators will see an increase in their pay. Effective Wednesday, legislators will see their annual salaries jump from $35,021 to $47,500, a 35% pay increase. [The Oklahoman]

Political notebook: O’Donnell slated for No. 2 spot in Oklahoma House: State Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, was effectively elected to the No. 2 position in the Oklahoma House of Representatives during a GOP caucus meeting last week. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma governor requests federal disaster declaration: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday requested a federal major disaster declaration from last month’s ice storm that caused an estimated $27 million in damages in 13 central Oklahoma counties. [AP News] In a news release, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Mark Gower said he’s hopeful the Federal Emergency Management Agency will quickly approve the state’s request. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma business files suit after state, tribe impose taxes: A grocery store chain filed a second lawsuit in Tulsa federal court asking a judge to determine whether one of its stores should be subject to sales tax for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, while also paying sales tax to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. [AP News]

Happy birthday, Oklahoma: State capitol dome dedicated in 2002 on statehood day: Happy birthday, Oklahoma. Oklahoma became the 46th state in the U.S. on this day in 1907, followed by New Mexico and Arizona (1912) and Alaska and Hawaii (1959). [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Sen. James Lankford: Efforts continue to restore briefings for Joe Biden: Sen. James Lankford said Saturday he was still working to restore intelligence briefings for Joe Biden, as the Trump administration continues to withhold transition resources from the former vice president. [The Oklahoman]

Trump’s Oklahoma County squeaker, Horn’s Grady County connection and 3 other things about the election: In a general election that set a new record in Oklahoma for votes cast, President Donald Trump became the first presidential candidate in state history to surpass one million votes. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

New phone app to report suspicious activity available in state: Local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement partners are launching a new application for Android and Apple phone users that is designed to report suspicious activity. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Stitt removes board president leading inquiries into Epic Charter Schools and board member conflicts of interest, appoints Christian school leader: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday removed the president of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board who recently led the initiation of termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools and challenged two other board members about potential conflicts of interest with Epic. [Tulsa World]

  • Epic Charter School’s standing in doubt as new concerns arise [The Oklahoman]
  • Epic Charter Schools avoid probation status despite recommendation by Education Department Counsel [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Reporters panel launches initiative to expand support for investigative, enterprise journalism: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press announced Tuesday the launch of the Oklahoma Local Legal Initiative, an ambitious program that expands legal support for local news and is already underway in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Colorado. [Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Local Trump supporters converge for ‘Protect the Vote’ rally in defense of president’s election challenge [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa proposal calls for 36 Degrees North to partner with city to operate business incubator program at City Hall [Tulsa World]
  • Airports Trust gets 1st look at $48.2M, 5-year capital improvement plan for Tulsa International [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • BOK Center Executives defend moving Winterfest indoors to authority that oversees arena [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Stillwater City Council will vote Monday on extending deadline for mask mandate [Stillwater News Press]
  • Latest marijuana data shows continued decline in revenue in Norman [The Norman Transcript]
  • Will Thunder open to an empty house? [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“(W)e’re disappointed that we’re not trying to prevent more. We’re making sure there’s enough hospital space after every woman gets sick instead of trying to prevent people getting sick. So that’s been our biggest disappointment, I think, in some of our elected officials that the understanding is let’s treat instead of prevent.”

-Dr. Mary S. Clarke, president-elect of the Oklahoma State Medical Association [KGOU]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who identify as American Indian and Alaska Native, which is the state’s third largest racial population after whites (74%) and Latinx (11.1%). [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Sequoyah, the U.S. state that almost existed: Its name is derived from a Choctaw term for “red people,” yet Oklahoma’s nickname—the Sooner State—comes from the white settlers who descended on it to claim Native lands. That tension is nothing new: Once divided into one territory for whites and another for Native Americans, Oklahoma has not buried the legacy of its frontier past. In July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that, despite its location inside a U.S. state, much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation. The landmark decision is the latest foray in a long battle over who should own and inhabit Oklahoma’s prairies and mesas—a battle that almost led to Oklahoma becoming two different states. The conflict was born in the southeastern United States, the ancestral lands of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole people that spanned from modern-day North Carolina to Mississippi. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, the white settlers who flooded the area dubbed these nations the Five Civilized Tribes due to their willingness to develop economic and social ties. Nonetheless, these white newcomers pressured the U.S. government to push Native Americans out of their lands. [National Geographic] Note: Oklahoma was established as a state on this day in 1907. 

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month. During this week, we will be sharing information that recognizes and celebrates the history, cultures, and contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native people in the state and across the country.

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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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