In The Know: Many schools not following mask guidance | Second outbreak hits federal transfer facility | A closer look at SQ 802 results

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.

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A closer look at SQ 802 results dispels myth that Oklahomans voted against their self-interest: When Oklahomans voted to expand Medicaid on June 30, they showed that our state values increased access to health care, less reliance on emergency rooms, and higher quality of care. The election was close with just 6,000 votes out of 674,951 cast determining the outcome. Commentators were quick to assign a narrative of a rural-urban divide to the outcome. Indeed, only seven counties had more yes votes than no. However, a look at the results with attention to more than surface-level detail reveals a more accurate picture of the election: close vote counts in most precincts, a correlation between votes and income, and a strong impact from American Indian communities. The data show that quite literally every type of Oklahoma voter made a difference in passing State Question 802. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Dozens of school districts not following COVID mask guidance, officials say: More than a third of Oklahoma school districts are not following state guidance to require masks in schools, state officials reported. The Oklahoma State Department of Education found 190 school districts, or 35%, are not requiring any students or staff to wear face coverings, though nearly all are based in counties with community spread of COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

  • More than 90 percent Of Oklahoma schools are holding some kind of in-person classes [KOSU]
  • Nearly 700 Enid students at home due to COVID-19; 2 more classes in quarantine [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Springer schools move to distance learning after staff member tests positive for virus [Daily Ardmoreite]

Democrats criticize Oklahoma governor, call for task force: Oklahoma House Democrats criticized Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday for failing to implement the recommendations of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and called for the creation of a state-level bipartisan task force. [AP News] Despite the governor having a task force that advises on coronavirus issues, Democrats called on Stitt to form a bipartisan task force, led by public health experts, to keep Oklahomans informed about the pandemic. [The Oklahoman] Stitt created a task force in March, but House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said it is not communicating with the public, is providing misleading information and is led by him. Virgin said Stitt’s administration has hidden White House COVID-19 Task Force information from communities and refused to follow its recommendations, such as implementing a statewide mask mandate. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa Mayor again calls for more local mask mandates or for Gov. Stitt to step in and take state action [Tulsa World]
  • Local data show strictest White House COVID-19 recommendations aren’t applicable here, Tulsa leaders say [Tulsa World]
  • New COVID-19 report from White House might not dissuade pushback, Enid Mayor says [Enid News & Eagle]
  • COVID-19: 712 new cases, 15 deaths reported in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Second outbreak hits OKC facility for federal inmates: A holding facility for federal inmates is experiencing another COVID-19 outbreak. The Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center on Thursday had 58 open positive cases involving inmates, one of the highest totals among the 109 Bureau of Prisons facilities with active cases. [The Oklahoman]

  • Eddie Warrior a COVID-19 hot spot facility: In coordination with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, DOC has designated Eddie Warrior Correctional Center (EWCC) a “hot spot” for COVID-19 after identifying a spike in the number of infected inmates. More than 800 female inmates live in open dorm units there, creating a contact tracing web. [Enid News & Eagle]

State & Local Government News

Oklahoma municipalities and the COVID-19 response: Over the first eight weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was here in Oklahoma, municipalities of varying sizes reacted in various ways after the World Health Organization (on March 11, 2020) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic; and President Donald J. Trump (on March 13, 2020) declared a National Emergency for the United States. [Southwest Ledger]

Ambiguous social media rule leaves legislators in an ethical limbo: When it comes to social media the rules are not as well established, and many incumbents often stray into ethically ambiguous territory by using social media both to communicate with their constituents and to promote issues and campaigns. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma’s unemployment levels continue to fall, but slowly: New unemployment claims in Oklahoma fell to their lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The data, which includes claims through Aug. 22, shows 5,130 Oklahomans filed their first claims that week. Claims reached the new pandemic-era low mark after briefly spiking the previous week. [The Oklahoman]

Commission objects to OG&E’s territory claims: In two rulings issued by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Wednesday, regulators disagreed with OG&E’s claim that the electricity utility had the right to compete for certain customers within the designated territory of smaller electricity cooperatives. OG&E won one of the cases mainly because the cooperative was too slow in mounting its challenge. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

New federal-tribal partnership formed to combat domestic violence against women: The Department’s Office on Violence Against Women will dedicate more than $2 million to help tribal and federal authorities prosecute felony crimes that occur in Indian Country. [KOSU]

Cole bill aims to improve mental health care for Native American vets: Native American and Alaska Native veterans would receive mental health care that’s appropriate to their cultures under legislation announced Thursday by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Average Oklahoma County jail population on downward trend, but disparities still exist: The average inmate population at the Oklahoma County jail has stayed below 1,700 people for over a year, a downward trend after nearly two decades of populations routinely above 2,000. The decline in numbers is being attributed to diversion programs, collaboration between local judges, changes in state law and dedicated funding to address mental health and substance abuse issues. [The Oklahoman]

Ardmore community leaders hold forum on SQ 805 as November election approaches: Several Ardmore community leaders joined the director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform in a virtual forum Tuesday evening to discuss the potential impact of a state question that will appear on the November ballot. [Daily Ardmoreite]

Economy & Business News

Regional manufacturing in August experiences modest rise, according to survey: Manufacturing in a seven-state area that includes Oklahoma rose moderately in August but lagged below levels from 2019, according to information released Thursday by the Kansas City Fed. [Tulsa World]

Ample supply should counter climbing fuel prices after Hurricane Laura, unless consumers intervene: Wholesale gasoline prices climbed slightly before Hurricane Laura roared ashore at the Louisiana-Texas state line Thursday morning. But because there was an ample supply of gasoline being stored before the storm forced several major refiners to shutter their operations, the biggest impact on fuel prices could be consumer behavior during the next several weeks. [The Oklahoman]

Pandemic leads to sales increase for wine, beer, spirits: In Oklahoma, the pandemic led more people toward buying spirits and beer, though wine has seen a respectable increase. [The Journal Record]

Education News

OU to launch required online diversity training for students, employees next week: The University of Oklahoma will launch a mandatory diversity training program for all students, staff and faculty next week after student leaders called for the change this spring. [Norman Transcript]

General News

National Park Service, National Geographic boost John Hope Franklin Park: With racial tension flaring across the country, a Tulsa park dedicated to reconciliation is getting national recognition. On Tuesday, John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, 321 N. Detroit Ave., officially joined the African American Civil Rights Network during a brief ceremony moved indoors because of the weather. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“In Oklahoma we have created a criminal justice system that’s almost entirely based on punishment and retribution. The reality is there’s got to be elements of grace, there’s got to be opportunities for a second chance, there’s got to be a focus on redemption and reconciliation and restoration if we’re ever going to reach our full potential individually and collectively.”

-Kris Steele, director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, speaking about the state’s need for criminal justice reforms [Daily Ardmoreite

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans considered part of the “hard to count” Census population.

[Source: National Conference of State Legislatures]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why the 2020 Census Matters for Rural America: The decennial Census is an unmatched opportunity to capture accurate information about rural America. This information is used to determine which areas are considered rural, to inform other surveys that take a closer look at the characteristics of rural residents, and to make funding decisions for federal programs that serve those residents. All of these uses depend on a fair and accurate Census that counts everyone in America once and in the right place. However, limited access to the internet, remote geographies, and significant hard-to-count populations in rural areas make the count challenging. [Georgetown Law Center for Poverty and Inequality]

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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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