In The Know: Media report looks at Gov.’s early virus response | Fines & fees worsen economic crisis | Addressing childhood poverty

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

Oklahoma’s fines and fees system worsening the economic crisis for families and courts: As Oklahomans continue to struggle through the COVID-19 crisis, our fines and fees system has worsened the impact for justice-involved families. Oklahoma courts have continued to pull millions of dollars from low-income communities to fund their operations during the pandemic, just as they do under normal circumstances. However, now families are even more financially strapped. This has occurred simultaneously to our courts grappling with budget shortfalls only partly filled during Fiscal Year 2021. Reforming our state’s fines and fees system has been a long-time need for Oklahoma families, and previous reform attempts have fallen short. The current pandemic has only made things worse, and lawmakers must work hard to find solutions in the coming legislative session. [Ashley Harvey / OK Policy]

State leaders can do more to reduce Oklahoma’s racial disparities in childhood poverty: When families have the resources they need—including safe housing, adequate food, affordable health care, and quality education—children can thrive. Growing up in impoverished communities where families lack access to these essential resources can significantly impact child development and well-being. Childhood poverty is associated with negative outcomes in health, education and financial stability, and these effects may continue through adulthood. Therefore, implementing policies and expanding programs to reduce childhood poverty is vital to improving the lives of Oklahoma’s youth and strengthening our state’s future. [Rebecca Fine & Josie Phillips / OK25 by 25 Early Childhood Coalition Bulletin, Potts Family Foundation]

Oklahoma News

Confusion, defiance and focus on ‘personal responsibility’ shaped Gov. Stitt’s initial pandemic response: The Frontier listened to hours of recorded calls and reviewed thousands of emails to better understand Gov. Kevin Stitt’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to grow across Oklahoma. [The Frontier]

‘This is all I have’: Governor’s targeted restrictions on restaurants and bars draws mixed reviews: Local feedback to new, COVID-19-prompted restrictions on restaurants and bars is — like some of the drinks they serve — mixed. Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday ordered restaurants to place tables at least six feet apart, beginning Thursday. That same day, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 11 p.m., with the exception of delivery or drive-through windows. [Tulsa World] Stitt’s measures come as a record number of patients — more than 1,400 — remain hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases as of the most recent survey of facilities; 447 of those patients are in intensive-care units. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma sees record number of virus hospitalizations [AP News]
  • Correctional facilities fuel COVID-19 in NW Oklahoma; state gains 1,551 cases, 6 more deaths [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Hospital leaders offer statement supporting COVID-19 actions [The Lawton Constitution]
  • Except for Jenks, county’s suburbs each outpaced Tulsa’s weekly COVID-19 case rate in October [Tulsa World]
  • Growing number of Tulsa suburbs heeding the call to implement mask mandates [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma City mayor says he’ll get COVID-19 vaccine, encourages others to do the same [The Oklahoman]
  • Experts warn long-term care facilities may need more help as cases surge in rural Oklahoma [KTUL]

‘They’ve been following the science’: How the Covid-19 pandemic has been curtailed in Cherokee Nation: While the United States flounders in its response to the coronavirus, another nation — one within our own borders — is faring much better. With a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, hospitals well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers fully supported by their chief, the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those numbers surge in surrounding Oklahoma, where the White House coronavirus task force says spread is unyielding. [STAT]

Health News

Joplin hospitals, health care providers ask for regional mask mandate: Amid growing numbers of COVID-19 cases that medical providers now say are straining their capacity, they have asked governments in Jasper and Newton counties for a mask mandate to try to clamp down on the spread in the region that also includes far northeast Oklahoma. Officials say it is getting difficult to transfer patients to other hospitals because hospitals in Springfield, Kansas City, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, are staying full. [Joplin Globe] In preparation for emergencies, Newton County to buy mobile morgue. [Joplin Globe]

State Government News

Gov. Kevin Stitt hires state’s first chief financial officer: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday the hiring of a chief financial officer for the state. Stitt hired Amanda Rodriguez to serve in the new role that will involve developing the governor’s annual budget proposal and improving financial reporting and accountability across the administration. [The Oklahoman] Rodriguez worked as an accountant for Chesapeake Energy since 2007 and for the last two years as internal audit manager. [AP News] Prior to Chesapeake, she was the owner and operator of House in Hand Properties LLC and lead accountant for Petroleum Accounting Consultants. [The Journal Record]

Coleman says funding unclear for Medicaid expansion: State Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, last week commented before a Barnsdall Chamber of Commerce audience that he didn’t know where funding would come from for a legally mandated expansion of Medicaid in Oklahoma. [Pawhuska Journal-Capital] OK Policy: Oklahoma lawmakers have nearly $600 million of available options that can fund Medicaid expansion.  

Local municipalities struggle to hold meetings in person amid rising number of COVID-19 cases: The Village City Council had to cancel its meeting this week after officials said city employees and council members were possibly exposed to COVID-19. Some of those council members are upset with state leaders because they’d prefer to conduct the meeting virtually, like they have been during most of the coronavirus pandemic. [KOCO]

Federal Government News

Inhofe cautiously acquiescent to Trump’s troop withdrawal: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday he’s been assured President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of 2,500 U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq will not destabilize the region or undermine antiterrorism efforts. [Tulsa World]

‘I’ve been involved’: Sen. Lankford clarifies role in Biden transition process: Sen. James Lankford said Monday that he did “step in” with the General Services Administration late last week over the presidential transition process — and seemed satisfied with the agency’s handling of the matter, although there is no indication yet that Joe Biden will start getting the intelligence briefings that the Oklahoma Republican said he wanted the president-elect to receive. [CNN / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Families can register for critical resource help at Norman HOPE Centers: The city of Norman Parks and Recreation Department has partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to open Norman recreation centers as Community HOPE Centers. The centers will provide an alternative support network for children and families to get the resources they need to thrive and to mitigate the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on communities across Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Big need persists for charitable giving: As many Oklahomans have lost jobs or suffered other financial setbacks related to the pandemic, ranks of the food-insecure have swelled by some 30%. Many people who may never have had to ask for help from local food pantries or other charitable groups have had to do so this year. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Project AWARE helps meet student mental health needs: The Oklahoma AWARE East grant comes from the U.S. Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and builds on Project AWARE, a program that has proven beneficial for Elk City, Weatherford and Woodward Public Schools, where it has been in place since 2018. [NonDoc]

TPS Board Member responds to Stitt singling out district in call for all schools to return in person: At a news conference Monday announcing new statewide measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Kevin Stitt said one of his goals was getting all schools back in person by the start of next year. TPS Board member John Croisant responded to the governor’s comments at a Monday night meeting. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Broken Arrow City Council takes no action after talking about COVID-19 hospitalizations [Tulsa World]
  • Woodward City commissioners go over number of items in meeting [Woodward News]

Quote of the Day

“It’s a reminder of how much leadership matters and how even under difficult circumstances, with limited resources, you can make a huge difference.”

-Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, praising the Cherokee Nation’s science-based virus response [STAT

Number of the Day


The shortened life expectancy, in years, for American Indians and Alaska Natives when compared with all racial populations (73.0 years to 78.5 years, respectively)

[Source: Indian Health Services]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

COVID-19 data on Native Americans is ‘a national disgrace.’ This scientist is fighting to be counted: The virus has taken a disproportionate toll on many Indigenous communities in the United States. But its full impact is unclear because of problems Echo-Hawk has long fought to correct, including racial misclassification and the exclusion of Indigenous communities from data sets and analyses used to make health policy decisions. [Science]

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

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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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