In The Know: New health dept. order provides hospital flexibility | Gov. facing criticism for relative silence during latest surge | 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

Addressing the social, economic imbalances in Oklahoma’s rental laws (Capitol Update): As with so many things, the COVID pandemic has shined a light on severe inequities resulting from Oklahoma’s rental laws, which consist of the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ORLTA) and Forcible Entry and Detainer actions that are tried in small claims court. The inequities existed before the pandemic, but widespread financial hardship and the inability of governmental processes to get timely help to landlords and tenants is now threatening many who, without a paycheck, can’t make rent and stand to lose their home. The crisis for some has been delayed by the CDC emergency moratorium on evictions, but that will soon go away. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Order gives Oklahoma hospitals flexibility for COVID-19 care: An emergency rule by Gov. Kevin Stitt allows Oklahoma hospitals to renovate conference rooms and other areas to care for COVID-19 patients, the state’s health commissioner said Friday. The rule is not an emergency declaration, which would allow state schools to implement mask mandates, said Dr. Lance Frye, adding he is not convinced one is needed. “We strictly looked at what do we need to respond (to the virus surge) and is there anything that was … accomplished before in our emergency declaration that we can’t do now,” Frye said. [AP News]

  • Health Department enacts emergency rules as Gov. Kevin Stitt rejects COVID emergency order [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Slow-rolling mass casualty event’ causes service interruptions, burnout as Oklahoma hospitals absorb virus surge [Tulsa World]
  • A COVID-19 patient in Oklahoma needed a bed. The closest one was in Boise [Idaho Capital Sun]
  • Oklahoma Children’s Hospital: COVID Admissions ‘Increasing Rapidly’; Some Kids On Ventilators [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Lack of Emergency Order could be worsening EMS shortage in Oklahoma [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma’s Summer COVID Surge Continues Moving Toward Winter Levels [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKCPS, Santa Fe South add mask requirements with exemptions [NonDoc] | [The Oklahoman] | [OKC Free Press] | [KOSU]

As Oklahoma hospitals struggle, Gov. Kevin Stitt takes a hands-off approach to latest COVID-19 surge: As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations surge again in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt has been silent about his next steps to manage the pandemic. Stitt brushed off requests that he declare a state of emergency, shunned state-run vaccine incentives and shied away from directly recommending Oklahomans get vaccinated for COVID-19 since he got his single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at a news conference in March. Stitt has largely taken a hands-off approach to the latest wave of the pandemic, despite Oklahomans on both sides of the aisle demanding he do more. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahomans protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates, urge state officials to take action [The Oklahoman]

Health News

As COVID Cases Rise, Oklahoma Sees Increased Insurance Signups: As COVID-19 cases surge again in Oklahoma, there is some positive news on the state’s health care front. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced this week that nearly 34,500 Oklahoma residents have gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange, commonly known as Obamacare. That preliminary enrollment figure for Feb. 15 to July 15 is more than double what Oklahoma has seen in recent years. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Oklahoma follows some census trends more than others: Oklahoma is a middle-sized state in the middle of the United States — a fact in some respect reconfirmed by U.S. Census data released last week. Although Oklahoma’s 5.5% population growth was below the nation’s 7.4%, it ranked near the median — 27th — and kept the state 28th overall, the same as in 2010. Like the rest of the country, Oklahoma’s population is shifting from rural to urban, growing older and becoming more diverse. [Tulsa World]

Real ID and driver’s license megacenter opens in Tulsa on Monday: The Tulsa megacenter — a facility to help Oklahomans acquire Real IDs and fulfill identification needs — opens Monday in an effort to ease the strain on local tag agencies and public safety departments. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma GOP congressional members blast Biden administration over Afghanistan: Oklahoma’s congressional Republicans on Sunday blasted the Biden administration following a swift advance by the Taliban into Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Tribes’ Victory in Oklahoma at Risk in Bold Request to the Supreme Court: The precedent, which ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation, is just over a year old. A couple of weeks ago, Oklahoma asked the Supreme Court to overrule it. Two things had happened in between. First, as state officials and the dissenting justices had predicted it would, the ruling disrupted Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. Second, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was in the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, died and was replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett. [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

Stories of anger, sadness highlight OK County Jail forum: One by one, people stepped up to the microphone to tell their stories Thursday night at Firth Street Baptist Church during the first of two listening sessions hosted by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, otherwise known as CJAC. CJAC hired FSB, an Oklahoma City based architectural and engineering firm to study three options to address the long-troubled Oklahoma County Jail. Those options include renovating the current jail, building a completely new facility or constructing an annex to improve functionality of the 13-story tower that opened in 1991. [NonDoc] Adding to the pain of the evening, participants heard news reports about yet another death in the Oklahoma County Jail earlier in the day. It was the ninth death of someone in Oklahoma County’s custody, the eighth occurring only Tuesday. [OKC Free Press]

  • Community turnout high for public meeting about Oklahoma County jail conditions [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County jail has ninth inmate death of year: Another Oklahoma County jail inmate has died, the ninth so far this year and the second in a week. Gregory N. Davis, 53, was declared dead at a hospital around 10:25 a.m. Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

Four months after hostage situation, jail staff levels haven’t improved: After a deadly hostage situation March 27, officials at the Oklahoma County jail blamed staffing problems and promised to do better. “We’d like to get our staffing up to about 400,” the jail administrator, Greg Williams, said at a news conference after an inmate took a guard hostage. Four months later, there are fewer full-time employees, not more. [The Oklahoman]

  • A notebook and a bullet saved Oklahoma County jail hostage [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘They got an officer. They got his keys.’ An inside look into a deadly hostage ordeal at troubled jail [The Oklahoman]
  • A timeline of the Oklahoma County Jail hostage situation, from a 911 call to a police shooting [The Oklahoman]

‘The just thing to do’: Oklahoma faith leaders host events supporting death row inmate Julius Jones: Every Tuesday evening, an Oklahoma City minister leads a virtual prayer session for a death row inmate whose case has inspired numerous people — from preachers, celebrities and star athletes to average Joes — to support his quest to be released from prison. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City Police Department short on officers after turbulent year: The Oklahoma City Police Department saw a significant increase in voluntary exits from the force from July 2019 to June 2021, according to data obtained by The Oklahoman. Staffing and recruiting lags, driven partially by concerns about legal repercussions and negative public opinions are also leading to decreased investment in community policing, said Chief Wade Gourley of the Oklahoma City Police Department. [The Oklahoman]

OKC Law Enforcement Task Force looks at police-community reform recs: The Oklahoma City Law Enforcement Policy Task Force met on Thursday afternoon to receive the first draft of recommendations from consulting firm 21cp. [OKC Free Press]

Economy & Business News

Colorado pot entrepreneurs fuel ‘green rush’ in Oklahoma: The Sooner State, as deeply red as the American political palette will go, has almost overnight become the hottest place in the country to grow marijuana. It’s an unprecedented look at what happens when the government stays largely out of the picture and lets the free market run wild. And Colorado businesses are pumping their sizeable dollars and cannabis expertise into the state, hoping to cash in on what Baker and others in the industry call the next green rush. [AP News]

Labor shortages have businesses thinking new approaches: Labor shortages have forced business owners to rethink how they get work done. In a new survey of 1,250 U.S. business owners conducted by, 87% said their business was affected by the current worker shortage. The survey shows 75% of respondents have considered or already invested in automation solutions. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Education notebook: Vaccines available at a number of schools this week: The Muscogee Nation Department of Health will partner with two school districts this week to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics for anyone aged 12 or older. [Tulsa World]

General News

A celebration of OKC civil rights history, and a recognition there is more left to do: They marched Saturday morning almost 100 strong, Black and white, young and old, down the middle of an Oklahoma City street from a church to an ice cream store to reenact a moment in the history of civil rights. Inside the business, children plopped down on the round stools along the counter to complete the reenactment of that first sit-in led by schoolteacher Clara Luper. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City of Stillwater creating COVID-19 vaccination incentive program [Stillwater News Press]
  • Tulsa City Council calls special meeting to consider mask mandate [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • ‘Invested in downtown’: Tulsa Arts District improvements among $816M in new projects [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Fire Department considers nixing U.S. citizenship requirement as it seeks more applicants of color [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa Fire Department tells Tulsa City Councilors they’re 60 firefighters short, could be down 70 before year’s end [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“And we’re just opening schools this week. So, I don’t think we’re at our peak at all at this point because I think most of us expect that as schools reopen, as kids come together — particularly if they’re unvaccinated — that we will see an increase in the case numbers over the next week, 10 days or two weeks.”

-OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler, speaking about the state’s COVID-19 rates [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Decrease of Oklahoma’s population identifying as white only between 2010 and 2020 [U.S. Census Bureau

Policy Note

2020 Census Evaluation Report: Understanding how Oklahomans are doing: The 2020 census is a critical and powerful information source that will significantly influence American policy for the upcoming decade. A complete and accurate census holds a promise of equity and fairness for political representation during the redistricting process, but also for the distribution of hundreds of billions of federal dollars nationwide. The failure to fully enumerate Oklahoma’s population could result in devastating consequences, including reductions in access to federal services and resources. [OK Policy]

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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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