In The Know: New virus restrictions implemented, statewide mask order not among them | Public denied chance to comment on health care changes

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

Public being denied opportunity for input about significant change to Oklahoma health care policy: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is shutting out Oklahomans from voicing concerns about a major change for health care for most SoonerCare members. On Nov. 12, the OHCA Medical Advisory Committee voted to condemn the agency’s efforts to transition the state’s Medicaid program to managed care, although the topic was not on the meeting agenda. The motion was raised after the agency prevented an Oklahoma Policy Institute staff member from speaking on the topic. [OK Policy]

Juvenile justice is an investment to help youth (Capitol Update): Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) Executive Director Rachel Holt announced the hiring of Bryan Heil as superintendent of the agency’s new “Next Generation Campus.” The secure care (residential) treatment facility for youth who have committed a criminal offense is to be a co-educational, state-of-the-art physical facility. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

As Oklahoma sees record highs for coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, officials implement restrictions: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced new restrictions Monday for restaurants, bars and state employees in the midst of a continued late-year coronavirus surge. [The Frontier] The restriction include: mandatory spacing of tables six feet apart in restaurants, mandatory nightly closure of restaurants and bars at 11 p.m. except for curbside and drive-thru services, and mandatory mask wearing for state employees. [NonDoc] Legislative leaders quickly followed suit and said they’d also require masks be worn inside the state Capitol. [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital] These are the first state restrictions imposed since the economy reopened in May, as officials attempt to control the surging number of coronavirus infections. [AP News] The governor cited the surge in COVID-19 cases and a 19% increase in patients hospitalized due to the virus in the past week as the catalyst for the new restrictions. [The Oklahoman] But his latest actions to address the pandemic again did not include a statewide mask mandate. [Tulsa World

  • Gov. Stitt sets early closing for bars as COVID-19 continues to spread [Tulsa World] | [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID-19: 2,729 new cases, 10 more deaths reported in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • COVID hospital surge continues as Oklahoma breaks 1,300 for the 1st time [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma House, Senate to require masks in state Capitol [The Oklahoman]
  • State senators are sworn in differently than House members after positive cases revealed [Tulsa World]

Health News

Norman Veterans Center sees fewer COVID-19 cases: The latest report from Norman Veterans Center appears to show the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility has slowed within the last week. [The Norman Transcript]

Experts tackling addiction as a disease, rather than a moral issue: It’s estimated 1 out of every 10 American adults struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, according to the National Institutes of Health. Tackling those statistics has required a change in thinking on addiction, and over the last three decades doctors and clinicians have come to see addiction as a medical and mental health issue, and not simply the result of “poor choices.” [Enid News & Eagle]

Economic Opportunity

$15 million in CARES Act relief on the way to Oklahoma County small businesses, nonprofits: Oklahoma County commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to provide $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID pandemic. [The Oklahoman] The CARES Act funds come from a pot of $25 million the county jail trust said it couldn’t spend by a December 30 deadline. [KOSU] An additional $25 million of CARES Act funds will be available for businesses – for-profit and nonprofit – from CARES Act funds transferred back to the commissioners from the Jail Trust. [OKC Free Press]

Education News

Latest round of returning students heads into Tulsa classrooms: The phased return of Tulsa Public Schools students to their classrooms continued Monday even as local COVID-19 case numbers continue to spike. Students in first, second and third grades went to their classrooms for the first time since March, when districts throughout the state shut down in response to the arrival of the pandemic in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World] “We do feel confident in today’s return of our first, second and third-graders to in-person learning,” said TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist during an early-morning media availability held via Zoom. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Oklahoma’s 2020 election went smoothly for most: With states like Georgia undergoing a recount and several more battleground states having not yet certified their election results, things were typically quiet when it comes to how Oklahoma’s 2020 general election votes were counted. [NonDoc]

Historian says statehood’s attribution to Land Rush ignores Indigenous sovereignty: Nov. 16, 2020, marked the 113th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood, and to celebrate, the Eastern Oklahoma Library System invited Bob Blackburn of the Oklahoma Historical Society to speak on how the process evolved. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“This isn’t about magic words, it’s about doing the right thing.”

-Gov. Kevin Stitt, commenting on his opposition to statewide mask requirements [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of American Indian households in Oklahoma with incomes below the federal poverty threshold.

[Source: Prosperity Now]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Native Americans feel devastated by the virus yet overlooked in the data: Statistical gaps can make it difficult to properly allocate public resources to Native Americans. When that’s the case, one leader said, “tribal nations have an effective death sentence.” [New York Times]

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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