In The Know: Norman, Chickasha, Miami among state’s virus hotspots | Families rally about virus in prisons | Requests for CARES funds increasing

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

Education Secretary appointment may set up interesting dynamic (Capitol Update): Gov. Kevin Stitt recently announced the appointment of Ryan Walters, a young former classroom teacher from McAlester, as his new Secretary of Education. Walters previously served as Executive Director for an educational advocacy organization whose legislative agenda included supporting the passage of policies that promote school choice to give students free market choice when selecting their school, to oppose efforts to restrict charter school expansion, and to give public charter schools equal access to similar resources as traditional public schools. His appointment as Secretary of Education to implement the Governor’s education agenda may set up an interesting dynamic going forward. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Norman, Chickasha lead weekly coronavirus hotspots: ZIP codes in Norman — home to the University of Oklahoma — Chickasha and Miami lead the state’s hotspots for coronavirus infections this week as outbreaks at several prisons subside. Three Norman ZIP codes accounted for 300 new active cases in the past week, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma approaching 900 total coronavirus deaths, as hospitalizations stabilize [The Frontier
  • Oklahoma surpasses 900 reported COVID-19 deaths [AP News]
  • COVID-19: 6 more deaths reported with 695 new cases confirmed in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Color-coded COVID maps? Oklahomans can take their pick of versions [Tulsa World]
  • Capitol Insider: Oklahoma moves into Coronavirus top ten status [KGOU]

‘They don’t deserve to die’: Families rally at prison where almost every inmate has caught COVID:  Outrage over the massive COVID-19 outbreak inside the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Okla., was on full display Friday afternoon, as advocates, elected officials, and family members of women incarcerated there rallied outside the prison gates to demand the state of Oklahoma rectify a tragedy they claim could have been prevented. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Protesters rally on behalf of inmates in Taft [Muskogee Phoenix
  • Inmate advocates rally outside Eddie Warrior Correctional Center over COVID-19 epidemic [Tulsa World]
  • Listen Frontier: The pandemic is spreading in Oklahoma prisons [The Frontier]

Editorial: State has a moral and legal duty to protect inmates from COVID-19, and it’s in our own best interest, too: COVID-19 seems to be spreading rapidly in Oklahoma’s prisons. That’s dangerous for inmates, prison employees and everyone else, too. Even if you lack empathy for felons, the situation should concern you. Razor wire and metal bars don’t stop a pandemic. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

The week in coveducation: School employee dies, two teachers resign, site hacked: School districts throughout Oklahoma are back in session while adjusting to and dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing tracking has confirmed COVID-19 cases at 200 school districts around the state, including the death of a staff member at Mustang Public Schools. [NonDoc]

  • School districts inconsistent in COVID-19 notifications [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]
  • In the Red: Stillwater continues distance learning as infections climb [Stillwater News-Press]
  • 16 students, two Tahlequah school employees quarantined after COVID-19 case [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Public Schools reports four staff members test positive for COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Department of Education data system back online after reported hacking breach [Tulsa World]

CARES Act requests from cities, counties quadruple: Reimbursement requests for CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds from cities and counties in Oklahoma City have quadrupled in the past month and the number of local governments that have begun the process to file for reimbursements has doubled. [The Journal Record]

Health News

Oklahoma Health Care Authority to change Insure Oklahoma program in 2021: As the Oklahoma Health Care Authority prepares for the expanded adult Medicaid population, the current Insure Oklahoma premium assistance program will be modified due to population changes. Insure Oklahoma helps small businesses and their employees access quality health care coverage. As of July 2020, there were approximately 29,000 Employee Sponsored Insurance (ESI) and Individual Plan (IP) members. [OHCA / Woodward News]

Local hospitals keep up with the medical supplies and patient needs in fight against COVID-19: With all of the COVID-19 firsts being met in the state, there is one designation Oklahoma has managed to avoid: High, or “red,” risk, a phase entered when triggers of low medical resources and high hospital occupancy are met. [Enid News & Eagle]

Long-term care residents suffer from isolation as pandemic lingers: On Sept. 9, the Oklahoma State Department of Health released revised guidance to support the efforts of long-term care facilities to balance the need to safeguard residents from COVID-19 while ensuring social and emotional connections with family and friends. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Profit cap no longer a ‘side deal’ at EMSA: A whistleblower’s assessment of past misdeeds could be worth more than $16 million to EMSA, Oklahoma City’s public ambulance service. Stephen Dean filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging kickbacks were paid by an east Texas company, Paramedics Plus, to retain its EMSA contract for ambulance drivers, paramedics and emergency medical technicians. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Medical marijuana hits second-highest level: Medical marijuana last month produced its second-highest level of taxes in nearly two years. The State of Oklahoma collected more than $5 million in August from the medical marijuana tax for the fourth consecutive month. [Southwest Ledger]

Proposed Illinois River water quality standard met with skepticism: Anew way to track water quality that will apply only to three Oklahoma scenic rivers was met with plenty of questions last week, and more are coming. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Federal legislation aims to increase high-speed internet access in Indian Country: New legislation aimed at narrowing the digital divide in Indian Country was introduced last month. Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin is part of the bipartisan effort to increase tribal access to high-speed internet. It’s part of the Federal Communications Commission’s $4 billion E-Rate Program. [KOSU]

Oklahoma’s Real ID process gets federal approval: Oklahoma’s Real ID program has been formally approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, state officials confirmed Friday. The approval was expected and does not affect Real IDs already issued by the state or operations going forward. [Tulsa World]

State receives $22 million grant to reconstruct historic bridge on Route 66: The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Oklahoma a $22 million grant to help reconstruct the historic Bridgeport Bridge on US-281/Route 66, members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation announced Friday. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Pardon and Parole Board to extend executive director job offer to Tom Bates: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is expected to vote Monday to hire Tom Bates as its new executive director. The board met for nearly 2½ hours behind closed doors Thursday and interviewed two candidates. [Tulsa World]

Judge Kendra Coleman trial enters third week: The removal trial of suspended Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman will enter its third week Tuesday, and her defense team is expected to call more witnesses challenging claims that the first-term judge exhibited poor judicial temperament toward domestic violence victims and others appearing in her courtroom. [NonDoc] Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman would roll her eyes, sigh heavily and make faces as she presided over requests for victim protective orders, prosecution witnesses testified at her ouster trial last week. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Second chance employment fits mission of Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma: In a partnership with First Step Recovery, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma has hired on Oklahomans who were struggling to find a way off the bottom rung of the ladder and eager to prove they could make their way to the top. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Housing Authority encouraging county tenants to apply for emergency rental assistance: The Tulsa Housing Authority is encouraging renters in Tulsa County who have struggled financially to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for a share of federal relief allocated as part of the federal CARES Act. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

Attacking the COVID-19 villain: Four Oklahoma entrepreneurs who might have been sidelined after the energy industry sputtered turned their attention instead to the battle against COVID-19 – and came up with a unique system for quickly disinfecting offices, classrooms and even larger spaces like warehouses and casinos. [The Journal Record]

Head hunting: Local staffing agencies, jobs market look to rebound after months of pandemic-induced stress: The state unemployment rate has since been cut in half, but the local jobs market still is trying to regain its footing, professional staffing experts in Tulsa said. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Higher education adjusted to meet COVID-19 challenge: Institutions reopening during the pandemic need four things to manage the transition successfully: flexibility, the personal touch, a willingness to learn new ways of doing things, and open lines of communication, according to a panel of experts who spoke on Friday’s Journal Record webinar. [The Journal Record]

  • Hundreds of Oklahoma college students self-isolate after exposures to COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Campus Corner sparsely populated as students drawn to off-campus parties [Norman Transcript]

Board of Regents approves partnership between OSU and Langston: The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges approved a historic academic partnership between Oklahoma State University, Langston University and OSU Center for Health Sciences on Friday. The partnership is a collaboration to start a master’s of nursing program as well as an Africana studies program in Tulsa. Under the partnership, Langston will offer only bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees in rehabilitative services at their Tulsa campus, and it will cease to offer all other degree programs in Tulsa. [NonDoc]

General News

With less than a month left, Census responses are lagging: The Census Bureau is working to count every household in the U.S., but response rates–especially in rural areas–are lagging behind 2010. Lower self-response rates could risk inaccurate counts. Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska are up to five percentage points behind in self-response rates compared to 2010, according to the Census 2020 Hard to Count Map at the City University of New York. [KOSU] Completing the Census is extremely important, because it affects the amount of money a city will receive from federal funding. [Weatherford Daily News]

Efforts to uncover 1921 Race Massacre graves continue Monday as oversight committee holds virtual meeting: Efforts to unearth mass graves said to be hidden since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre will move forward Monday as the investigation’s public oversight committee holds a virtual meeting. [Tulsa World]

12:10 To the Top: Jacobi Crowley: After college, “I had several different opportunities, and I decided to give back to my community,” Lawtonian Jacobi Crowley said. “I prayed about it, and the notion given to me was, ‘If you’re not going to fix home, who will?’” [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Data show Norman medical marijuana revenue continues to grow [Norman Transcript]
  • Norman Ward 2 applicants answer questions [Norman Transcript]
  • American Airlines reverses decision to halt Stillwater service [The Journal Record]
  • Petition group files motion to intervene as defendants in Ezzell recall hearing [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Muskogee VA receives staffing assistance amidst COVID-19 surge [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Lawton officials set priorities for CARES Act reimbursement [Lawton Constitution]
  • Cherokee Heritage Center to be owned by tribe under new plan [Tulsa World]
  • Cherokee Nation firefighters assist western tribes during turbulent fire season [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“They didn’t get a sentence to die. They don’t deserve to die.”

 – Tiffany Walton, a registered nurse from Taft who organized a protest about virus-related conditions at Oklahoma prisons [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Percentage of households who were food insecure on average from 2016 to 2018, meaning that at some point during the year, they experienced difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of money or resources. Oklahoma is ranked 47th.

[Source: Talk Poverty]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The gender poverty gap for unmarried people persists across demographic groups: Gender equality discussions often place the wage gap center stage, but the related—and vitally important—gender poverty gap gets a smidge less attention. Using the 2018 American Community Survey, Brian Glassman studies the prevalence of the gender poverty gap across demographic groups, broken down by age, education, race, and so on. In every group, more unmarried women than unmarried men live in poverty – but the gap varies. [Brookings Insititute]

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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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