In The Know: OKC hits next stage of hospital surge plan | State releases maternal death report | Stitt won’t appeal tribal gaming decision

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

Choose healthy news over junk: From an early age, we try to teach children the importance of eating nutritious, balanced meals so they mature to be strong and healthy adults. We warn that if they choose to gorge themselves on junk food filled with sugar and empty calories, they will instead become sick and feel miserable. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat!” The same is true when it comes to news consumption. It is vitally important that consumers be able to distinguish substantive “healthy news” produced by legitimate journalists from sugary “junk news” spread by partisan or self-interested organizations. [Jeff Berrong / OK Policy Board Member]

Extending teleconference meeting law requires special session (Capitol Update): I would not be surprised to see a special session of the Legislature sometime after the election for the purpose of amending the Open Meetings Act. Prior to last session, the act required a quorum of all public bodies to be present in person in public meetings in order to conduct business. However, before leaving the Capitol last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature amended the act to permit pubic bodies to conduct meetings by teleconference or videoconference, after proper notices, if each member of the public body is audible or visible to each other and to the public. That act expires Nov. 15. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

OKC hits next stage of hospital surge plan: Almost 1,000 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients were in Oklahoma hospitals Friday, and the situation could get a lot worse soon. So many are hospitalized in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area for the disease that hospitals there were bumped up Thursday to the next level of the state’s new surge plan. The total number of patients with COVID-19 symptoms stood at 307 Thursday. [The Oklahoman] The Oklahoma City area will remain in Tier 2 status so long as its COVID-19 bed census is between 15% and 20% for three consecutive days. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt says personal decisions matter as the metro area experiences a critical surge in COVID-19 illnesses. [The Oklahoman]

  • Reported Oklahoma coronavirus cases down from record surge [AP News]
  • COVID-19: Oklahoma State Department of Health reports 1,051 new cases and four virus-related deaths [Tulsa World]
  • COVID outbreak at El Reno prison won’t alter Canadian County schools’ plans [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Not the safest place to be:’ Football fan and THD executive director Bruce Dart cautions attendance at games [Tulsa World]
  • Governor extends state of emergency for COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Gov. Stitt ranked 18th among governors by conservative group for COVID-19 response [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma hits another high in active COVID-19 cases [Oklahoma Watch]

How the pandemic unfolded in Oklahoma: Despite being one of the last states in the nation to feel the full force of the coronavirus, Oklahoma still found itself in a tight spot, ill-equipped in those early days to mount an adequate response to the virus, which continues to spread at record rates many months later. State and civic leaders told The Frontier that similar to many states, Oklahoma was unprepared to handle a pandemic. For years, officials had neglected to invest in the state’s public health infrastructure, they said. When the virus arrived in March, the state was sorely lacking some of the vital components for an effective response. Oklahoma didn’t have the adequate testing capacity and contact tracers that were needed to track the spread of the virus. [The Frontier]

Gov. Kevin Stitt says he will not appeal tribal gaming decision: After a series of defeats in his attempts to renegotiate the state’s tribal gaming compacts, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday he will not appeal a federal court ruling that the compacts automatically renewed on Jan. 1. [The Oklahoman] Stitt had argued the compacts — which define how much of their gambling revenue the tribes must pay to the state and which games are allowed — had expired. But U.S. District Court Judge Timothy DeGiusti in July ruled against Stitt. [AP News] The governor said he looked forward to working with the state’s congressional delegation, other state officials and leaders of the state’s tribal nations “to create an environment of fairness, clarity and unity.” [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma completes first-ever report on maternal deaths: Oklahoma ranks among the worst states in the nation for women dying during or shortly after pregnancy, a state committee has concluded, and Black women in Oklahoma were two and a half more times likely to die than white women, according to a report issued Friday. Oklahoma is the fourth worst state in the U.S. for maternal mortality. For the past 18 years, 11 women on average die per year. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Oklahoma raising unemployment taxes for 2021: Oklahoma employers will be paying more in unemployment taxes next year. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is raising the rate from a range of 0.01 to 5.5% to a range of 0.03 to 7.5%. OESC Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt told lawmakers during an interim study last week higher rates may not be enough on their own to keep the state’s unemployment trust fund solvent. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma spends less than a dollar a meal feeding prisoners: Every night after dinner, hungry men at Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite without money on their books to buy snacks like potato chips, ramen noodles and candy bars would make the rounds, asking to “borrow” food from the more well-off prisoners, recalls Zachary Starnes, who was released in July. [The Frontier]

Election News

Video Breakdown: State Question 805: This video breaks down State Question 805, a criminal justice reform question, to show what it means if you vote ‘yes’ and what it means if you vote ‘no’. [KOSU] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 805 available at

PAC focused on policing pouring money into Tulsa City Council races: Accountability Project Oklahoma began running Facebook ads in support of City Council candidates before the Aug. 25 general election and has distributed a series of mailers targeted at District 5 and District 7 voters leading up to the Nov. 3 runoff elections. Accountability Project Institute is an Ohio-based 501(c)4, the designation the Internal Revenue Service gives to nonprofit groups that work exclusively on social welfare issues. In political parlance, such organizations are often referred to as “dark money” groups because they are not required to reveal their donors. [Tulsa World]

SD 15 race shows Norman’s deep divide over policing, protests: Both candidates maintain deeply divided stances on some of the most pressing issues facing the Norman community, especially policing. [NonDoc]

HD 24: Logan Phillips faces Steve Kouplen in unusual rematch for rural seat: As he pondered his unexpected loss to a Republican challenger who ran no campaign in November 2018, then-House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen broke out country vernacular to describe his confusion: “It’s got me bumfuzzled.” [NonDoc]

West Tulsa County Republicans positioning for inside track on House seats ahead of general election: State House District 66 Republican incumbent Jadine Nollan and her Democratic challenger, Greg Laird, both say they want to be thought of as problem solvers. [Tulsa World]

Democrats Brewer, Blancett face determined Republican challengers in re-election bids: Two Democratic incumbents are trying to hold their seats in the heart of Tulsa this election season. [Tulsa World]

Edmond HD-81 – Dem newcomer Baccus takes on GOP incumbent Osburn: Republican Mike Osburn has been representing HD-81 since 2016 and is now defending his seat against Democratic challenger, Jacob Baccus. [OKC Free Press]

Lowe and Janloo differ most on gun policy in eastside HD-97 race: Oklahoma House District 97 has been represented by attorney Jason Lowe (D) since 2016. During this election cycle, Republican Ben Janloo is challenging Lowe for the seat. [OKC Free Press]

Sheriff’s race serves as a ‘proxy on law enforcement’ amid debate over policing: Wayland Cubit sells his experience, while Tommie Johnson calls for a “fresh perspective” as Oklahoma County’s race for sheriff enters final weeks. [The Frontier]

Did reward offer stop vandalism in Oklahoma County race?: In an unusual move, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan sent a postcard to every voter in his district last week offering a reward for the identity of the vandals slashing his campaign signs. [The Oklahoman]

Fewer Oklahoma educators running for legislative offices: Two years after Oklahoma educators walked out of their classrooms and stormed the state Capitol, fewer teachers are running for state legislative seats. This year, more than 50 education candidates launched campaigns for legislative seats, down from 112 candidates who ran in 2018, according to figures from the Oklahoma Education Association. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Horn, Bice battle in a competitive district: U.S. Rep. Kendra’s Horn upset victory over incumbent Republican Steve Russell in 2018 prompted numerous assertions that she was the first Democrat to hold the 5th District congressional seat since the 1970s. [The Oklahoman]

Capitol Insider: Oklahoma Democratic Party seeks rebound (audio): New voter registrations in 2020 show the Republican Party out-pacing the Democratic Party by a large margin in Oklahoma. The party that held a firm group on Oklahoma politics for a century now faces an uphill battle to grow its influence in what has become a deep red state. [KGOU]

‘We never tried a young person in office’: Durell Cooper III became one of the youngest leaders in Indian Country when he won the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma general election on June 29 as its chairman. He is 28. [Indian Country Today]

Economy & Business News

Choctaw Nation invests in renewable energy: The Choctaw Nation is now powering some of its homes with solar energy. OG&E started construction of two solar energy farms in Southeastern Oklahoma in February of this year. This week, they were online and fully operational for 4,600 customers. [KOSU]

Education News

70 Oklahoma schools failed to submit immunization data: New data showing the percentage of Oklahoma kindergarteners who are up to date on all required vaccines is missing about 7,870 students because their schools did not submit the information. Participation in this year’s survey was down by 70 schools, with four in five schools responding. [Oklahoma Watch]

The week in coveducation: Epic discussions, COVID relief funds and ‘no confidence’: It was a busy week in the Oklahoma education world with what seemed like endless meetings over the Epic Charter Schools audit, Oklahoma City Public Schools welcoming some students back to in-person learning and the Professional Educators of Norman presenting a vote of no confidence in their district’s superintendent. [NonDoc]

  • Teachers talk about what in-person instruction has been like this school year [Tulsa World]
  • Skiatook, Sperry high schools go to distance learning after COVID-19 affects students, staff [Tulsa World]
  • Epic expected to continue teaching through academic year [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Epic Charter Schools continues to collect headlines in wake of state audit [KOSU]

13 years, $2.1 billion later: Burns Hargis to retire as OSU president: Rumors of Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis retiring have been flitting between classrooms and boardrooms for months, but Hargis made things official at today’s Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents meeting by announcing his retirement after nearly 13 years of service. [NonDoc] OSU/A&M Board of Regents Chair Rick Davis said a national search will be conducted for the university’s next president. [AP News]

General News

Oklahoma senator from Greenwood heads Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial: During summer 1919, three dozen cities across the United States erupted with white supremacist terrorism and violent race riots, including Chicago and Washington, D.C. Then, they came to Tulsa. [Gaylord News via The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma church coalition condemns racism and discrimination, launches anti-hate campaign: A statewide coalition of faith groups released a theological statement condemning racism and discrimination on Friday, launching a new year-long anti-hate campaign called “No Hate in the Heartland.” The Oklahoma Conference of Churches moved forward with its new statement even though one of its members, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, withdrew from the coalition because of it. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • A dizzying climb: Tulsa airport making inroads but still faces challenges [Tulsa World]
  • Victory pastor, fired employee, Congressional Candidate meet to reconcile after racist message [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Norman recall group: ‘No more dark-of-night votes’ [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Paying almost $300 a month for junk food just because the prisons care less about mankind irks my soul.” 

-The mother of an incarcerated man at Dick Conner Correctional Correctional Facility in Hominy, who said she spends nearly $300 a month on food and other personal items to supplement meals that lack fresh fruits and vegetables and come in portion sizes too small to satiate grown men. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


The three-year rolling average rate of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births for Black women. This rate is more than 2.5 times higher than the rate for white women at 20.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. 

[Source: Oklahoma Maternal Mortality Review Committee via The Frontier]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Opportunities to Improve Health Equity for Mothers, Babies and Children: When someone mentions health improvement, it often conjures up images of hospitals, doctors and nurses. But these images only paint part of the picture. To understand health holistically, we need to consider it outside the silo of a healthcare system. We need to take into account the many other factors that impact our individual health, factors like the schools we attend, the conditions in which we work, our culture and religion, and the relationships we experience. These factors are known as social determinants of health (SDOH) and are what the World Health Organization defines as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” Understanding the connection between non-medical factors and health, and how best to address these conditions is critical to NICHQ’s approach to driving equitable change in children’s health outcomes. Too many of our children don’t have the same opportunities to be as healthy as others. Improving health outcomes can be achieved through policy strategies such as capitalizing on tax credits for families, increasing access to paid family medical leave, and prioritizing justice reform. [National Institute for Children’s Health Quality]

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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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