In The Know: Oklahoma at ‘critical point’ for virus; residents camp out for unemployment benefits; early voting has started; and 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

New analyses from OK Policy and Families USA quantify benefits of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma: Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma will create jobs, help the state budget and change lives, according to two new reports released by the Oklahoma Policy Institute (OK Policy) and Families USA. The two reports— Medicaid expansion: Ten years of unparalleled return on investment, improved outcomes and The economics of Oklahoma Medicaid expansion during pandemic and recession: Creating jobs, helping the state budget respectively—show the importance of an upcoming ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. [OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Voting yes on SQ 802 is the right decision: Oklahomans have several important decisions to make in the upcoming statewide election, including which primary candidates to pick from and what health precautions to take if voting in-person on Tuesday. One question, though, is an easy choice – voting yes on State Question 802. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

ASK OK Policy: State Question 802 (video): On June 30, Oklahomans will decide State Question 802, a measure that expands Medicaid coverage to low-income Oklahoma adults between the ages of 19 and 64. To help Oklahomans better understand the issue, our Policy Director and Health Care Analyst Carly Putnam discusses what Medicaid expansion is, the financial implications of SQ 802, and who would be covered by Medicaid expansion. [YouTube / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma at ‘critical point’ local leaders say as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations climb: As Oklahoma for several days has recorded highs in new coronavirus cases, local leaders and health experts in the largest cities say it’s a “critical time” as they urge people to practice vigilance, and look to curb cases and hospitalizations. [The Frontier]

  • Cases surge; hospitalizations on the rise [The Oklahoman]
  • Mayor weighing mask mandate, limit on indoor event size as COVID-19 skyrockets in Tulsa County [Tulsa World]
  • Virus cases surge among the young, endangering older adults [AP News]
  • Percentage of younger patients with COVID-19 increasing, Tulsa officials say: ‘People are lax going about their daily lives’ [Tulsa World]
  • Record number of Tulsa virus cases not yet linked to rally [AP News]
  • Surge in coronavirus cases reported were outside Oklahoma City metro [FOX25]
  • Tulsa police chief: Masks not always worn because they can interfere with policing [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Democratic leader urges increased vigilance amid COVID-19 [The Journal Record]
  • Don’t slow down the testing; coronavirus is on the rise in Oklahoma [Opinion / The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma. 

‘Very frustrating’: Oklahomans tired of waiting for unemployment money: The small crowd gathered outside the Workforce Oklahoma Career Connection Center on Wednesday applauded as an employee led a member of their group inside to talk to someone about the problems he had been experiencing while trying to collect unemployment benefits. [The Oklahoman] “Fingertips away,” Oklahomans visit unemployment offices in person as phone system struggles. [The Oklahoman]

State, county Census rates lower than nationwide average: Due to the pandemic, many of the 2020 Census activities were put off or delayed for the public’s health and safety. But citizens still received their Census material in the mail and had access to it online. As of June 22, Oklahoma has a self-response rate of 56.1 percent compared to the nationwide response rate of 61.6 percent. [Weatherford Daily News] OK Policy: an accurate Census count in the state is vital for Oklahoma to secure its share of federal funding, have fair voting representation, and more. Visit to learn more. 

Early in-person voting to occur Thursday through Saturday: Early voting for Oklahoma’s primary election begins Thursday. Registered voters who want to vote early may do so at their county election board on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Voters will have to show an acceptable form of identification, such as a driver’s license, in order to cast a ballot. [The Oklahoman] Together Oklahoma: Everything you need to know about voting in the June 30 statewide election.  

Health News

State Chamber of Oklahoma board endorses SQ 802: The State Chamber of Oklahoma’s board of directors voted to endorse State Question 802 this morning. Oklahomans will decide June 30 whether to pass SQ 802, which would codify Medicaid expansion in the Oklahoma Constitution. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Engaged: What Medicaid Expansion could mean for Oklahoma’s indigenous population: Next week people will head to the ballot box to vote on whether Oklahoma will expand Medicaid through State Question 802. Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton with Oklahoma Engaged explores the impact expanding Medicaid could have on tribes. [KGOU]

State Question 802: Voting on Medicaid expansion during a pandemic: Say you are a single adult with one child working a minimum-wage job in Oklahoma. You make $7.25 an hour and have no health benefits through your employer. Then say you work that job 40 hours a week every week of the year. At the end of the year, you will have made $15,080. Your income is far too high to qualify for Medicaid in Oklahoma, and even if you manage to qualify for health insurance premium assistance payments through the federal marketplace, your private plan deductibles are likely to total at least one-third of your annual income. [NonDoc]

More red states mulling green light for Medicaid expansion: And then there were 14. That is the number of states that have refused to adopt an expanded Medicaid option available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Just five years ago, 21 states had declined to expand Medicaid; by the end of this year, the number of holdouts could drop to just 12, with potential for more shrinkage in the near future. [WhoWhatWhy]

TSET featured as national model in CDC best practices guide: TSET-funded programs, Tobacco Stops With Me and Hospitals Helping Patients Quit, are featured in the recently published Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Best Practices User Guides for Cessation in Tobacco Prevention and Control. [Woodward News]

Opinion: Yes on 802 for patients, pocketbooks: In rural economies, many hard-working Oklahomans fall into the coverage gap between making too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford to buy insurance for their family. Many are employed by small business owners who try to do right by their employees, but can’t always afford to provide health benefits. Those lucky enough to have employer- sponsored insurance lose that benefit if they lose their job. These Oklahomans work hard for their families and are the reason we must vote yes on 802. [Opinion / Norman Transcript]

Opinion: OICA continues support for SQ 802, cosponsors children’s march for justice: With the ongoing pandemic and the national emotions over unjust policies, there is no way to anticipate how many Oklahomans will vote at the polls on Tuesday. Rest assured, though, this is a critical election for our state. We encourage every voter to not let this Election Day pass by without your vote. [Op-Ed / The Norman Transcript]

Criminal Justice News

Two more state prisoners test positive for COVID-19: Two more state prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week. That makes a total of four prisoners and 15 staff who have tested positive for the disease. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Department Of Corrections pushes back on State Question 805 analysis: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said in a statement last week there are some flaws in an analysis that claims eliminating sentence enhancements for nonviolent crimes would reduce the prison population and save the state up to $186 million in 10 years. [KOSU]

Editorial: Transparency, conversation can build a more unified Norman: In the aftermath of the marathon meeting, city leaders must engage, educate and communicate with citizens about what the police funding changes mean and how that reallocation could help heal the relationship between citizens and the police. Building an inclusive community is a work in process, and more transparency and ongoing conversation can help build a more enlightened, unified Norman. [Editorial / Norman Transcript]

Economic Opportunity

OG&E to resume disconnects for customers who don’t pay their bills: Oklahoma Gas and Electric is about to resume its policy to disconnect customers who don’t pay their bills, it announced Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Retail foot traffic rebounds, but case spike could reverse trend: Oklahomans haven’t been shy about returning to retail establishments. Data released Wednesday by the Oklahoma City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City reflects that foot traffic rates at retail establishments within the state returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels by mid-June. [The Oklahoman]

QuikTrip wants exact change, and the contents of your piggy bank, with coins in short supply nationwide: QuikTrip is in the business of selling things Tulsans love — Hotzis, pizza slices, hot dogs and taquitos off of a spinning roller grill — for a little pocket change. But this summer, the locally based convenience store chain wants to literally buy the change from your pocket. [Tulsa World]

State denies request to limit oil production: The three-member Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Wednesday denied a request to limit the amount of oil that can be produced from Oklahoma wells. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Some Democrats want state testing waiver for 2020-21, but Hofmeister says no for now: Some state lawmakers want Oklahoma to preemptively seek federal permission to skip standardized testing requirements for the upcoming academic year, but State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says that would be premature. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Superintendent Gist’s contract extended to 2023 amid dissent over timing of school board vote: The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education approved a two-year extension to Superintendent Deborah Gist’s contract during a special meeting that ended early Wednesday morning. [Tulsa World] Editorial Board: In this tumultuous time, Tulsa students and families deserve the steady leadership of Dr. Deborah Gist. [Editorial / The Black Wall Street Times]

State Regents approve increase in tuition and fees for seven institutions: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to approve an increase in tuition and fees for seven of the state’s 27 institutions during a board meeting via Zoom today that lasted for more than six hours. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma State University adds diversity council amid controversy: Oklahoma State athletics announced a new diversity council Wednesday amid the fallout from football coach Mike Gundy’s decision to wear a T-shirt promoting a far-right news network. [AP News]

General News

Four involved in street murals arrested after trying to make police report: Oklahoma City police arrested four individuals involved with painting street murals near police headquarters on disorderly conduct complaints Wednesday. [The Oklahoman] With several new paintings finished this week, Oklahoma City has joined the national trend of street murals honoring minority communities and the Black Lives Matter movement. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Arts Institute moves off Quartz Mountain and into students’ living rooms: Maida Escobar was hesitant to attend the Oklahoma Arts Institute this summer. She had so many questions about how the state’s premier arts program for high school students could go online. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Opinion: ‘A free-flowing, civil debate of ideas’: In 2020, I’m amazed at some of the posts I see on Facebook. And I’m disheartened by the name-calling and strident attacks between casual acquaintances and even family members. Like I said, it’s antisocial to treat so-called friends that way. [Opinion / Norman Transcript]

Rep. Monroe Nichols Op-Ed: Tulsa Juneteenth — A tale of one city: We can’t be “one Tulsa” when those in power go on radio talk shows and agree that collaborating on the reasonable demands of Black Tulsans is like “feeding a beast.” We can’t come together as “one Tulsa” when an entire community lives in a food desert with poor infrastructure, underfunded schools, over-policing, inadequate public transportation, scarce healthcare resources and elected officials who consistently vote and advocate for policies that will further disenfranchise them. [Opinion / The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Public Schools meal service extended into July [The Oklahoman]
  • New program offers free tuition for live, online classes for Tulsans [Tulsa World]
  • Food drives, pantries offer free, fresh produce to Tulsa-area residents [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Covid-19: Tulsa numbers up, not in Luther [Luther Register News]

Quote of the Day

“It’s been very frustrating. You call somebody, they tell you that they gotta send it to another department, and then that department, they never call you back. Their little game to me is, ‘I’ll call you back.’ They never do. Never.”

-Calvin Homer, who went to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s main offices at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to see if he could get a place in line to be seen that day, but more than 100 people had already gathered. So he headed over to the Career Connection Center and at 5:05 a.m. secured his place as fifth person in line. [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day

$2.3 billion

Amount of new economic activity expected to be generated in Oklahoma if it fully expands Medicaid. 

[Source: Families USA]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma: Creating jobs, helping the state budget, and protecting families: The COVID-19 recession, aggravated by worldwide drops in oil prices, has eliminated hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma jobs. Oklahoma voters have the opportunity to take a major step to address these serious economic problems on June 30, 2020, when they vote on State Question 802, an initiative that would expand Medicaid. Health care is one of the largest sectors in Oklahoma’s economy. If Question 802 is approved, Medicaid expansion would provide an immediate boost to employment while increasing state revenue during what has become the most severe economic downturn in decades. [Families USA]

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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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