In The Know: Oklahoma remains Top 5 for virus rates | AG Barr meets with Cherokee Nation | Facts sheets for SQ 805 & 814

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

Non-partisan fact sheets on the upcoming state questions: OK Policy has published non-partisan fact sheets about the upcoming state questions to be decided by Oklahoma voters during the Nov. 3 general election. Fact sheets are available for SQ 805 (Criminal History in Sentencing and Sentence Modification Initiative) and SQ 814 (Decrease Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund Payments and Fund Medicaid Program Amendment). Learn more at

Policy Matters: Voting story provides much-needed affirmation: In discouraging times, it’s good to be reminded about the powers that we have as Americans, which prominently include the power of our ballot. Voting can change the trajectory of our lives and remove obstacles from the path of our friends and loved ones. [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]

Oklahoma News

Still in top 5: Oklahoma’s new weekly cases, positivity rate double national average: Oklahoma’s rate of new weekly COVID-19 cases is double the national average for the second consecutive week, according to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force weekly report. The state’s positivity rate for the most recent week also is double the U.S. average. Oklahoma once again finds itself in the top 5 both for new cases and test positivity rates for the second time in three weeks. [Tulsa World] In the past week, Oklahoma jumped from 175 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population to 201 cases per 100,000. The national average is 93 infections per 100,000. [The Oklahoman]

  • Task force: Oklahoma among worst in nation in coronavirus [AP News]
  • Weekly White House Coronavirus Report: Oklahoma worsening, Tulsa improving [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa City Council lowers mask requirement age to 10 years old [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 980 new cases, 13 more deaths reported in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Attorney General Bill Barr meets with Cherokee Nation leadership, local federal prosecutors after McGirt ruling: U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice intends to dedicate more than $7.5 million to the Cherokee Nation as it expands its court system following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was not disestablished for purposes of enforcing the federal Major Crimes Act. [Tulsa World] During a visit to the Cherokee Nation headquarters, Barr said the U.S. Department of Justice plans to fund two federal prosecutor positions in the northern and eastern U.S. districts of Oklahoma to handle the increased caseloads. [AP News]

Commission squabbles over vacant position: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission took time Wednesday to consider filling a vacant position in its oil and gas division. But two members of the three-member commission decided not to take the time to discuss one commissioner’s recommendations regarding the hiring process. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

DOC suspends visitation due to COVID-19 outbreaks: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Wednesday that it was immediately suspending visitation at all state-run facilities. The agency said the action was necessary to quell potential sources of COVID-19 infections and spread. [Tulsa World] The total who have tested positive since the pandemic began stood Wednesday at 3,634, up more than 450 in eight days. Three inmate deaths have been confirmed as being related to COVID-19, according to the latest statistics report. Seven more inmate deaths and three staff deaths are possibly because of COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County jail trust stirs even more controversy: A meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority turned heated again today as the body voted to give jail CEO Greg Williams authority to award a $3 million contract for work on the jail to an out-of-state contractor and moved the date of a vote on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s presence in the jail to mid-October. [NonDoc]

Debate mention of Tulsa crime stats catches watchers’ attention: Tulsans may have been surprised and perhaps a little miffed when presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace cited their city as one whose violent crime rate has risen under a Republican mayor. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Day center in former juvenile justice center expands to offer overnight beds: The former juvenile justice center on Gilcrease Museum Road, which has offered daytime services for Tulsans experiencing homelessness since earlier this month, has expanded to offer overnight accommodations to those in need, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Monday. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

One in 5.2 million: Oklahoma business one of many soldiering on amid COVID crisis thanks to PPP loan: The U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program granted more than 5.2 million loans (averaging $100,000 each) for $525 billion to business owners across the nation. This week, a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) regional administrator visited the community to highlight the program’s success in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

American Airlines to begin furloughing 19,000 employees today, CEO says: With no further federal relief in sight, American Airlines plans to begin furloughing 19,000 workers Thursday. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker made the announcement Tuesday night in a letter to employees. The airlines’ move coincides with the Oct. 1 expiration of the Payroll Support Program under the CARES Act.  Congress is working on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that would include an extension of the PSP. American employs more than 5,000 in Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Duncan business uses CARES funds to stay afloat: A Duncan business, with the help of CARES Act funds, found a way to adapt to the needs of schools, churches and other businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. [The Lawton Constitution]

Junk has become a growth industry: COVID-19 has made a lot of people sick – sick of being stuck at home and sick of the clutter they used to find it easier to ignore. Those symptoms of the pandemic have resulted in an increase in business for at least one Oklahoma City firm dedicated to helping people clear away junk and other excess. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Schools sometimes have to “find a lug wrench” to keep rolling during pandemic, says educator: Teachers and schools have had to improvise in the time of COVID-19, but for at least some of them it seems to be working out OK. “I just tell my people, if the wheels start to fall off, go find a lug wrench,” Stilwell Superintendent Geri Gilstrap told the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Common Education Committee Wednesday morning. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma State Department of Education moving forward with plans for spring state testing [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKCPS releases guidelines for return to in-person learning [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa Public Schools says it’s reduced ‘disconnected’ students on distance learning from 20% to 5% [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • PPE crowdfunding for Norman teachers launched by parents [The Norman Transcript]
  • 364 Piedmont students quarantined, some parents still sending kids to school [KFOR]
  • Enid quarantine, isolation cases drop by 25 [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Muskogee Public Schools announces another COVID-19 case [Tulsa World]
  • Frederick high school football team in quarantine following COVID-19 exposure [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma’s college campuses continue to be coronavirus hotspots: A September surge of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma is largely a result of the coronavirus’ spread on college campuses. Oklahoma’s new cases and the 7-day average of them leveled off this summer and held pretty steady. The last major spike was August 1, but after that, cases consistently dropped until mid-September. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

How Oklahoma’s broken ACT commitment is impacting seniors: A plan to test those 37,000 juniors when they returned to schools this fall fell apart when the Legislature did not budget the $1.9 million needed to do so. Educators and lawmakers said the governor should pay for it from the more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds Oklahoma received. But that didn’t happen. [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

Census takers: We’re being told to finish early, cut corners: As a federal judge considers whether the Trump administration violated her order for the 2020 census to continue through October by setting an Oct. 5 end date, her court has been flooded with messages from census takers who say they are being asked to cut corners and finish their work early. [AP News via Enid News & Eagle] State officials urge Census response as deadline looms [KFOR]

Oklahoma Democratic Party chair wants ‘illegal’ dark money group investigated: The head of the Oklahoma Democratic Party on Wednesday called for an investigation into a group that has sent out misleading mailers against two Democrats in contested legislative races. [The Oklahoman]

Black Lives Matter street painting to be removed beginning Monday: The city will begin removing the Black Lives Matter street painting in the historic Greenwood District on Monday, city officials said. The massive yellow sign will be churned up as part of the city’s scheduled mill and overlay of Greenwood Avenue from Archer Street north to the Interstate 244 overpass. [Tulsa World]

Coalition aims to stop illegal cockfighting, greyhound training in Oklahoma: Claiming that animal cruelty is rampant in Oklahoma and that a Haskell County deputy is among the abusers, a coalition of animal welfare groups on Wednesday launched a statewide campaign to halt animal cruelty. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa wins key legal victory in effort to establish Tourism Improvement District [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa City Permit Center closes temporarily following ‘several’ staff COVID-19 cases [Tulsa World]
  • Norman City Council hears task force recommendations [The Norman Transcript]
  • Stillwater City Council hears options for water treatment [Stillwater News Press]
  • Payne County Commissioners retain sheriff after residency dispute [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“I just tell my people, if the wheels start to fall off, go find a lug wrench.”

-Stilwell School Superintendent Geri Gilstrap describing the need to improvise in the time of COVID-19 [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

1 in 7

Share of adults who reported that their household sometimes or often did not have enough to eat

[Source: CBPP analysis of Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Did CARES Act benefits reach vulnerable Americans? Evidence from a national survey: In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers had to act quickly to deliver a massive benefit program to households, businesses, and state and local governments in a very short amount of time. Delays or inconsistencies in the delivery of these benefits to households may have been an inevitable—albeit unfortunate—consequence of the speed with which these programs were implemented. What our research shows is that it was not enough to simply offer these benefits to Americans. Preexisting barriers, such as the inability of state governments to handle massive unemployment shocks or the unequal access to banking services in the United States, hindered the efficient and equitable delivery of these benefits. Going forward, policymakers should seek to either simplify the ways in which households can access economic relief payments or pair these payments with funding support to help government agencies increase their capacity and modernize their infrastructure so they can handle the demands placed on them by this and future crises. [Brookings]

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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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