In The Know: Prison death toll increasing | Study: Worsening health comes for people of color | Oklahoma sets new virus records

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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma prisons see jump in COVID-related death toll: Seven state prison inmates and three employees may have died from COVID-19 complications, the Oklahoma Corrections Department reported Monday. Fifteen inmates remained hospitalized Monday for COVID-19 symptoms. Seven of them were from the North Fork Correctional Center, a men’s facility in Sayre where almost 1,300 inmates were in quarantine. [The Oklahoman] William S. Key COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow [Woodward News]

OU study shows worsening health outcomes for people of color: In rural areas of America, older Black adults face an increasingly higher death rate and more health problems than older white adults, while that gap is narrowing in urban areas, according to a new study published by a researcher in the University of Oklahoma Hudson College of Public Health. [The Journal Record]

Raucous jail trust meeting leads to ICE removal: Monday’s Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority meeting included a resolution to advance discussion on spending CARES Act funds for the county jail, an attempt at a citizen’s arrest and a vote removing ICE agents from the facility amid heavy pressure from citizens in attendance. [NonDoc] But late Monday, trust chairwoman Tricia Everest said the trust’s attorney indicated that the vote did not count because a majority of trustees did not vote in favor of the measure. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma sets new highs for COVID 7-day average, active cases as total nears 78,000: The state’s seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, rose from 1,065 to a new high of 1,098. The average has now increased nine days in a row and is up 316 in that time. The state’s previous record average was 1,093, set on Aug. 1 before the state started including positive antigen tests in its case totals. The average had fallen to 645 by late August. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Ginsburg’s death exposes fragility of health law protection: With COVID-19 the newest preexisting condition, the Obama-era health law that protects Americans from insurance discrimination is more fragile following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A week after the presidential election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on an effort backed by President Donald Trump to strike down the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, in its entirety. [AP News via Tulsa World]

The unexpected consequences of COVID-19: Fears are rising among advocates for Oklahomans about an alarming rebound of opioid abuse and other serious problems like child abuse that may be aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Journal Record] Experts discuss growing opioid crisis [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Oklahoma House hires former speaker T.W. Shannon to aid in redistricting: The Oklahoma House has hired a former Republican speaker to help with the upcoming redistricting process. Former Speaker T.W. Shannon will help solicit public input on how House legislative districts should look for the next decade and build bridges between the public and legislators throughout the redistricting process that occurs following the U.S. Census. [The Oklahoman] A Lawton native, Shannon represented House District 62 in Lawton from 2006 to 2014. He participated in the House’s redistricting process in 2010 and 2011 before becoming Oklahoma’s 42nd speaker of the House in 2012. [The Journal Record]

As laws change, so will cannabis market: The question is not “if” but “when” laws and regulations regarding cannabis change in a way that significantly alters the economics of the industry, according to industry experts. The market is also likely to exert pressures that shift the market significantly, aside from any legal rule changes. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Lankford, Inhofe say they favor replacing Ginsburg this year: Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford on Monday came out in favor of replacing late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this year, despite their opposition in 2016 to considering a high court nominee in a presidential election year. [The Oklahoman] In April 2016, the Senators had this to say about confirming a Supreme Court nomination seven months before a presidential election: “We should continue the long-standing, election-year precedent and let Americans have a voice on the future direction of the Court,” they said in that 2016 joint statement. [Tulsa World]

House passes bills to stem violence against Native American women: The House on Monday sent President Donald Trump two bills to address violence against Native American women. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma advocates for children watching federal discussions on budget, virus relief: Oklahoma organizations focused on helping children in the state are watching Capitol Hill as lawmakers go back and forth on a short-term spending bill and possibly restart coronavirus relief talks. [Public Radio Tulsa]

U.S. Senate: Jim Inhofe, Abby Broyles share contrasting visions for Oklahoma: At 85 years old, incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe is seeking what could be his last waltz in politics, a fresh six-year term in the U.S. Senate that would let him craft policy for the federal government through his 91st birthday. Standing in his way is Abby Broyles. The 30-year-old lawyer and former KFOR television journalist is the first woman that Inhofe has ever faced as his principal general election opponent. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma District Attorneys to ask lawmakers for nearly $12M budget increase: Oklahoma’s district attorneys appear set to ask lawmakers for a nearly $12 million budget increase when fiscal year 2022 budget hearings begin in the coming months, a request that may not be well received. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Supreme Court ruling affects more than 800 ‘Indian Country’ criminal cases in Oklahoma so far: More than 800 criminal cases have been referred to federal prosecutors in Oklahoma since a July Supreme Court ruling determined that much of northeastern Oklahoma is Indian Country for criminal prosecution purposes. [Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Oklahoma prisons show symptoms of the disease of systemic racism: Oklahoma has spent decades as No.1 in female incarceration and always seems to linger in the top five for overall prison rates, currently sitting in fourth place. Mass incarceration is bankrupting our state, economically and in the harm it does to families. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Soaring wealth during pandemic highlights rising inequality: Americans’ household wealth rebounded last quarter to a record high as the stock market quickly recovered from a pandemic-induced plunge in March. Yet the gains flowed mainly to the most affluent households even as tens of millions of people endured job losses and shrunken incomes. [AP News via Enid News & Eagle]

Education News

Teachers express COVID concerns in Norman Public Schools: A letter from 88 anonymous teachers and staff members at Norman High School expressing safety concerns owing to COVID-19 was released Friday, and at Monday night’s Norman Public Schools Board of Education meeting, teachers reiterated those concerns. [NonDoc]

Lawton Public Schools still calculating how many students were lost: Lawton Public Schools knows it has lost about 1,200 students since the 2016 school year, but this year’s exact loss still is being calculated. [Lawton Constitution]

Tulsa Public Schools sees higher graduation rate, more proficiency in third-grade reading: Tulsa Public Schools saw improvements in its graduation rate and third-grade reading proficiency last school year. Administrators presented their annual State of the District presentation at Monday night’s school board meeting. [Tulsa World]

General News

Diverse team key to Tulsa metro census outreach: The city of Tulsa’s director of community partnerships said Friday that diversity has been crucial to efforts to getting residents counted in the lead-up to the Sept. 30 deadline. “We’ve been doing everything we can to get the count up throughout the Tulsa metro area,” said Kyle Ofori. [Public Radio Tulsa

Op-Ed: A ‘Sprint to the Finish’ for the census: It is vitally important for every household to fill out census forms. More than $1 trillion annually is divided across the United States based on population counts. That figures up to about $1,700 per person allocated based on your census response. Simply put, if you do not fill out the census, Oklahoma will not get its share of the federal taxpayer dollars we send to Washington, D.C. This count lasts for 10 years, so if you don’t respond to the census, your taxes will go to some other state until 2030. [Op-Ed / The Journal Record]

Op-Ed: The Christian church’s role in race relations today: Living in the Bible Belt of the United States(the southern and midwestern region where there are more churches than Starbucks) as a bi-racial man over the past decade, I’ve gotten to see up close how the Christian Church has handled race relations in the past as well as the growing present-day tension. [Op-Ed / The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Norman council members upset with selection of Ward 2 replacement [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman City Council to appoint interim Ward 2 councilor [Norman Transcript]
  • Residency of Payne County Sheriff questioned at commissioner’s meeting [Stillwater News Press]
  • Enid’s mask mandate coming back before council [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Woodward County Commissioners again table action on CARES Act funding resolution [Woodward News]

Quote of the Day

“One more death is one too many. And that’s why it’s important that the governor hear our voices, that the board of corrections hear our voices, that the state of Oklahoma understand why we are here, and do something.”

-Former state Sen. Connie Johnson, speaking at a rally about stopping the virus’ spread in Oklahoma prisons [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of state, local, or tribal governments that are among Oklahoma’s top 20 largest employers. All will be at risk of laying off staff or reducing services without additional federal COVID-19 aid. [Oklahoma Department of Commerce]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A huge jobs deficit remains, by any measure: Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of the middle of August, the economy was still 11.5 million jobs below where it was in February. Today’s BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reports that the labor market was down 9.6 million jobs at the end of July. While there have been some improvements in hiring over the last couple of months, no matter how it is measured, the U.S. economy is still facing a huge job shortfall. [Economic Policy Institute]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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