In The Know: Prison officials announce virus plans | State 7-day virus average sets new high | Census deadline approaching

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

Interim studies examine police reform measures (Capitol Update): Interim studies held last week appeared to be a sincere effort to learn if anything can be done to decrease police violence and increase accountability, not just for individual officers but for their departments and their city and county leaders. But it will not be easy in an election year when the issue is being made partisan at the national level. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

COVID-19 in state prisons: ‘It’s supposed to be a work camp, not a death camp’: Confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma’s prison system have soared since July 22, when the corrections department reported 103 cases following an outbreak at the Lexington Correctional Center. As of Tuesday, 3,160 inmates had tested positive for the coronavirus with 1,398 cases active. Nine inmate and three corrections staff deaths may have been caused by COVID-19, according to corrections department data. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Amid a “spike” of COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is beginning mandatory employee testing and will be considering other mitigation efforts, such as wastewater sampling. [NonDoc]
  • The Oklahoma Corrections Department will also increase testing of vulnerable inmate populations. [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]
  • A $2 an hour increase only will be available to those physically working in a facility that’s a declared hot spot, according to a department memo announcing the initiative. It is effective immediately. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
  • DOC Director Crow said more details on the plan would be released Wednesday [Public Radio Tulsa] | [KOSU]
  • Watch: State officials address COVID-19 response in Oklahoma prisons [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma sees 2nd straight day with new highs in COVID 7-day average, active cases: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday, 1,164 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the state’s total to 79,072. Tulsa County had 173 of Tuesday’s cases. Its total now stands at 16,207, second to Oklahoma County’s 16,961. The state’s seven-day average of new cases, which shows the trend in infections, rose from 1,098 to 1,108, a new high for the second day in a row. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Coronavirus in Oklahoma update: 1,164 new cases; 14 new deaths [The Oklahoman]

Stitt cautions COVID-positive college students to stay on campus: As some colleges and universities across the country have become hotbeds for new COVID-19 outbreaks since welcoming students back to campus for fall semester, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday stressed that students at Oklahoma institutions should remain on campus if they become infected. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Millions could be lost here in 2020 census: Oklahoma could miss out on an estimated $421 million annually in federal funding if the state’s response rate to the U.S. census doesn’t improve soon, officials estimate. Currently, some 60.4% of Oklahomans have been accounted for by way of voluntary “self-response” to census survey questionnaires. [The Journal Record]

  • Census deadline approaching [NewsOn6]
  • Low census completion in Midwest City means possible loss of federal funding for roads, education and more [City of Midwest City]
  • Census officials knocking on doors as deadline nears completion [Choctaw Nation]
  • Editorial: Take time to register, fill out census [Lawton Constitution]

Health News

‘A mental health crisis brewing with COVID-19 like something we have never seen before’: City Council to receive update on mental health in Tulsa: Mental Health Association Oklahoma is just one of a myriad of service providers working to address mental health issues in Tulsa. It’s not an easy problem to solve, and as Zack Stoycoff, executive director of policy and planning for the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, plans to tell city councilors Wednesday, it’s only getting more difficult. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

About 100,000 Oklahomans will see an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits: The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission began processing an additional $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits this week for those affected by COVID-19, said Shelley Zumwalt, executive director. The $300 benefit, called Lost Wages Assistance, is on top of the regular state and federal benefits. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma schools still need more money, consultant tells legislators: The main fault with Oklahoma’s public school funding formula is that there isn’t enough money in it, a consultant who’s studied the matter for three years said at a legislative hearing Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Redistricting petition withdrawn as legislative leaders pledge transparent process: Citing legislative efforts to create a transparent redistricting process, supporters of independent redistricting withdrew Tuesday an initiative petition seeking to take away state legislators’ power to draw legislative and congressional districts. [The Oklahoman] People Not Politicians Executive Director Andy Moore said the group would instead focus on making sure the redistricting process is conducted by the Legislature in a fair and transparent manner. [AP News]

Citizens not entitled to receive public records by email, judge rules: A Custer County judge says Oklahoma’s Open Records Act needs a legislative fix to account for modern communication styles, i.e. email. [The Oklahoman]

Ryan Walters: ‘First and foremost, I consider myself to be a teacher’: Former Oklahoma teacher of the year finalist Ryan Walters was nominated to be secretary of education by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Sept. 10. Walters grew up attending McAlester Public Schools and went on to become a teacher at McAlester High School. [NonDoc]

Former Sen. Mark Snyder, former Rep. Neil Brannon die: Two former members of the Oklahoma Legislature died within the last 24 hours. Former Sen. Mark Snyder, R-Edmond, died at age 74, and former Rep. Neil Brannon, D-Poteau, died at age 80. [NonDoc]

Federal Government News

Grand jury indicts man at center of landmark tribal sovereignty ruling: A Seminole Nation citizen who was the plaintiff behind the historic Supreme Court decision McGirt v. Oklahoma has been indicted in federal court. [KOSU]

Lankford says Democrats would fill high court vacancy under similar circumstances: Sen. James Lankford predicted on Tuesday the Senate would likely vote on a successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after the Nov. 3 election, and he said Democrats wouldn’t hesitate to replace a justice under the same circumstances. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Potential jail improvement projects discussed at Oklahoma County Jail Trust meeting: Details are slowly emerging on the Oklahoma County Jail Trust’s plans for spending the millions of dollars it received from the federal government’s COVID-19 relief funding. Trustees approved spending $3 million on “COVID-19 Resistance Maintenance Projects” during a Monday meeting, which includes repairing sewage, replacing water pipes and installing new exhaust vents, according to trust documents. [The Oklahoman]

Volunteers reference ‘combat skills’ and firearm training in applications for ‘sheriff’s posse’: More than 500 people, many who referenced their ability to use a firearm or engage in combat, have signed up to join the Canadian County Sheriff’s Posse, a program Sheriff Chris West created this summer during the height of protests and demonstrations against police brutality. [The Frontier]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma among states watchdog group expects to be financially worse off post pandemic: A watchdog group said Tuesday that Oklahoma is among several states that went into the pandemic in less-than-ideal fiscal shape and may come out worse. Truth In Accounting founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg said it’s a common problem in their 2020 Financial State of the States report. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Restaurants struggle to survive as cold weather looms: Autumn is officially here, bringing the kind of cold and rainy weather that threatens to disrupt the outdoor dining options that have helped local restaurants hold on though the pandemic. Bringing the plight of beloved, local restaurants to the attention of the patrons that love them, Gov. Kevin Stitt has declared Oct. 1-3 as “Oklahoma Restaurant Days.” [The Journal Record]

Education News

A month into the fall semester, StateImpact Oklahoma has tracked hundreds of COVID-19 cases in schools: Nobody knows how many cases of the coronavirus are present in Oklahoma schools. But, we do know there are hundreds of cases in every part of the state. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • EPS quarantine, isolation numbers rise [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Westmoore High School to quarantine 200 students, staff after COVID-19 exposure [News9]

General News

As Oklahoma’s voter registration deadline approaches, other states provide more time: Potential Oklahoma voters have just over two weeks to register to vote and to verify that they won’t be locked out of this fall’s pivotal general election. But as state election officials and voting-access advocates marked National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday by reminding residents of the upcoming Oct. 9 deadline, most of the rest of the country isn’t facing as extreme of a time crunch. [Oklahoma Watch]

Live-streamed discussion to begin OU activities related Tulsa Race Massacre centennial: A live-streamed discussion about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and a new exhibit at Bizzell Memorial Library will be hosted by the University of Oklahoma at 4 p.m. Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“It’s all bad right now. This is supposed to be a work camp, not a death camp.”

-Antonio Lucio describing conditions at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita where he is incarcerated. [Oklahoma Watch]  

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma inmates who had tested positive for the coronavirus, with 1,398 cases active as of Sept. 23 [Oklahoma Watch]  

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

State and local governments employ the highest share of essential workers. Congress is failing to protect them: Essential workers have become the face of the country’s COVID-19 response. As many of us huddle in our homes, nurses, grocery workers, bus drivers, and couriers are keeping us safe and giving us some semblance of our old lives. They’re our visible heroes during a time of invisible threats. But what if we told you the single biggest group of essential workers could find themselves without a paycheck at the end of the month? That’s the situation facing 23.2 million essential workers employed by state and local governments. With tax revenues rapidly disappearing, a quick economic recovery out of reach, and no choice but to balance their budgets, public officials have already laid off at least 1.5 million of these workers. Teachers, firefighters, social workers, construction workers—no job is untouchable. This should be a red alert to Congress. [Brookings Institute

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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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