In The Know: Schools adjusting plans | Concerns about virus outbreak in prisons | Survey shows Oklahomans mixed on virus precautions

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

Some Oklahoma school districts thrown by lack of statewide policy on safely reopening: Following the Oklahoma State Board of Education’s vote to not require a statewide COVID-19 policy, some Oklahoma school district officials say they’re now being put in a tough spot. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Oklahoma physicians groups say they can’t support statewide return to school in August [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa Public Schools will start with 100% distance learning if board approves recommendation next week [Tulsa World]
  • Bixby schools will have half of students in school at a time during first weeks of fall semester [Tulsa World]
  • Tahlequah to start class Aug. 13, with new protocols in place [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • ‘Trial run’: McAlester Public Schools testing COVID-19 protocols in summer school [McAlester News]
  • Opinion: Oklahoma’s board of education failed the state’s students [Opinion / OKC Free Press]
  • Op-Ed: State inaction puts teachers, children at risk [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: State Board of Education refuses opportunity to protect children against COVID-19 [Tulsa World]

Despite few COVID-19 cases reported in state prisons, many have concerns: Despite a low number of reported positive COVID-19 cases inside state prison facilities, families and friends of those incarcerated say they are still concerned for the safety of their loved ones. Damion Shade, a criminal justice policy analyst with OK Policy, said he’d like to see DOC and county jails receive federal dollars to address COVID concerns. This could cover testing, maintenance for ventilation systems and provide continued cleaning supplies, he added. “We need leadership as a state to be proactive with these issues to cut problems off before they become full-fledged outbreaks.” [The Oklahoman]

  • COVID-19 outbreak hits Oklahoma County jail [The Oklahoman]
  • 33 Oklahoma County Jail prisoners test positive for COVID-19 [KOSU]

Regular state unemployment benefit period extended: It took a pandemic, but the agency in charge of managing unemployment insurance has extended the period one can receive regular unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. [Tulsa World]

Survey: Oklahomans have conflicting feelings for masks, COVID-19 dangers: A national survey of coronavirus beliefs and practices found that many of the Oklahomans studied believe that while wearing a mask could be beneficial to preventing the spread of COVID-19, many still choose not to wear one. [The Oklahoman] The OSU Extension survey report is available online.

Oklahoma reports record high number of coronavirus cases: Oklahoma reported 1,401 new confirmed positive cases of coronavirus on Monday, a second consecutive day of record highs for a single day. [AP News

Federal Government News

Senate Republicans release their counterproposal on another coronavirus stimulus package: Republican leaders announced a roughly $1 trillion package that includes another round of direct checks to millions of Americans, more help for small businesses and money to help reopen schools. Almost immediately, it was criticized by conservative lawmakers as misguided and expensive and by Democrats as a ridiculously late effort that falls short of the nation’s needs to weather the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected nearly 4.3 million Americans and killed more than 147,000. [USA Today via The Oklahoman]

As Congress fights, analysts warn economy needs help now: As Congress and the White House resume their efforts to agree on a new economic aid package, evidence is growing that the U.S. economy is faltering. And so is concern that the government may not take the steps needed to support hiring and growth. What’s needed, most economists say, is continued extra aid for tens of millions of unemployed Americans, along with more funding for state and local governments and more grants for struggling small companies, many of which could go out of business. [AP News]

Electric cooperatives seek federal help to lower debt costs: An organization representing the nation’s electric co-ops and millions of customers is looking for a little targeted relief from Congress’ next round of coronavirus-related aid. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma nonprofits sign letter backing charitable giving deduction expansion supported by Sen. Lankford: Hundreds of Oklahoma nonprofits have signed a letter in support of a proposed change to federal tax deduction limits supported by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Oklahoma’s Sen. James Lankford. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says he has recovered from COVID-19: Oklahoma’s chief executive reported Monday that he has returned to work about 12 days after testing positive for the new coronavirus. [Tulsa World] Stitt said every single person he was in contact with “continues to test negative.” (It wasn’t clear what timeline he was referring to regarding that contact.) [Public Radio Tulsa]

Transparency a key word in redistricting process: A grassroots coalition seeking to overhaul Oklahoma’s redistricting process has withdrawn its proposal after the pandemic complicated its signature-gathering efforts. However, coalition members supporting State Question 810 pledged Monday to remain actively involved. The Republican-controlled Legislature will begin the controversial process of redrawing state and congressional voting districts next year following the U.S. Census population count. [CNHI]

Plan of action remains unsettled after McGirt decision: A small chink has emerged in the united front coming from Oklahoma’s tribes and the state Attorney General’s Office. Two of the so-called Five Tribes of Oklahoma have said they are opposed to a purported agreement that would divide how criminal cases will be handled in Indian Country as tribal members started protesting a jurisdiction plan announced by the Attorney General Mike Hunter. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Kicking folks out while they’re down: How the premature lifting of coronavirus restrictions is increasing evictions and worsening the homelessness crisis. [Center for American Progress] OK Policy’s work on evictions was cited in this piece. Our Open Justice Oklahoma program has been tracking evictions since the state declared a state of emergency in March. 

Crisis looming: Tulsa will need millions more in rental assistance funding to avoid an eviction crisis, officials say: With local officials bracing for a huge wave of new eviction cases now that a federal moratorium has expired, roughly one in eight renters in Tulsa have fallen behind on payments during the COVID-19 epidemic, according to a recent survey. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa releases results of housing survey for downtown, surrounding neighborhoods [Tulsa World]

In Oklahoma, there’s money for rental assistance to prevent evictions. Some landlords won’t take it: During the pandemic, a federal ban kept evictions at bay. That measure expired during the weekend, prompting a shuffle in Oklahoma to protect potentially thousands of people from losing their homes. OK Policy’s Ryan Gentzler described evictions as destabilizing events that can throw low-income families off of any financial progress they may have made. “When we’re looking at that situation during the pandemic when we’re all being urged to stay at home, it just gets that much more dire,” he said. [Big If True]

Economy & Business News

Crafty warehouse: Thousands of Hobby Lobby warehouse workers toil in heat among potentially infected coworkers without paid sick leave. [Oklahoma Gazette]

Business services in region jump in July, but still below year-ago levels, KC Fed survey says: According to the Fed’s survey, general revenue and sales jumped in July, and the indexes for employment, employee hours, and wages and benefits indexes expanded further. The part-time employment and capital expenditures indexes rose into positive territory in July after declining in previous months. Month-over-month indexes for inventory and access to credit continued to decline. The increase in the general revenue/sales index was driven by more activity for retail, travel and tourism, transportation, health services, and real estate, while restaurant activity declined. [Tulsa World]

Selling the mask mandate: Oklahoma City officials and local business owners are focusing on education and marketing efforts to get residents and shoppers to comply with the city’s ordinance requiring face masks to be worn in public places. [Journal Record]

General News

Videos show Oklahoma deputy and others illegally used live rabbits to train racing dogs, greyhound protection group says: The practice of “live lure” training dogs for racing is against dog racing rules and is specifically outlawed by Oklahoma statutes. Two videos provided to The Frontier were filmed in Keota in March on a greyhound training course owned by Haskell County Sheriff’s Deputy and former Keota chief of police Jason Martin, according to GREY2K USA Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to passing greyhound protection laws and ending greyhound racing. [The Frontier]

Agency votes today on 80 mph speed limit for portions of some toll roads across Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Tuesday will consider raising the maximum speed limits to 80 mph on rural portions of some turnpikes. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma pushes for Census response: Oklahoma encourages its citizens to respond to the 2020 census, which is a civic duty and mandate by the U.S. Constitution. But, only 56.5% of Oklahomans have submitted their census information. [Muskogee Phoenix

Voter registration deadline is July 31: The deadline to register to vote or update your voter registration for Oklahoma’s August 25 Runoff Primary election is Friday, July 31. Applicants can fill out an application using the OK Voter Portal’s voter registration “wizard.” [CNHI] For more information, visit the state election board’s website.

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa County approves initial $3 million from coronavirus funds for housing assistance [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa County finalizes deputization agreement between Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Tulsa Sheriff [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Mask mandate passes in Edmond, but won’t go into effect for a month [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“I’ve been trying to push for him to get out as fast as possible. He is terrified. He doesn’t feel like they are doing enough to keep him safe. He’s told me, ‘I don’t want to die in prison.’”

-The fiance of a man who is incarcerated at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center and set to be released in the coming weeks [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


Percentage of nonelderly Oklahoma adults who currently are uninsured

[Source: Families USA]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resulting Economic Crash Have Caused the Greatest Health Insurance Losses in American History: Because of job losses between February and May of this year, 5.4 million laid-off workers became uninsured. These recent increases in the number of uninsured adults are 39% higher than any annual increase ever recorded. The highest previous increase took place over the one-year period from 2008 to 2009, when 3.9 million nonelderly adults became uninsured. These record-breaking increases in the number of uninsured have taken place during the country’s worst public-health crisis in more than a century and the sharpest and deepest economic downturn since World War II. Nevertheless, no federal COVID-19 legislation signed into law has attempted to restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance. [Families USA]

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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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