In The Know: Schools remain high risk for reopening | Doctors dispute ‘plenty of runway’ for virus surge | Disagreement on announced tribal pact

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

Why it keeps getting harder to reopen schools safely: The Oklahoma City Public Schools’ “Roadmap to Readiness” is a good blueprint for reopening schools. It is consistent with the leaked 69-page Center for Disease Control analysis that the Trump administration refused to release, which also described school reopenings as the “highest risk” for coronavirus spread. [NonDoc] In COVID pandemic, a little-noticed design detail could make some Tulsa schools better prepared than others [Tulsa World] Officials weighing mask mandate in Oklahoma schools. [KOSU] Op-Ed: Remember the children, but don’t forget the educators. [Column / Eagle News & Eagle

Oklahoma sees record coronavirus hospitalizations as health leaders and officials say trend is ‘unsustainable’: As Oklahoma’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to break records this week, some hospital and health leaders in the state’s largest cities say the rate at which hospitalizations are growing is not sustainable and the system is becoming strained. [The Frontier]

  • ‘Plenty of runway’ for COVID-19 surge? Medical pros, state data contradict Gov. Stitt’s characterization [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma hospitals and intensive care units are approaching capacity and activating surge plans as an increasing number of residents are testing positive for COVID-19. [CNHI]
  • The heads of the largest health care systems in the Oklahoma City metro area are growing increasingly concerned about capacity as they juggle COVID-19 patients with Oklahomans suffering from other health concerns. [Journal Record]
  • Five Oklahoma takeaways from the White House ‘red zone’ COVID-19 report [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Tulsa mayor, health department say they’ve heard nothing from governor or feds on new WH recommendations [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Counties won’t be ‘high risk’ on Oklahoma COVID alert system unless state nears hospital capacity [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • What makes the coronavirus so political? [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma reports increase of 209 in confirmed COVID-19 cases: The total number of confirmed cases has reached 25,265, the State Department of Health reported. No new deaths were reported on Sunday. The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Oklahoma remains at 451. [AP News]

  • Daily virus numbers can be found at 
  • Altus is Oklahoma’s hottest COVID-19 hotspot [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Oklahoma State Health Department cites fax machines, other outdated systems in COVID-19 testing delays [Tulsa World]
  • Capitol Insider: Oklahoma becoming COVID-19 ‘hot spot’ (audio) [KGOU]
  • Editorial: Here’s a transparent look at gathering the daily COVID-19 numbers [Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Creek, Seminole Nations disavow agreement on jurisdiction: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Seminole Nation said Friday they were not party to an agreement in principle aimed at clarifying criminal and civil jurisdiction in eastern Oklahoma in the wake of a momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision. [The Oklahoman] Two Oklahoma tribal leaders say they don’t support agreement [AP News] The apparent about face from the tribes took Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter by surprise. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma AG tracking scores of appeals that could be affected by Supreme Court’s tribal jurisdictional decision [Tulsa World]
  • Op-Ed: This 19th-century law helps shape criminal justice in Indian Country. And that’s a problem — especially for Native American women, and especially in rape cases. [Op-Ed / New York Times]
  • Opinion: After SCOTUS ruling, Oklahoma navigating uncharted waters [Opinion / The Oklahoman]

Health News

OKC Council: Masks required for indoor public spaces: The Oklahoma City Council on Friday approved a mask ordinance to fight a COVID-19 surge. The measure is temporary, intended to carry the city through the Labor Day weekend, in response to public health officials’ concerns that holiday gatherings could accelerate spread of the coronavirus. The measure is due to expire Sept. 8. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: White a great fit for Mental Health Association Oklahoma: To say this is a good fit is an understatement. Terri White, the new CEO of the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, spent about 20 years with the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the final 13 of those as head of the agency. [Opinion / The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Tulsa leader transformed mental health services and advocacy in Oklahoma: Michael Brose, outgoing CEO for the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, transformed the way Oklahomans view, talk and treat mental health. He spoke forthrightly to eliminate the stigma around mental health. He taught others that mental health is an extension of physical health, not a topic to be spoken in whispers. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Op-Ed: Supreme Court ruling will hurt women’s health care: The recent spate of decisions handed down from the high court included allowing any employer with a moral or religious objection to birth control to deny access to workers through its insurance policy. [Ginnie Graham Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

State Government News

Political notebook: Barbs exchanged over Gov. Stitt’s COVID-19 diagnosis: Leaders of the state Republican and Democratic parties exchanged shots after GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt revealed he’s tested positive for COVID-19. The Stitt administration launched a ”Governor’s Dashboard” described as a state “scorecard” in Stitt’s pursuit of becoming a Top 10 State. [Tulsa World]

  • Health officials: Stitt only contagious for 48 hours before symptoms emerged [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Getting out of prison sooner (audio): For decades, Democrats and Republicans competed to be tougher on crime. And few places were “tougher” than Republican-dominated Oklahoma. But that’s changing. Politicians across the U.S. are starting to re-examine — and to some extent, reverse — how they think about long sentences and prisons. It all might be about morals … but it’s definitely about money. This episode of NPR’s Planet Money examines efforts in Oklahoma to watch a state change its mind about prison sentences. [NPR]

OKC police earned nearly $900,000 in overtime during George Floyd protests: Overtime paid to Oklahoma City law enforcement ballooned in late May and early June when thousands of people took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, with many demonstrations lasting late into the night and near downtown police headquarters. [The Oklahoman]

Cushing prepares as Dept. of Corrections cancels prison contract: Cimarron Correctional Facility, a private prison located about three miles southwest of Cushing will be closing in September and the community is reeling from the announcement. [Stillwater News Press] The decision announced late Thursday is part of a cost-cutting move as a result of a $24 million budget cut, which is about 4.4% of the agency’s annual budget. [AP News]

Editorial: Prison population decline shows promise: The odds of being a productive citizen are much better outside prison walls than behind them. While prisons are necessary to protect public safety, there is a need for more judicious use in order to free up funding required for rehabilitative services that in many nonviolent offenses have been found more effective. [Editorial / Muskogee Phoenix]

Editorial: Stop bickering at the Pardon and Parole board and focus on reducing incarceration: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is breaking down, and that’s bad for the state. Accusations of wrongdoing, bullying tactics and intimidation have been flying back and forth among members and outside groups behind the scenes for months. The infighting is impeding progress expected from the Pardon and Parole Board members. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Federal eviction moratorium ends July 25; funds available to help Oklahomans: Federal eviction restrictions will be lifted later this week for some properties with federally backed loans, and millions of dollars are available to help Oklahoma City metro-area residents struggling with housing costs. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that reopening Oklahoma’s courts must be done thoughtfully to avoid a public health disaster.

  • Tulsa’s eviction crisis will be the topic of the next Tulsa World Let’s Talk virtual town hall. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Stitt designates CARES Act education dollars, including private school scholarships: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his intentions today for the remaining $30 million of the U.S. Department of Education emergency block grant funding provided for use at his discretion by the CARES Act. [NonDoc] The most controversial piece of the governor’s plan is $10 million dedicated to students attending private schools. The Stay in School Fund Program will provide $6,500 grants to 1,500 families. [The Oklahoman] State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister previously stated her opposition to these private school scholarships and reportedly left them out of her own proposition for how to use relief money, instead wanting to see the bulk of it put toward better connectivity for school districts. [Tulsa World]


Editorial: International students remain vital to diversity of Norman: Norman gets a lot of its diversity from international students. Restaurants in town were built by students sticking around town. Let’s not forget that future immigrants would have been sent back under this rule if not rescinded. [Editorial / Norman Transcript]

General News

After long wait, action on Tulsa’s Equality Indicators reports could come soon: More than two years have passed since a group of local residents joined a national civil rights group in demanding that city councilors hold public meetings within 60 days to examine racial disparities in police practices detailed in the city’s inaugural Equality Indicators report. [Tulsa World]

Archaeologists have yet to find human remains in search of potential Tulsa Race Massacre mass grave: Archaeologists have not yet found human remains as they search Oaklawn Cemetery for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Public Radio Tulsa] “I want to find the victims of the Race Massacre’: Burial search is personal for some with ties to the past. [Tulsa World] Oaklawn researchers reassess potential race massacre burial sites as search for remains continues. [Tulsa World] Excavation crew expands search for Tulsa massacre victims. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Group seeking redistricting question withdraws petition: A group that wants a bipartisan commission, instead of state lawmakers, to redraw Oklahoma’s legislative districts announced Friday they are withdrawing their initiative petition, citing legal challenges and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [AP News]

Grants announced for Black landmarks in OKC and Tulsa: Two endangered Black landmarks in Oklahoma City and the only surviving structure from the 1921 massacre of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa are among 27 grant recipients named Thursday by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. [The Oklahoman] Vernon AME Church to receive preservation help for stained glass windows from national grant. [Tulsa World]

Seeing others is the second step in Norman pastor’s plan to improve race relations: In his project to help people achieve better racial understanding and compassion within their own world, the 2 O’Clock hour of the Dream Clock challenges people to take one baby step outside their own comfort zone and say hello to a person from a different race. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Don’t be fooled by ‘fake’ news sites: “It’s hard to know whom to trust, but you can always bet on your local media. After all, our readers and viewers call us into account if we stray off the righteous path.” [Editorial / Tahlequah Daily Press] Viral post about Tulsa murder earns ‘partly false’ flag from Facebook fact-checkers [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Additional cost possible with Norman’s recall election [Norman Transcript]
  • Stillwater Public Schools lays out reopening plans [Stillwater News Press]
  • Tulsa mayor says no conflict between city hall, police department regarding mask ordinance enforcement [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa events with 500 people or more now required to have COVID-19 safety plan [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa suburbs encouraging but not mandating mask-wearing amid COVID-19 spike [Tulsa World]
  • Judge considers releasing video of 2 Tulsa police officers being shot [AP News]
  • Virginia man who wanted to intimidate Mayor Bynum into canceling Trump rally charged with cyberstalking [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma County special judge elevated by Stitt appointment [The Oklahoman]
  • Stilwell City Council strikes down mask mandate [CNHI]
  • Editorial: The Tulsa World endores all five city charter proposals on the Aug. 25 ballot [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble

-U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia. The legendary civil rights leader and longtime Congressman passed away Friday night. [U.S. Rep. John Lewis / Twitter]

Number of the Day


Percentage of America’s teachers, or about 1.5 million, who are at greatest risk of serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19.

[Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Millions of seniors live in households with school-age children: There are many factors that state and local officials, as well as individual schools or school systems, are likely to consider as they decide when and how to reopen in the upcoming school year. Another concern is that children may become infected at school and carry the virus back to their homes, potentially infecting others in their household. More than 4 million school-age children, about 7% of those between the ages of 5 and 18, live in a household with someone 65 or over. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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