In The Know: Shortening Census will haunt Oklahoma | Local virus rates will drive school decisions | Oklahoma County jail inmate dies

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

OK Policy statement: Shortening Census timeline will haunt Oklahoma: On August 3, the Census Bureau announced it would cut short its operations timeline as it works to ensure a full and complete count for everyone living in the United States. The Census Bureau previously announced it would have enumerators in the field until the end of October. The recent announcement lops an additional 30 days from their efforts to reach those in hard-to-count populations, which includes our communities of color, children under age five, low-income Oklahomans, those who are experiencing homelessness, and residents in very rural areas. This decision to cut short the Census Bureau’s field efforts further diminishes the likelihood of an accurate Census count. It’s a decision that will haunt Oklahoma for the next 10 years. [Full Statement / OK Policy

  • Worries about 2020 census’ accuracy grow with cut schedule: The U.S. Census Bureau is cutting its schedule for data collection for the 2020 census a month short as legislation that would have extended the national head count’s deadlines stalls in Congress. The move is worrying researchers, politicians and others who say the change will miss hard-to-count communities, including minorities and immigrants, and produce less trustworthy data. [AP News] Opinion: Congress must intervene to make sure Trump administration doesn’t sabotage the Census [Opinion / Washington Post]

Oklahoma News

State superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist say local COVID-19 rates will determine whether more schools can reopen to students: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist say local conditions will determine whether more schools can reopen to students any time soon — and how long those venturing to open their doors off the bat can continue. But Hofmeister indicated back-to-school conditions are far worse in most locales than expected. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘Virtual learning is the safest route possible’: Tulsa County seeing uptick in positivity rate in weeks before school [Tulsa World]
  • Owasso Public Schools delays start of classes, moves solely to distance learning [Tulsa World]
  • Tahlequah Public School board fine-tunes reopening protocols [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University lays out back to school plan [KXII]

Stitt allowing teachers to opt out of COVID-19 testing plan: Oklahoma’s governor plans to allow school teachers and staff to opt out of his highly touted monthly COVID-19 testing plan when educators begin to return for in-person instruction. Education advocates, meanwhile, said they’re watching closely to see how the state departments of health and education decide to implement Gov. Stitt’s “optional monthly” testing of every teacher and support employee. [CNHI]

OU’s ‘VIP’ COVID-19 test list included the governor’s parents: While most people who call the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center seeking an appointment for a drive-through COVID-19 test have to wait a few days for the next opening, the hospital has offered some “VIP” same-day test. But even though some of those slots were denied for first responders and the hospital’s own doctors, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s parents were given same-day appointments when they called following their son’s positive test results last month, according to documents reviewed by The Frontier. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma County jail inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19: An Oklahoma County jail inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, The Oklahoman has learned. Officials said inmate Clarence Merrell died around 7 a.m. Tuesday after struggling with multiple underlying health issues and spending more than a week at a local hospital where he tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email obtained by The Oklahoman. This makes him the first COVID-19 death related to the county jail. Merrell was 64 years old. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: County jails in Oklahoma face immense risk from COVID-19.

COVID-19: 861 new cases and 15 more deaths reported in Oklahoma: Oklahoma State Department of Health officials reported the deaths of 15 more patients and 861 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The death toll has risen to 566 across the state, where 39,463 infections have been confirmed since March. Hospitalizations had dropped to 504 as of Tuesday, according to state data. [Tulsa World]

  • Testing delays complicate virus response as spread continues, Tulsa County Health Department director says [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • 15 more Oklahomans dead from COVID-19, the most reported in 1 day since late April [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Former state epidemiologist: Health Department employees ‘exhausted’ [News9]
  • Oklahoma Restaurant Association claims restaurants cannot be blamed for spike in COVID-19 cases [KFOR]

State Government News

Stitt lauds COVID response, talks business and sentencing reform in broad Tulsa Chamber address: Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to say Oklahoma is handling the coronavirus pandemic well and is months ahead of other states. During the Tulsa Regional Chamber State of the State on Tuesday, Stitt compared the state’s hospitalization numbers from earlier in the pandemic to now. [Public Radio Tulsa] During his remarks, the governor said Tulsa’s runner-up finish to Austin for Tesla’s next electronic vehicle plant eventually will allow Oklahoma to capitalize handsomely. The story includes a link to a video for his remarks. [Tulsa World

State officials announce $15 million for Community HOPE centers to fight childhood trauma: A total of 30 Community HOPE centers will be established by the end of 2020 that will serve approximately 4,200 children and their adult caregivers, state officials announced Monday. [Tulsa World]

Counties set to benefit from updated road, bridge plan: The Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved the nearly $880 million County Improvements for Roads and Bridges plan that has been updated for state fiscal years 2021 through 2025. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Kiowa Tribal voters sound off on injunction holding up COVID-19 relief: The freeze of COVID-19 relief funds following a court injunction has prolonged hurting among Kiowa tribal members. It was just over a week ago, July 28, that Court of Indian Offenses (CFR) Chief Magistrate Shannon L. Edwards ruled that any use of the $19.7 million awarded to the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma by the U.S. Department of the Treasury is to be decided by the tribe’s citizens. [Lawton Constitution]

Rural Oklahoma communities receive $7 million from USDA to improve water infrastructure: Three rural Oklahoma communities are receiving $7 million in grants and loans to improve water infrastructure. The money is part of a $462 million investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help modernize rural water and wastewater systems across 44 states. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

First “Moral Monday” protest pressures DA and law enforcement to change: About 25 protesters made their march down Kerr Avenue shouting some chants that have now become a signature of the group calling for Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater to resign, and chants that recall the police shootings of black people at a steady yearly pace across the U.S. [OKC Free Press]

Listen Frontier: Voters to weigh in on ending sentencing enhancement (audio): Sarah Edwards with Yes on 805 discusses the state question’s effort to end sentence enhancement for nonviolent offenders, which will be on the ballot on Nov. 3, 2020. [The Frontier Podcast]

Economic Opportunity

Historian: Racial injustice, economic structure intertwined: Racial injustice and economic structures have been intertwined since the nation’s founding – a situation that puts local business leaders on the front lines of the current state of racial unrest but also empowers them to create lasting change, a historian told members of the Edmond Chamber of Commerce. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma leads nine-state region on July manufacturing survey: Things are looking up for manufacturers in a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma. For July, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index reached its highest level since March 2019, 57.4, up more than seven points from June. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

McAlester schools adding wifi hotspots through city: Expanded wifi access will help more McAlester students who might not have access at home. As McAlester Public Schools prepares for classes starting Aug. 12, officials plan to add 18 wifi hotspots by September throughout the district to provide unlimited internet access for students. [McAlester News-Capital]

OU international students face uncertainty and confusion amid COVID-19 pandemic: The University of Oklahoma’s international students in Norman and across the world are experiencing unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with resources being offered to accommodate them, OU’s international student population has been cut in half, and some of those who remain are facing confusion about U.S. immigration policy and their place in American society. [KGOU]

General News

Community members, Greenwood Chamber blast Tulsa’s claims about BLM mural’s removal: The fight over whether the Black Lives Matter street painting will stay escalated Tuesday when the Mayor’s Office was accused of mischaracterizing the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce’s position on the matter. The Greenwood Chamber chairman said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s office mischaracterized the organization’s position when it claimed in a news release that neither property owners nor the chamber wanted the Black Lives Matter street mural to remain.[Tulsa World]

  • Two Tulsa city councilors have ideas about how Black Lives Matter sign might be saved [Tulsa World]
  • Mayor, stakeholders don’t see eye-to-eye as conflict over ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural continues [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Activists take to Greenwood Avenue to protect street’s Black Lives Matter mural [Tulsa World]

Original activists from city’s 1958 sit-ins to talk at Black Women Voices third panel: Black Women Voices will host its third virtual panel next week to discuss the legacy of local Black women in the fight against racism. Panelists include a former state lawmaker, political advocates and multiple long-time activists who participated in Oklahoma City’s original 1958 sit-ins, such as Marilyn Luper Hildreth, the daughter of local civil rights icon Clara Luper. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma hip hop producer on why Oklahoma is the soundtrack to the Black Lives Matter movement: Dr. View, aka Dr. Stevie Johnson, is a hip-hop producer and the manager of education and diversity outreach at the Woody Guthrie Center and Bob Dylan Center. He talks about his new album’s relation to Ralph Ellison’s classic novel “Invisible Man,” his other work in Tulsa and how he feels like he was picked by the ancestors of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahomans lag behind in completing 2020 Census: State officials admit Oklahomans are behind schedule when it comes to completing the census. The Department of Human Services said at this point, Oklahoma has a 57 percent response rate, which is one of the worst in the country. To be counted, the U.S. Census Bureau will stop counting on September 30, a month ahead of the original schedule. [NewsOn6]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC to provide water, wastewater for Tinker AFB [The Journal Record]
  • ODOT seeks comments on plans to widen I-40 to six lanes from Oklahoma-Pottawatomie County line to Shawnee [The Oklahoman]
  • Do not plant: Oklahomans receive mysterious seeds [NonDoc]
  • Courts issue mask order, but not for county commissioners’ office [Norman Transcript]
  • Midwest City ordinance requires face coverings until at least Sept. 22 [The Oklahoman]
  • Enid’s proposed COVID-19 alert system declaration fails, 4-3 [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Enid city commissioner recall petition filed, could appear on November or February ballot [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“We need every Oklahoman to fill (their Census form) out, because that’s roads and bridges and health care and education. Those are the dollars that we spend and invest back in Oklahoma.”

-Gov. Kevin Stitt, speaking about the need for an accurate Census count [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


The percentage of Oklahomans who enter prison with non-violent offenses who have mental health or substance abuse needs. 

[Source: Healthy Minds]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Racial Profiling: Past, Present, and Future?: Looking back from the distance of two decades, we know that this did not happen. Racial profiling did not end with the Bush administration; in fact, it intensified, even while it changed shape and took on new targets. But the tactic remained the same: using racial or ethnic appearance as an indicator of suspicion, followed by law enforcement engagement. It is important to acknowledge that many American police departments have made efforts to address racial profiling. They have recognized the reality of the practice and used their own internal rules, regulations, and policies to prohibit it. They have also incorporated those policies into training. Some smaller number of departments have also committed to collecting data on all traffic stops, stops and frisks, and other routine police practices. But the unfortunate reality is that racial profiling remains with us. [American Bar Association]

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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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