In The Know: State has nation’s 3rd highest COVID hospitalization rate | Top priorities for coming session | Value of charitable giving

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


Policy Matters: Charitable giving is an investment for today and tomorrow: The past nine months have brought unprecedented damage to our economy as well as severe disruption to the lives of our friends and neighbors who faced daily adversities even during the pre-pandemic “good times.” Today, resources and support are stretched thin for many area nonprofits that perform vital work to help Oklahomans survive. These days, we find our communities relying even more heavily on nonprofits for essentials, such as food services, shelters, child care, and other core needs that aren’t fully met due to relatively weak federal and state supports for the social safety net. Additionally, as the economy has constricted, so has funding from large companies and organizations. This makes personal gifts from individuals even more important this season. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma has 3rd highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S., according to latest White House report: Oklahoma’s rate of hospital admissions for COVID-19 is third highest in the nation, according to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report. In its Dec. 6 report, the task force for the first time unveiled a metric capturing the number of new hospitalizations weekly per 100 inpatient beds. Oklahoma ranks behind only Maryland (No. 1) and Arkansas (No. 2). The state’s rate — 31 per 100 — is above the national average of 20. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa mayor criticizes nearby cities without mask mandate [AP News]
  • Tulsa Health Department director says 10% of county residents could test COVID positive before vaccine arrives [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 23 more deaths identified; one Oklahoma County woman in 18-35 age group [Tulsa World]
  • These 15 states all had record average daily COVID case counts this week [Newsweek]
  • Editorial: Broken Arrow takes COVID money while councilors close eyes to alert maps [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Gov. Stitt complained to hospital leaders about interviews with media on COVID-19 crisis: Gov. Kevin Stitt has complained to multiple hospital leaders about their employees — doctors and nurses — giving interviews with media outlets on the challenging conditions they face as the state continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to multiple sources with health care facilities and the governor’s office. [The Frontier] The Governor’s Office said the media reports weren’t true, that the governor was frustrated because he was being told different information in news reports then what he was being told, something they say has improved in recent weeks. [KFOR]

COVID-19 response, budget among top priorities for legislative leaders: Oklahoma lawmakers are preparing for a busy, and uncertain, 2021. Legislators will return to the State Capitol at the start of February with a lengthy to-do list waiting for them following the 2020 session that was cut short due to COVID-19 pandemic. [Oklahoma Watch] Funding Medicaid expansion, the state budget and redistricting will be among the top legislative priorities during the upcoming session, legislative leaders said Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

GOP legislative leaders open to altering Oklahoma’s initiative petition process: Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday said Oklahoma’s constitution is too long and agreed they’re open to changing the state’s initiative petition process to make it harder for citizens to amend the governing document. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Health report: Premature death, ACEs continue to top list of Oklahoma’s challenges: Higher rates of premature death and adverse childhood experiences are among the challenges Oklahomans continue to face, according to a new report on the state of the nation’s health. The findings, released Tuesday, are part of the 2020 America’s Health Rankings report, a yearly project of the United Health Foundation that breaks down the national health picture state-by-state. [Tulsa World]

Residential care facility residents’ families worried about COVID-19: A family member who expressed concern last week about a managed care facility where her father lives has since learned he tested positive, but is feeling fine. However, that family and others say they are alarmed about the rising rates of infection in the city and county. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Syphilis cases continue to rise in state: The sexually transmitted disease known as syphilis, once thought to have been virtually eradicated, has seen a resurgence in recent years, and health experts are working to ensure people are diagnosed and treated for it. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

State Government News

Under new management: Oklahoma health officials plan to enter agreement with nonprofit for Public Health Lab management: Contractors could soon manage the Oklahoma Public Health Laboratory, Interim Commissioner of Health Lance Frye told employees this week. Additionally, health officials confirmed to The Frontier and StateImpact that the plan now includes temporarily moving portions of the lab into trailers while renovations to the interim facility are underway. [The Frontier and StateImpact Oklahoma]

FY19 tribal gaming revenues set record: Indian gaming industry gross revenues for fiscal year 2019 totaled $34.6 billion, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer and Vice Chair Kathryn Isom-Clause announced the findings this week. The total reflected a 2.5% increase over FY 2018 gross revenues. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Mike Hunter joins new effort to help Trump in four states won by Biden: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter joined 16 other states on Wednesday in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Texas’ complaint against four states won by President-elect Joe Biden. [The Oklahoman] The suit, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, aims to have the Supreme Court order special elections or selection of new electors in those states. [Tulsa World] Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the court to throw out results from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all swing states that went to President-elect Joe Biden. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Garfield County Jail to transition to new oversight in 2021: Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, Garfield County Detention Facility will transition from county oversight to trust authority oversight. Jail Administrator Ben Crooks said the day-to-day work will not be affected, but the switch will provide better oversight of jail operations for the facility. [Enid News & Eagle]

Economic Opportunity

OKC to press for payments from water customers: The city of Oklahoma City will resume water shutoffs for residents in arrears beginning in February – months before a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available. Although the need for increased handwashing and enhanced hygiene protocols during the pandemic was first cited as the reason shutoffs were suspended back in March, officials now say the city cannot afford to continue the policy any longer. [The Journal Record]

Survey reveals tough challenges for unemployed breadwinners: A nationwide survey commissioned by an Oklahoma company casts a harsh light on conditions faced by the unemployed. Some seven in 10 unemployed adults surveyed reported that they’ve nearly depleted their personal savings and won’t survive much longer without a job or some other relief. [The Journal Record]

Hard Reset: Why women have been more likely to leave work during the pandemic: During the pandemic, women have been more likely than men to lose work, cut their hours and take on more parenting and household responsibilities. On today’s show, we spoke with reporter Emma Castleberry about how women have juggled financial challenges, parenting and getting covid. [Big If True]

Economy & Business News

Biden recruits familiar face for agriculture secretary: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to choose Tom Vilsack as the new U.S. secretary of agriculture. Oklahoma Farm Bureau president Rodd Moesal says their bureau has worked with Vilsack in the past, but it will take work to re-establish the connection with Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. [Harvest Public Media]

The Quapaw Nation’s casino farms its own food: The Quapaw tribe, which runs the Downstream Casino Resort, operates seven greenhouses and two sprawling gardens that provide the hotel with 20 varieties of vegetables and herbs. The tribe also has an apiary with 80 beehives, as well as a craft brewery and a coffee roaster that supplies the hotel and casino. The Quapaw is also the only tribe in the United States with its own USDA-certified meat packing and processing plant, where it processes bison and cattle that it raises on open pastures, selling the bulk of it to the casino’s five restaurants. [Civil Eats]

General News

Did George Floyd’s death affect Oklahoma’s elections?: “VOTE” was a repeated call to action voiced by protesters after George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota. Some protesters said they thought there was a chance the groundswell of anger and sadness after Floyd’s death would be felt at the polls. More than a month after Election Day State Rep. Regina Goodwin (D, Tulsa) says she doesn’t believe that happened in Oklahoma and she didn’t expect it. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Special election: Six candidates file for open SD 22 seat: With Stephanie Bice headed to Congress next month after defeating Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn in a close November election, she has vacated Oklahoma State Senate District 22. [NonDoc] Four Republicans and two Democrats filed to vie for the Senate District 22 seat. The Republican-leaning district includes parts of northern Oklahoma County, eastern Canadian County, Edmond and Yukon. [The Oklahoman]

19 candidates file for 2021 OKC City Council elections: Nine people have filed to run for the OKC City Council Ward 1 seat in 2021, accounting for almost half of all candidates running for the four seats up for election in February. Several candidates registered in the final hours before the filing window closed at 5 p.m. Wednesday. [NonDoc] Nikki Nice ran against seven other contenders for the remainder of the John Pettis term in Ward 7 when he resigned in May 2018 while facing embezzlement charges, but will run unopposed this year. [OKC Free Press]

State representatives hold Oklahoma County redistricting town hall: On Wednesday, December 9, the Oklahoma County Redistricting Committee held a town hall meeting to hear constituents’ concerns about how district lines will be redrawn in 2021. It was in-person but others not there could call and email in their questions and listen in. [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City town hall addresses rising COVID numbers, provides resources [NonDoc]
  • A second Tulsa city councilor in two weeks is in isolation for COVID-related issue [Tulsa World]
  • Creek Nation commitment to Tulsa/Jenks dam funding won’t be determined until next year [Tulsa World]
  • Petition seeks to halt demolition of pedestrian bridge over Arkansas River [Tulsa World]
  • Stillwater recall petitions fail after signatures invalidated [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“Unlike other states in the Heartland, cases and new hospital admissions are not plateauing… Virus levels continue to increase and are extremely high; activities that were safe in the summer are not safe now.”

-White House Coronavirus Task Force report on Oklahoma’s status [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who reported that their household didn’t have enough to eat

[Source: CBPP analysis of Census Data]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Tracking the COVID-19 Recession’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships: The unemployment rate is very high and millions report that their households did not get enough to eat or are not caught up on rent payments. We are able to track the extent of this hardship thanks to nearly real-time data from several sources on the unfolding economic crisis. The impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout have been widespread, but are particularly prevalent among Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant households. These disproportionate impacts reflect harsh, longstanding inequities — often stemming from structural racism — in education, employment, housing, and health care that the current crisis is exacerbating. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.