In The Know: State health department calls for more mask usage | Oklahoma County jail may receive $42 million in CARES funds | Virus cases reported in schools

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

State public health advisory — Speed up COVID-19 testing, wear face coverings in counties with moderate risk: The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday announced a public health advisory to speed up COVID-19 test turnaround times and formally recommend face coverings be used in counties with moderate levels of virus spread. The state’s seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases has dropped 39% since Aug. 1, and hospitalizations have bounced between about 500 and 650 for about four weeks. Oklahoma’s interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye said the data are encouraging but that now isn’t the time to ease up. [Tulsa World] The Safer in Oklahoma Health Advisory reinforces public health precautions and includes recommendations including increased public and private testing capacity and more tests with a turnaround time of 48 hours or less. [The Journal Record]

  • Holt: Oklahoma City mask ordinance causes COVID-19 cases to drop dramatically [KFOR]
  • $30m in coronavirus relief funding coming to Tulsa, with $5.6m for internet initiative [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa will spend $5.6 million in CARES Act funds connecting families to internet to help children learn virtually [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County jail may get $42 million to combat virus: Oklahoma County officials voted Thursday to give $42 million — the majority of the $47.2 million of CARES Act funds the county received — to the trust overseeing the overcrowded jail to fight COVID-19. The actions by the Budget Board are not the final say. The three county commissioners will meet Friday and again Wednesday to ratify or reject the funding allocations. The county’s share was more than $47.2 million. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma County received $47 million in CARES Acts funds. District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey made a motion to transfer the majority of that money to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, which oversees  day-to-day operations at the facility and is commonly called the “jail trust.” [NonDoc]

Michael Rogers resigns as Stitt’s secretary of education: Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers is down to one hat. Rogers, who has also been serving as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education since January 2019, sent the governor an email Wednesday morning declaring his resignation from that cabinet position and saying he would cease to be Stitt’s “chief policy negotiator.” [NonDoc

Gov. Kevin Stitt announces new chief of staff, chief policy adviser: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday announced Bond Payne as his chief of staff and Brian Bingman as his chief policy adviser. The Oklahoma City businessman and former state Senate president pro tem, respectively, will begin their new roles by Sept. 1, according to a news release. [Tulsa World] Payne succeeds Michael Junk as Stitt’s chief of staff. Junk announced last month that he would be pursuing other employment opportunities and was returning to Tulsa to be closer to his family. Bingman becomes the second former member of the Oklahoma State Senate to join the Stitt administration alongside Secretary of Budget Mike Mazzei. [NonDoc]

Teachers face COVID-19 fears as school districts decide whether to reopen in person: Jami and Drew Cole, two Oklahoma educators who’ve been married for 29 years, are shouldering the burden. They are both immunocompromised. Jami Cole, who teaches fifth grade, has rheumatoid arthritis, while her husband, a high school art and media production instructor, has leukemia. [CNN]

  • Oklahoma City-County Health Department says school facilities in county possibly exposed to COVID-19 [News9]
  • Newcastle Elementary student tests positive for coronavirus, officials say [KOCO]
  • Some students, staff of Maryetta Public Schools ordered to quarantine after COVID-19 case confirmed [Tulsa World]
  • Hartshorne school employee tests positive for COVID-19 [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Bishop Kelley student who attended first day of school likely has COVID-19, administrators say [Tulsa World]

Coronavirus in Oklahoma update: 705 new cases; 11 new deaths: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 705 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. That brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in the state to 46,103. The Health Department also reported 11 new coronavirus-related deaths. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Final FY 2020 revenue slightly better than expected: Oklahoma’s Fiscal Year 2020 general revenue shortfall was not quite as great as expected, officials said Thursday. The confluence of dropping oil and gas prices and the COVID-19 epidemic caused the state in April to project a $416.9 million general revenue failure for the budget year that ended June 30. After all the nickels and dimes were counted, however, the shortfall was $366.6 million, or $50.3 million less than expected, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Tulsa World] State revenue from casinos evaporated with COVID-19 [CNHI via Woodward News]

Initial jobless claims drop again in Oklahoma: The prospect of initial jobless claims being double what is typically seen in Oklahoma would have seemed like a disaster six months ago, but due to COVID-19, those numbers are looking pretty good right now. The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 4,673 filed for first-time regular jobless benefits in Oklahoma for the week ending Saturday compared to a revised 6,609 filings the week prior. [Tulsa World]

Presidential assistance offered for unemployed, Oklahoma officials evaluating options: While the number of Oklahomans receiving continued unemployment assistance during the final week of July lowered slightly, numbers remain stubbornly high. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), the agency overwhelmed by the unemployment claims surge earlier this year, is considering new options as the landscape involving offered benefits changes yet again. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt supports SQ 814 to redirect tobacco settlement funds: Gov. Kevin Stitt supports a state question that would allow legislators to tap into a greater portion of funding for the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Stitt supports State Question 814, which will appear on Oklahoma’s general election ballot on Nov. 3. The question that state legislators referred to the ballot asks voters to reduce the amount of settlement funds going to TSET from 75% to 25%. If passed, SQ 814 would let the Legislature redirect the TSET funds to pay for the state’s current Medicaid program and the expansion Oklahoma voters approved when they passed State Question 802 in June. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma in top 10 for bridge conditions 16 years after ranking 49th: Sixteen years after being in 49th place for bridge conditions in the country, Oklahoma now ranks ninth. At last count, 86 bridges on the state highway system — 1.3% — were considered structurally deficient. That’s down from almost 20% in 2004, thanks to 15 years of dedicated state funding and chasing federal grants to fix the problem. [Public Radio Tulsa] Gov. Stitt said the state’s demonstrated commitment to transportation infrastructure has helped it become more attractive for business investment. [The Journal Record]

State regulations have not kept up with poultry industry, lawmakers told: Very few changes have been made to the laws and rules regulating the poultry industry in Oklahoma over the past two decades, despite the proliferation of new large-scale poultry operations in the eastern part of the state, lawmakers were told Wednesday during an interim study. [The Frontier] The study was requested by Green Country Guardians, a coalition of residents concerned about the expansion of the poultry industry in northeastern Oklahoma and its impact on the environment and their quality of life. [Muskogee Phoenix]

House study to focus on worker health insurance: Ensuring that private-sector employees have access to health insurance in times of emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic will be the focus of an interim legislative study in the state House of Representatives. [Southwest Ledger]

Lawmakers eye retirement plan for private-sector workers: State legislators will explore the possibility of establishing a state-sponsored retirement plan for private-sector employees who do not have any pension through their employers. The interim legislative study was requested by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, and was assigned to the Senate’s Retirement and Insurance Committee. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

Jimcy McGirt, subject of Creek reservation ruling, now in federal custody: The federal government on Wednesday took custody of Jimcy McGirt, whose successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has begun to reshape the criminal justice system in eastern Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

OU, OSU seeing spike in first-year students asking for “gap year” amid COVID-19 pandemic: COVID-19 is driving more and more newly admitted students to postpone attending the state’s two largest universities. As of Aug. 8, the University of Oklahoma had already seen an 85% increase in requests for deferred enrollments, with 89, while it had 48 for 2019-20. And at Oklahoma State University, the 75 deferrals are up 88% from last year’s 40 — but officials there said given the current climate, they think things could be much worse. [Tulsa World] OK Policy: Undedicated higher education CARES funding should be invested in students’ immediate needs.

Oklahoma Local News

  • Kiowa tribal leadership differ as budget election nears [Lawton Constitution]
  • Former Muscogee (Creek) Nation principal chief sentenced to federal prison time for taking bribe [Tulsa World]
  • Councilwoman tests positive for COVID-19, recall filed [Norman Transcript]
  • Police funding discussed, hiring of school resource officers recommended [Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“We have a couple of bills out and in play in Congress right now, and they’ve been caught in partisan bickering. And the people who get lost in that are families, small businesses, and children. And right now there’s funding that is desperately needed in education… A second round of stimulus is something that we need all Oklahomans really making sure that our representatives in Washington, D.C., know that we expect for the grownups to get down to business, solve their differences, and get a second round of stimulus out.”

-Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Among people who were unarmed and killed by police during 2017, Blacks accounted for 35 percent of those deaths. This rate is nearly three times higher than the nation’s overall Black population, which is about 13 percent. 


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Report on Police Reform and Racial Justice: Reform and public safety are not mutually exclusive. The two goals can and should complement each other, and we must take steps to further that alignment, achieving better public safety outcomes through cooperation and respect between the police and the community. We must acknowledge the failures of our current system as well as our country’s history of racism in policing and its impacts on communities of color. An important step is understanding that the challenges in policing we are experiencing now are borne of decades of our encouragement and support for a “law enforcement first and only” approach to public safety that devolved into a militarized and aggressive policing model. This, in turn, resulted in deepening historic divides, particularly between police and communities of color and other marginalized individuals and populations. By acknowledging this past, we can be effective in addressing inequalities in how we police and ensuring that police treat those they serve with fairness and respect. [U.S. Conference of Mayors]

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.