In The Know: State mask ban faces federal civil rights inquiry | Schools remain virus hot spots | 170,000 have enrolled in Medicaid expansion

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

(Capitol Update) LOFT releases Early Childhood Education report: The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) was created by the legislature in 2019 for the purpose of assisting the legislature “in performing its constitutional and statutory function of ensuring that government funds are expended in a fiscally responsible manner.” The agency does its work through research and written reports on topics directed by a joint legislative oversight committee chaired by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston. Among its most recent work is a report evaluating Oklahoma Early Childhood Education programs, issued last week. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

State mask bans face federal civil rights inquiries: The Education Department on Monday opened civil rights investigations into five Republican-led states that have banned or limited mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions. The department’s Office for Civil Rights announced the investigations in letters to education chiefs in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. Those states have issued varying prohibitions on mask requirements, which the office says could prevent some students from safely attending school. [AP News] The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister on Monday notifying her the federal agency’s Office of Civil Rights will investigate whether the Oklahoma law discriminates against students with disabilities. Hofmeister said the Oklahoma State Department of Education will cooperate fully. [The Oklahoman] Hofmeister has come out against the Oklahoma law banning school mask requirements without an emergency declaration from the governor, saying districts must have autonomy to enact policies to protect students and staff from COVID-19. [Public Radio Tulsa

Schools are COVID-19 hot spots in Tulsa County as experts caution that declining hospitalizations don’t mean peak is past: Public health and medical officials cautioned on Monday that the COVID-19 delta variant’s peak in Oklahoma might not be here yet. The recent three-day average of statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations dipped to 1,572 in Monday’s report from 1,607 reported Thursday. In Tulsa County, COVID hospitalizations dropped to 456 reported Monday from a record 504 reported Aug. 23. Bruce Dart, Tulsa Health Department executive director, said his epidemiologists are identifying a high volume of new cases in schools, which he said haven’t been open long enough to truly feel the full effects. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma City hospitals report no ICU beds available [AP News] [The Oklahoman] | [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma is reporting an average of 2,806 infections per day in the past week. [KOSU]
  • Tulsa mayor says police needed more for crime fighting than for enforcing mask mandate — for now [Tulsa World]

Health News

‘I owe Electra my life’: Rural health care providers fight for their communities: Access to quality health care has been a recurring issue for rural Americans, with pandemic health care providers having to find different ways to treat COVID-19 and vaccinate people in their communities. [News 21 via NonDoc]

State Government News

Official tells lawmakers nearly 170,000 Oklahomans enrolled in expanded Medicaid: Almost 170,000 Oklahomans have enrolled in expanded Medicaid since the program launched on June 1, a state official said Monday, with more than 65,000 of those coming from other forms of Medicaid. [Tulsa World]

State funds for Oklahoma Medicaid expansion remain untouched: The $164 million appropriated by the Oklahoma Legislature to pay for the state’s share of Medicaid expansion remains untouched in a state agency savings account, state legislators learned Monday. Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett told House and Senate members that the agency has used savings generated from the Medicaid expansion, along with enhanced federal COVID-19 relief funds for states, to pay for the expansion so far. [AP News]

Oklahoma NAACP files suit challenging anti-protest law: A bill approved by the Republican-led Oklahoma Legislature this year that seeks to crack down on protesters is unconstitutional and would chill the ability of groups to mobilize people to advocate for racial justice, a civil rights group argues in a federal lawsuit filed Monday. [AP News] The Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP is suing in federal court seeking to have House Bill 1674 overturned. Set to take effect Nov. 1, the law increases criminal penalties for protesters and would institute steep fines for organizations deemed to be involved in demonstrations that break state laws around rioting and unlawful assembly. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County jail inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19: The Oklahoma County jail inmate who died at a hospital Friday had tested positive for COVID-19. Paul Wayne Sanders Jr. was hospitalized Aug. 16, four days after testing positive, the jail’s director of communications confirmed. Sanders died on his birthday. He was 62. [The Oklahoman]

Comanche County will need to decide if it wants to hold juveniles in detention center: The Comanche County Detention Center will soon have to make a choice about whether to apply for certification to house juvenile offenders thanks to Oklahoma House Bill 2311, which was signed into law on May 7. The legislation will require jails, adult lockups and adult detention facilities housing juveniles to apply for certification through the Oklahoma State Health Department and the Office of Juvenile Affairs before Sept. 30 — giving the county 30 days to decide. [The Lawton Constitution]

Economic Opportunity

First new full-size supermarket in decades for OKC’s east side to open Wednesday: A new Homeland grocery at NE 36 and Lincoln Boulevard is set to open on Wednesday in fulfillment of a longtime effort to bring fresh food options to Oklahoma City’s historically neglected eastside. [The Oklahoman]

Guest Column: Everything we know about work is wrong. The pandemic proved it: Business leaders have falsely blamed the crisis on generous pandemic unemployment benefits, arguing that they’re a disincentive to return to the labor force. Study after study has proven this is not the case. Instead, more seismic forces are at work. [Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Gas prices expected to increase after Hurricane Ida shuts down coastal refineries: Local gas prices are expected to increase this week after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana and Mississippi, knocking out power for more than 1 million residents and forcing about 13% of the nation’s oil refining capacity offline. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory confirm anthrax case in Jackson County: State officials confirmed a case of anthrax in livestock for the first time in 25 years. The Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed the case among cattle in Jackson County in southwest Oklahoma last week. Officials said the affected area is under quarantine and the exposed herd will be vaccinated for anthrax to prevent further spread. They said the food supply is not affected. [The Oklahoman]

General News

The Greenwood Gallery Features “Leaders in Color” In September Exhibit Opening: The Covid-19 pandemic stirred many new aspirations in people, particularly in artists, who are now using new mediums to inspire change and celebrate some of the world’s leading changemakers. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve. The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely.”

-U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaking about civil rights investigations into five states, including Oklahoma, that have banned or limited mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health condition [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Average death rate in Oklahoma jails, per 1,000 incarcerated individuals, between 2009 and 2019. The national average is 1.46. [Reuters]

Policy Note

Medicaid’s Evolving Role in Advancing the Health of People Involved in the Justice System: Because many people who are incarcerated are poor, most of them are eligible for Medicaid. States that have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults play a particularly strong role in providing coverage to justice-involved people. Over the past several years, states and providers have strengthened Medicaid coverage and services for people who are involved in the justice system. [The Commonwealth Fund]

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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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