In The Know: State updates hospital surge plan | unemployment in Oklahoma | & more

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

Officials say beds still available as COVID hospitalizations rise to record highs: As the number of people hospitalized due to complications of COVID-19 hit an all-time high Monday, state officials were quick to reassure Oklahomans that hospitals still have capacity. In a news conference Tuesday, officials also outlined a new, four-tiered hospital surge plan that they say will be complete in the coming days. [The Oklahoman] Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state does not want to mandate how hospitals operate. The plan was created by the state, hospital officials and other health care professionals. [Tulsa World]

  • Video: Stitt, health officials share update on COVID-19 hospital surge plan [The Oklahoman]
  • Officials announce changes to Oklahoma’s hospital surge plan before hospitals agree [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 18 more deaths reported as hospitalizations hit another record in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Health News

3 OSU students take their own lives, students want change: Oklahoma State University confirmed three students who attend classes at the Stillwater campus have taken their own lives since August. Some students say they believe it’s because of added stress from the pandemic. [KTUL]

State Government News

Increase in government jobs drives down unemployment rate in Oklahoma, says latest labor report: State unemployment declined from 5.7% in August to 5.3% in September, almost entirely due to increases in government-related jobs, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. [Tulsa World]

Complaints aired about state’s unemployment vendor: The vendor the state hired to deliver unemployment payments drew criticism Tuesday during an interim study. [Tulsa World] Lawmakers scrutinized the state’s relationship with a beleaguered vendor Tuesday after it struggled to disperse billions of dollars in unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has complained Conduent is not giving them detailed enough information on accounts it flags for potential fraud to effectively deal with it. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Election News

Five things to know about State Question 805: Oklahomans will decide State Question 805 during the Nov. 3 general election, but many have expressed confusion on what exactly the measure would do. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy recently addressed misinformation about SQ 805.

Oklahoma Engaged: State Question 814 has a history: In two weeks, Oklahoma voters will decide whether they want to take annual payments from a public health program and put them toward Medicaid expansion. But, State Question 814 is not the first time Oklahoma has considered taking money out of the state’s tobacco settlement program. [StateImpact Oklahoma] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 814 available at

Editorial: State has a good process in place for handling mail-in ballots: We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric lately about ballot security as states work out how to deal with an influx of mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 general election. We can’t speak for all states, but we can assure people Oklahoma has a good plan in place, and we don’t see any chance for widespread voter fraud. [Editorial Board / Enid News & Eagle]

Deadline to request absentee ballots nears: Less than a week remains for registered voters in Cherokee County to apply for absentee ballots to be mailed to them for the Nov. 3 general election and city of Tahlequah special election, County Election Board Secretary Tiffany Rozell said Tuesday. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Stone takes on Treat, Senate’s most powerful incumbent, for NW OKC seat: Oklahoma Senate District 47 is held by Greg Treat who is the state’s Senate President Pro Tempore. He is seeking re-election for his last term while his newcomer challenger, Andrea Stone, is trying to stop that from happening. [OKC Free Press]

Three things about the final debate in the Horn, Bice congressional race: U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn and state Sen. Stephanie Bice covered several familiar topics Tuesday in a debate that offered few new insights into their positions two weeks from the Nov. 3 election. [The Oklahoman]

  • Third and last Horn, Bice debate focuses on who is the most bipartisan [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

Late release of city’s Equality Indicators report due to COVID-19, official says: The city of Tulsa has yet to release this year’s Equality Indicators report because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s chief resilience officer said Tuesday. No additional explanation for the delay was provided. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Commercial construction declines here, across country: Delayed or canceled commercial construction projects have resulted in job losses in Oklahoma and across the country and a dimming outlook for recovery in the sector in the short term. [The Journal Record]

Education News

OKCPS welcomes back pre-K and kindergarten students: Oklahoma City Public Schools welcomed pre-K and kindergarten students back into buildings today on an A/B schedule, the first milestone in the district’s plan to bring all students back to in-person learning. [NonDoc]

  • OKC students are returning to school. Do their teachers agree? [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa middle, junior high and high school students will remain in distance learning until January, school board decides [Tulsa World]
  • Union parents have until Oct. 30 to select in-person or virtual for second semester [Tulsa World]

Epic Charter Schools board member resigns amid state audit fallout: One of Epic Charter Schools’ governing board members has resigned amid fallout from the state’s new investigative audit findings. [Tulsa World]

  • Epic Charter Schools: A Tulsa World investigation [Tulsa World]

Despite concerns, OK kids still learn cursive writing: It turns out penmanship remains an important skill that continues be taught at locals schools. In some states, though, schools are left to decide what styles of handwriting students will learn. Penmanship is an Oklahoma academic standard. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

General News

Researchers discover human remains in unmarked grave at Oaklawn Cemetery; further examination needed to determine Tulsa Race Massacre connection: Human remains found Tuesday morning in a section of Oaklawn Cemetery thought to contain unmarked graves from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre may or may not be connected to that century-old catastrophe, researchers say. [Tulsa World] The confirmed human remains were found little more than 3 feet (90 centimeters) underground in an area known as the “Original 18,” where funeral home records show massacre victims are buried. [AP News]

Militia plot against Michigan governor reopens 25-year-old OKC wounds: As 13 anti-government militia members await trial on charges related to a kidnapping plot against the governor of Michigan, leaders of an Oklahoma memorial to domestic terrorism victims have publicly denounced the extremist group. [NonDoc]

No indictments coming for David Boren, Tripp Hall: Retired OU President David Boren and a former OU vice president, Tripp Hall, will not face any indictments out of an investigation into sexual misconduct accusations made against them. [The Oklahoman] Patrick Ryan, the acting attorney general in the investigation into Boren and Hall, announced Tuesday that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into Boren and Hall is over. [The Norman Transcript] In March 2019, both Boren and Hall became the subject of an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation inquiry [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City of Tulsa mulls charges against Tulsa BLM activists after DA declines to prosecute painters [Tulsa World]
  • Petitions deadline starts over for Unite Norman [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

Whether voters choose to vote in person on election day, take advantage of early voting days or vote by mail-in ballot we are confident your vote will be counted.

—Enid News & Eagle Editorial Board writing about Oklahoma’s vote-by-mail process. [Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day


Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native children without insurance nationally (2019)

[Source: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Loss of the Affordable Care Act Would Widen Racial Disparities in Health Coverage: In November, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on a legal challenge, supported by the Trump administration, that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As noted in a previous KFF analysis, the outcome will have major effects throughout the health care system as the law’s provisions have affected nearly all Americans in some way. One of the most significant aspects of the ACA has been its expansion of health coverage options through the Medicaid expansion to low-income adults and the creation of the health insurance marketplaces with subsidies to help people purchase coverage. This analysis shows that these new coverage options have contributed to large gains in coverage, particularly among people of color, helping to narrow longstanding racial disparities in health coverage. The loss of these coverage pathways, particularly the Medicaid expansion, would likely lead to disproportionate coverage losses among people of color, which would widen disparities in coverage, access to care, and health outcomes. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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