In The Know: Stitt, Hofmeister disagree on mask mandates | Mask extensions | Outbreaks in prisons

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

Stitt, Hofmeister disagree on mask mandates for schools: Standing in a warehouse filled with boxes of reusable face masks purchased for teachers and students, the state’s governor and top school superintendent disagreed Tuesday over whether public schools should be mandated to use them. The $10 million worth of personal protective equipment — face masks and shields and disposable gloves and gowns — will be distributed to districts across the state by the end of the week in an effort to help schools prepare to reopen for in-person instruction for the first time in months. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] School districts across Oklahoma have reported COVID-19 cases within the first few days of class. Stitt said parents need to keep a close eye on whether their children have symptoms. [KOCO]

  • State delivers $10 million in PPE to schools [The Oklahoman]
  • OSSAA: Masks needed, but schools should decide [McAlester News Capital]
  • Jenks, Bartlesville districts announce positive tests, quarantines among staff [Tulsa World]
  • Confirmed COVID-19 case at Hilldale [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • NPS students could return to in-person learning in coming weeks, district announces [The Norman Transcript]
  • With students back in town, university officials try to mitigate COVID-19’s spread [KOSU]

Mask extension appears likely in Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma City Council will conduct a public hearing Sept. 1 on a proposed three-month extension of the city’s COVID-19 mask ordinance. In effect since July 17, the ordinance is to expire Sept. 8. The council agreed Tuesday, 6-1, to consider an extension before then. Tuesday’s vote was a clear indication the council has the necessary majority to extend the ordinance through Nov. 30. [The Oklahoman]

  • Anti-mask group sues city of Tulsa, alleges masks cause oxygen deprivation [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: Four more deaths in Tulsa County as 615 new cases reported in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa health department director describes ‘rough year’ of long days, death threats [Public Radio Tulsa]

Former inmate speaks out after a COVID-19 outbreak within the prisons: As coronavirus continues to spread behind bars, a new outbreak is being reported at an Oklahoma state prison. According to the Oklahoma department of corrections, more than 100 inmates have recently tested positive for the virus at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud. [FOX25]

Woodward has two concerns: COVID and the economy: Unlike Oklahoma’s major metro areas and other communities in the state, Woodward County did not see another confirmed case of COVID-19 until May 14, two full months after its first positive test. When Stitt unveiled a statewide timeline for reopening, Woodward followed suit. [NonDoc]

State Government News

Tulsa World Editorial: Fill out census to count all Oklahomans: An undercount could lead to the state having fewer U.S. House representatives and losing its fair share of federal funding for hospitals, schools, highways and social service programs such as senior centers and child care. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Effective date of historic state-tribal water agreement pushed back more than a year as Kiamichi River lawsuit is appealed: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board unanimously approved a measure to push back the deadline for the settlement agreement between the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, the state and Oklahoma City to go into effect from Sept. 30 to May of 2022. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Commission on Status of Women selects officers: The Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women has elected its officers for the 2020-21 year. The commission informs the Legislature and executive branch on issues impacting improvement of opportunities and quality of life for Oklahoma women. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Federal government approves Oklahoma’s request for unemployment aid: The federal government has approved Oklahoma’s request to offer an additional $300 a week in federal assistance to unemployed Oklahomans. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday it had approved the state’s request for additional federal funds under the Lost Wages Assistance program to supplement state unemployment benefits. [The Oklahoman]

Lankford, Horn disagree on postal service ‘crisis’: Republican Sen. James Lankford and Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn agree there is a manufactured “crisis” involving the U.S. Postal Service. They just disagree about who manufactured it. [The Oklahoman]

White House told Neese to withdraw her name from U.S. Mint position after the discovery of training tapes: In a series of training tapes Terry Neese told her employees to lie when communicating with a client, make pretend phone calls, promise clients unconfirmed raises and to “manipulate people 24 hours a day.” [The Frontier]

Criminal Justice News

Police oversight: Mayor Bynum opts for different direction, won’t pursue Denver model: Less than three months after committing to work with community members and the City Council to implement a police oversight model similar to the one in Denver, Mayor G.T. Bynum said this week that he’s been forced to abandon that plan and explore other options. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Norman offers rental and utility assistance to qualified residents affected by COVID-19: The city of Norman is offering a COVID-19 Rental and Utility Assistance Program to aid residents experiencing loss of employment due to the pandemic crisis. Program assistance can be used to cover payments for rent and utilities at OG&E, OEC, ONG and the City of Norman, which have resumed terminations on delinquent accounts. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Businesses have protections from pandemic-related lawsuits: Despite new legal protections extended for employers soldiering on with business during the COVID-19 pandemic, some 3,400 pandemic-related lawsuits have been filed across the country. [The Journal Record]

Lower energy costs seen during first half of 2020 providing relief to consumers: Wholesale electrical prices were lower the first half of this year than they were the same time in 2019, and that metaphorically feels like a cool breeze on a hot summer day. [The Oklahoman]

Oil analyst predicts industry bounce back after pandemic, but maybe fewer shale producers: A prominent industry analyst is not forecasting a permanent decrease in demand for oil after the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

OU, OSU land in bottom 10% nationwide for state appropriations to higher ed: In the early 1980s, state appropriations provided more than 40% of the University of Oklahoma’s operating budget. Today, the state pays for roughly 10% of the Norman campus’ budget. [Tulsa World] OK Policy Analysis: Investing in Oklahoma higher education yields strong returns [OK Policy]

General News

Tulsa County Election Board confident in local postal system, absentee ballot security: With President Donald Trump openly admitting to an attempt to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from handling the surge in mail-in ballots it expects due to the pandemic, as well as claiming that voting by mail allows for rampant fraud, the secretary of the Tulsa County Election Board said Tuesday that the body is confident in both the security of ballots for next week’s mayoral election and the ability of local postal workers to deliver them on time. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council sets up $2M aid to local live entertainment venues [Free Press OKC] | [The Journal Record]
  • Anti-voter suppression rally planned outside BOK Center on Wednesday afternoon [Tulsa World]
  • Norman residents challenge initiative petition [The Oklahoman]
  • Enid City Commissioner recall election vote tabled, won’t appear on Nov. 3 ballot [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Two local organizations report database breach to supporters [The Oklahoman]
  • Voting rights groups mark 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I actually got a letter from one of the girls last night. They’re scared, they’re terrified of what’s going on right now.”

– Brandy Gram, who was incarcerated for four years at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud for a non-violent crime, says women she still keeps in touch tell her the prison’s outbreak is getting worse. [Source: FOX25]

Number of the Day


Inflation adjusted value of the minumum wage in 1968. The current minimum wage in Oklahoma is $7.25.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Insitute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Now is still a good time to raise the minimum wage: As cities and states reopen their economies, the central challenge for businesses and economic policymakers will be restoring consumer demand and making regular economic activity safe in the face of continued legitimate concern over the virus. From a general macroeconomic perspective, raising the minimum wage in a period of depressed consumer demand is smart policy. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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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