In The Know: Virus contract tracing underway for state lawmakers | Local schools urged to mandate masks | State jobless claims drop

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

Contact tracing underway after two Oklahoma House members test positive for COVID-19: The Oklahoma House is working with the State Department of Health on contact tracing after two lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19. Both lawmakers showed no symptoms and took COVID tests as a requirement to attend events, said House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. [Tulsa World]

  • W.W. Hastings Hospital beds hit capacity with COVID patients [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Oklahoma reports second-highest increase in coronavirus cases, along with 11 deaths [KOSU] | [Tulsa World]
  • White House task force: COVID in Oklahoma is ‘unyielding’ [AP News]

Oklahoma’s State Board of Education begs local school leaders to mandate masks: Oklahoma’s State Board of Education again passed a motion further encouraging but not requiring school districts to mandate masks in their classrooms. Citing an explosion of cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks, board members passed the resolution that begs school boards and superintendents to implement mask mandates. [StateImpact Oklahoma] State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said it’s no secret she supports a statewide school mask mandate. Despite her urging for a mandatory policy, Hofmeister was outnumbered in a previous vote on school COVID-19 precautions. [The Oklahoman] Three Oklahoma physicians and a child advocacy group pleaded with the Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday for a statewide mandate for face masks in public schools, but the board left the matter up to local decision-makers. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

New jobless claims drop below 4,000 for 1st time since pandemic gripped Oklahoma: For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer than 4,000 Oklahomans filed new jobless claims last week. For the week ending Oct. 31, 3,858 people filed initial claims, a 22% drop from the previous week. [Public Radio Tulsa] Initial claims for unemployment benefits are still more than double the number who filed prior to the pandemic taking root here. [Tulsa World]

House GOP elects new leadership: Oklahoma House Republicans elected this week new leaders to serve for the next two years. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, will remain in his position for a third term. Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, was elected to serve as speaker pro tempore, replacing Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, who was term limited. O’Donnell previously served as House majority whip. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma inks deal for statewide camera network to catch uninsured drivers: Oklahoma is months away from deploying automated license plate readers across the state in an effort to crack down on uninsured drivers. The state recently inked a contract with Rekor Systems to provide the cameras and a case management system for Oklahoma’s Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion Program, or UVED. The program was launched in 2018, but the state left the original vendor in favor of Rekor. [The Oklahoman

Grocery business goes to court after state, tribe both seek sales taxes: A grocery store chain has filed a federal lawsuit that asks a judge to determine whether one of its stores should be required to collect sales tax for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, while it also collects sales tax for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. [Tulsa World]

Pandemic fight over Oklahoma abortion clinics: The attorneys who fought to keep Oklahoma abortion clinics open at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic want the state to pay them $548,143 in legal fees for their work. [The Oklahoman]

Virtual meetings to end, the Oklahoma County Budget Board, Jim Bridenstine leaving NASA and more (audio): This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses an end to an amendment on the Open Meetings Act allowing for public bodies to hold meetings virtually, the Oklahoma County Budget Board voting to take $15M returned by the Jail Trust for businesses and others impacted by the pandemic and former Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine stepping down as the head of NASA. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Lankford slammed by Trump loyalists over intelligence briefings: U.S. Sen. James Lankford didn’t acknowledge Democrat Joe Biden as the president-elect. He didn’t say President Donald Trump should concede the election. But to some Oklahomans, Lankford abandoned the GOP president when he vowed to ensure Biden receives classified intelligence briefings while states are still counting ballots. [The Oklahoman]

  • Inhofe, Lankford at odds on whether President-Elect Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Sen. Lankford: Presidential transition delay should be resolved by Friday [KOSU]
  • OSU professors discuss election’s impact on US, global relations [Stillwater News Press]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma County small business owners celebrate CARES Act money reallocation: Many Oklahoma County business owners are breathing a sigh of relief after the Oklahoma County Budget Board allocated millions in CARES Act funds to a program to help struggling businesses and organizations. [KFOR]

Energy companies still under the weather because of COVID-19, latest results show: Big and small and public and private Oklahoma energy companies continued to deal with changing market conditions driven by the COVID-19 pandemic during the third quarter of this year, filings and releases show. [The Oklahoman]

Bankruptcies spiraling for companies large and small: Since the arrival of COVID-19 on the world stage, well-known and well-established companies have fallen like dominoes to bankruptcy: Pier I Imports, Hertz Inc., Stage Stores, Gold’s Gym, GNC, Men’s Wearhouse and many others. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Epic Charter Schools gets a pass on accreditation downgrade from state Board of Education: The Oklahoma State Board of Education chose to put off the advice of its attorney to take punitive action against the state accreditation of Epic Charter Schools. At the conclusion of a 10-hour meeting, the state board tabled the matter. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma state testing window for current school year extended 3 weeks: Oklahoma’s state testing window for the current school year will start two weeks sooner and end one week later than originally planned. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Oklahoma pursuing health information network to make sharing patient information easier: Oklahoma is making progress on the creation of a statewide health information exchange, a central repository for digital patient information. A priority of Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is close to finalizing a contract with a company to create an exchange to make it easier for doctors, regardless of their health system, to access patient information. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“Wearing a mask makes a difference. Wearing a mask is not a sign of weakness or fear. It is not political. It’s an outward symbol that says, ‘I am contributing. I am willing to do what it takes to help.'”

-Dr. Julie Watson, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Integris Health [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults living in households with children who did not get needed medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic in Oklahoma, compared with the 25% national average.

[Source: KIDS Count]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why every state should adopt a mask mandate, in 4 charts: Over the course of the pandemic, America has been engaged in a massive and uncontrolled mask experiment: Some jurisdictions implemented and enforced mask mandates; others rejected them as public health guidance became politicized. But the different state-level approaches mean researchers can now parse the results of a trial they never would have received approval to conduct. New unpublished research from Kansas and Tennessee suggests that not only do mask mandates prevent Covid-19 spread, they may also blunt the severity of illness and reduce the number of serious cases that require hospitalization. Other findings support the argument more and more public health experts are making: that masks remain among our cheapest most effective tools to control the pandemic — if worn consistently. [Vox]

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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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