In The Know: Virus rates climbed after Halloween | Managed care harms Native communities | ‘Pretty please’ isn’t working

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

Managed care will have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities: Gov. Stitt and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) are taking risks that could compromise the benefits of Medicaid expansion by changing the entire Medicaid administrative structure in just one year. Managed care has historically failed in Oklahoma, and if it fails again, it will hurt patients, providers, and taxpayers. This negative impact will likely be even worse for Oklahoma’s Indigenous communities, who make up roughly 10 percent of both the current and expansion SoonerCare population, according to an analysis from the health care advocacy group Families USA. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: When ‘pretty please’ isn’t enough: If you Google “Stitt” and the phrase “personal responsibility,” your search will return more than 30,000 results. A large number, to be sure … but about 125,000 short from the number of Oklahomans who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Throughout this pandemic, Gov. Kevin Stitt has heralded the message that our strong sense of personal responsibility would keep the virus at bay because Oklahomans know wearing masks is the right thing to do. The recent spike in virus cases – with a seven-day average of more than 2,600 new cases daily – tells us a far different story. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Halloween to blame as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise ‘week over week,’ White House report states: In a 16-hour period, Oklahoma reported COVID-19 daily records for hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths. Additionally, the state’s seven-day moving average of new cases Wednesday hit a record 2,729. Hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths are all metrics that lag new cases. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma City hospital capacity: COVID-19 patients from rural counties filling rooms [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID-19: Record 1,434 hospitalized as 26 more deaths, 3,017 new cases reported in Oklahoma [Tulsa World] | [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma virus hospitalizations top 1,400, spread unyielding [AP News]
  • More national coverage of Oklahoma’s hospital crisis; Lawton ICU over 100% capacity [Public Radio Tulsa] | [ABC News]
  • Keeling: Hospitalizations continue ‘unsustainable trajectory” [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Tulsa contemplating additional measures to slow spread of COVID-19, city councilor says [Tulsa World]
  • Cutting capacity would curb spread better than curfew on bars, restaurants, COVID-19 expert says [Tulsa World]
  • Growing number of Tulsa suburbs heeding the call to implement mask mandates [Tulsa World]

‘It was Hell’: Inside an Oklahoma prison coronavirus outbreak: From mid-July through early September, corrections officials report that 4,518 inmates—making up one in five Oklahoma prisoners—were transferred to another facility. Many of these inmates were not tested for COVID-19 before being moved. By late September, 82% of inmates housed at William S. Key had tested positive for COVID-19. Robert Lavern was one of them. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy: COVID-19 in Oklahoma prisons is a moral emergency.

Editorial: Gov. Stitt, Oklahoma needs a mask mandate now. The state’s health and economic future are at risk: We were unimpressed with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s COVID-19 executive orders earlier this week. They are the latest examples of his failure to do necessary things to protect the people of Oklahoma during a deadly pandemic. Starting Thursday, Stitt ordered bars to close at 11 p.m.; restaurants must do the same except for delivery and drive-through. He ordered tables in bars and restaurants to be at least 6 feet apart. Stitt also ordered state employees to wear masks when working and in state buildings. State legislative leaders followed Stitt’s order with an announcement that the same rules would be in effect for lawmakers in the Capitol. And that’s it. Those are half-steps at best, some of which were already largely in place in our experience. We’d say the governor’s orders were good so far as they went, but that thought is superseded by this one: They don’t go far enough. Not even close. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Health News

Vaccine release will bring distribution challenges: Preparing for the first coronavirus vaccine release later this year, state health officials face unprecedented challenges. The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, which is expected to be the first available to Oklahomans, is unique. That’s because the vaccine requires ultra-low freezers to store for long periods of time, said Dr. Jared Taylor, the state’s epidemiologist. [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]

‘COVID has really hit our Nation’: Oklahoma tribes reporting high COVID cases: On Monday, the Cherokee Nation hit a grim milestone in its battle against COVID-19. The Nation’s ICU beds were at capacity with coronavirus patients. But the number fluctuates and they will be able to transport patients to other facilities. [KOSU]

‘People are going to die’: Hospitals in half the states are facing a massive staffing shortage as COVID-19 surges: Hospitals in at least 25 states (including Oklahoma) are critically short of nurses, doctors, and other staff as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, according to the industry’s trade association and a tally conducted by STAT. [STAT]

State Government News

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Board approves legislative requests: The state Board of Corrections approved a list of legislative requests on Wednesday that will be introduced to lawmakers during the next legislative session. The Department of Corrections asked its board to approve nine bills to take to the Capitol next year. [KOSU]

State pension systems losing ground: State pension systems lost ground this year in terms of their funding status, reversing a long-term trend of assets increasing as compared to liabilities. [The Journal Record]

New CFO to help state ‘remain good stewards of Oklahomans’ tax dollars,’ Gov. Stitt says: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday announced the hiring of Amanda Rodriguez as the state’s chief financial officer. Rodriguez will oversee development of the governor’s executive budget and work with his Cabinet to improve financial reporting and accountability. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Many G.O.P. governors avoid stating plainly that Biden won: More than a week after the presidential race had been called for Joseph R. Biden Jr., Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma had not yet publicly acknowledged the outcome. Then, on Monday, in the final seconds of a half-hour news conference on the resurgence of the coronavirus, a reporter slipped in one more question: Who would the governor be coordinating with at the federal level in the days ahead? [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa County Courthouse subject of criticism over lax COVID-19 precautions, crowded hallways as pandemic surges: Tulsa County officials on Wednesday pledged better enforcement of safety protocols for in-person courthouse business during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic after at least two attorneys made social media posts about a hallway crowded with people awaiting required court appearances. [Tulsa World]

Plan involving Calvey and Iowa consulting firm deferred until December: A plan to hire a consulting firm to advise Oklahoma County and to have Commissioner Kevin Calvey as the manager on the county side of that relationship has been deferred by the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners. [OKC Free Press] Commissioner Kevin Calvey submitted the agenda item to name RSM US LLP as the consultants on the use of CARES Act funds including the draft of the engagement letter. [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

City Council approves plan aimed at providing housing assistance in north Tulsa: City councilors approved a program Wednesday that is expected to provide more than $40 million for housing assistance, school support and other enhancements in the neighborhoods surrounding the Peoria-Mohawk Business Park in north Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

State and federal efforts to help small meatpacking plants may take time: Earlier this year, COVID-19 outbreaks as large slaughterhouses and meat processing plants led to temporary closures. That resulted in higher prices and meat shortages at grocery stores, which in turn led some consumers to look at local meat from small, mostly rural processing plants. [KOSU]

Education News

Masking rules a patchwork in Oklahoma schools: Despite that trust, masking rules are applied unevenly statewide. A survey conducted by the State Department of Education last month found about 80 percent have some rules requiring masks in place. However, those rules are applied unevenly and only about half of the state’s schools require masks in the classroom. Many policies simply apply to buses or hallways during passing periods. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • State superintendent says she would have implemented Oklahoma schools masking mandate ‘a long time ago’ [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • Union Public Schools cancels most bus service due to staffing shortages [Tulsa World]
  • Sand Springs elementary schools to shift to distance learning [Sandite Pride News]
  • Woodward school board approves mask mandate, changes in quarantine, isolation plan [Woodward News]
  • Tahlequah school board opts to reopen after Thanksgiving, if it’s possible [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Stephens County schools handle rising COVID-19 cases differently; Some plan for virtual, others change district plans [The Duncan Banner]

Sovereign Community School in Oklahoma City placed on probation: Oklahoma City-based Sovereign Community School was placed on probation last week. The Indigenous-led charter school’s downgrade comes amidst financial struggles and missed reporting deadlines [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • COVID-19 spike sends OKC Fire Department to Level Red, highest alert level [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘There for thousands’: Tulsa dispatcher dies of COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Broken Arrow City Council meeting features COVID misinformation, little support for mask mandate [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Glenpool City Council passes mask mandate in 3-2 vote [Tulsa World]
  • Owasso passes resolution strongly encouraging masks [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“With Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays, Oklahomans must understand the COVID-19 situation statewide. Serious messaging and action are needed from state leadership; recommending Oklahomans wear masks in public settings communicates the current risk level and actions all Oklahomans need to take.”

White House Coronavirus Task Force Report, Nov. 15

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma jobs generated by American Indian-owned businesses in Oklahoma

[Source: National Congress of American Indians]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

New project aims to increase COVID-19 testing for Native Americans: Native people are among the least likely to be tested for the coronavirus. There are several reasons for that, including lack of access to health care. [Spokane Public Radio]

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month. During this week, we will be sharing information that recognizes the history, cultures, and contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native people in the state and across the country, as well as the issues they face. 

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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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