In The Know: Virus straining state’s rural hospitals | Gov.’s office expressed private support for local mask rules | Special session needed

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

There are many reasons to call a special session and, contrary to claim from the Governor’s office, no reasons not to: Oklahoma hasn’t yet fully committed to fighting the human, social, and economic damage wrought by COVID-19; instead our leadership has largely relied on federal action, pleas, and hope. Time is running out for all three, and it’s nearly three months before the Legislature is scheduled to reconvene. Now is the time for our governor and lawmakers to demonstrate that they are serious about helping us through this most difficult of times. A special session is a big first step in that direction. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma’s coronavirus surge is leaving rural areas struggling to find beds for critically ill patients: As the demand for intensive care among Oklahoma’s coronavirus patients continues to surge, the system is seeing strain from beginning to end — from ambulance services, to small-town hospitals, to the state’s metro health systems. [The Frontier and StateImpact Oklahoma

  • Active Coronavirus cases pop up in prison towns, suburbs [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Doctor: Oklahoma virus restrictions ‘too little, too late’ [AP News]
  • Governor won’t mandate masks despite study showing slowed spread [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Spikes lower in mask mandate cities like Norman [The Norman Transcript]
  • Sunday – Oklahoma reports 3,406 new COVID-19 cases, 10 new deaths [AP News] | [Tulsa World]
  • Without city action, Enid health care officials say system will be ‘overwhelmed’ [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Oklahoma ‘almost inevitably going to overload’ hospitals as COVID infections keep rising [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • In the red: 35 of 42 Tulsa County ZIP codes have ‘severe and uncontrolled’ COVID-19 spread [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa City Council will consider COVID-19 regulations Tuesday night [Tulsa World]
  • Op-Ed: Rural America must do its part in curbing pandemic [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Governor’s office expressed private support for local mask mandate vote: The day before the Jenks city council was scheduled to take up a vote on whether to adopt a mask mandate, Bond Payne, the governor’s chief of staff, left a voicemail for Jenks Mayor Robert Lee. “I understand you guys are voting on a mask mandate tomorrow and just wanted to reach out and offer some support for what you’re doing,” said Bond, according to a recording of the Nov. 9 voicemail he left the mayor, which was shared with The Frontier. [The Frontier]

  • U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas Op-Ed: As COVID-19 winter approaches, Oklahoma must act [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]
  • Editorial: Jenks, Sapulpa, Glenpool, Claremore smart to follow public health mask mandate recommendation [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Health News

Point of View: Privatizing Medicaid not the right solution for Oklahoma: Something everybody can agree on in 2020: Health care is expensive. It affects our personal finances, local economies and the state budget. Privatizing Medicaid in Oklahoma isn’t an answer to that problem. We know because we have tried before. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Managed care will be bad for patients and providers

COVID-19 frontline fatigue: ‘It has been draining and frustrating seeing the lack of concern,’ ER doc says: To frontline health care workers like Hunter Hall who are witnessing individuals’ last breaths day in and day out, the mounting death toll from the pandemic doesn’t just represent wave upon wave of sadness and compounding grief. It’s also exacting a personal toll that feels like failure. [Tulsa World]

Who will get vaccinated first in Oklahoma?: With announcements earlier this month that two pharmaceutical giants have developed effective COVID-19 vaccines, Oklahoma and other states across the nation are ramping up plans to distribute millions of doses of the potentially life-saving vaccine in the coming months. [Oklahoma Watch] But while vaccines against COVID-19 have appeared on the horizon, experts warn it will take months for most to receive it. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma using $15 million in CARES Act funds to update state websites: The state is using $15 million in coronavirus stimulus funds to revamp at least 24 state websites, including those for many of the state’s largest agencies. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which oversees information technology requests for state agencies, is using CARES Act funds to modernize state websites most often used by the public. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tulsa County expects to allocate all $114 million of its CARES Act funds by year’s end [Tulsa World]

Gov. Stitt’s legal, other fees in tribal gaming disputes top $2 million: Legal and other fees associated with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s disagreement with tribes over gaming compacts has topped $2 million. “The expenses incurred were a result of lawsuits filed against the governor, not by him,” said Charlie Hannema, a Stitt spokesman. “Gov. Stitt is focused on protecting the state’s best interest and the litigation cost pales in comparison to what is at stake.” The Tulsa World in July reported the fees were $1.5 million and were expected to rise. [Tulsa World]

‘Integrity in elections’ concern of Oklahoma Republican lawmaker amplifying election conspiracy claims: An Oklahoma lawmaker who has been aggressively pushing conspiracy theories about the presidential election said Friday that he is just concerned about “integrity” and will accept whatever courts decide about President Donald Trump’s apparent loss to Democrat Joe Biden. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House Republicans encourage Arizona lawmakers to interfere in 2020 election: Nearly all Republicans in the Oklahoma House signed a letter sent to the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives encouraging them to get involved in the 2020 election. They’re calling on that state’s legislature to ensure all legal votes in the state for federal elections are counted and “all illegal votes for the same are rejected.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘Anti-riot legislation’ proposed by Standridge: State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has filed a bill to amend current legislation set in place for anybody arrested and charged while partaking in a riot. Announced on Sep. 28, Standirdge called his proposal “anti-riot legislation,” which would add stricter punishment to those charged with rioting. [The Norman Transcript]

Gov. Stitt’s COVID-19 restrictions, school board president fired, prison practice ended and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses Governor Stitt’s restrictions on bars and restaurants and mask requirement for state employees and in state buildings to curb the spread of COVID-19 as well as Stitt’s firing the president of the Virtual Charter School Board as he was investigating Epic Virtual Charter School. [KOSU]

  • Capitol Insider: Lawmakers begin preparing for 2021 legislative session [KGOU]

State AG said McGirt ruling doesn’t apply to local cases: Oklahoma’s Attorney General has offered his opinion on a pair of Comanche County murder cases that challenge the Comanche County District Court’s jurisdiction. [The Lawton Constitution]

Latimer County judge to rule on tribe’s reservation status: A Latimer County judge will make his decision following a Friday hearing on whether the reservation status of the Choctaw Nation was disestablished. [McAlester News Capital]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma City police officers shoot, kill man on south side: Two Oklahoma City police officers shot and killed a man after he raised a shotgun as they approached him on the city’s south side, police said Friday. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

New homeless shelter may provide additional beds during COVID-19 pandemic: Oklahoma City’s homeless shelters collectively cut bed space by roughly a third this year to allow for social distancing during the pandemic, and freezing temperatures are straining that shortage further. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma County small business relief available starting November 23: Oklahoma County businesses of less than 100 will have the opportunity to receive grants from COVID-19 disaster relief funds on the application website Monday. Especially small, local businesses have been hardest hit by the reduction in business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic since March. [OKC Free Press]

Hochatown: Southeast Oklahoma’s unlikely tourism hub: For most of its existence, Hochatown was barely a blip on the map in a wooded corner of southeast Oklahoma. But, in recent years, businesses such as the distillery have sprung up, bringing a new life to the once rural and isolated community. [NonDoc]

Analysts: Oil and gas is down but not out: Dark clouds have been gathering over the oil and gas industry for a long time, and now we’re seeing the wave of Chapter 11 filings and merger announcements that industry watchers have been predicting for years. [The Journal Record]

OKC airport traffic expected to shrink amid COVID concerns as CDC warns against Thanksgiving travel: Roughly half as many people are expected to fly out of Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving this year compared to 2019, according to figures released by airlines and the TSA. [The Oklahoman]

Facial recognition is not just for your phone. It could be used to prevent livestock disease: To the human eye, a herd of cows look almost identical. But new technology is being developed to identify cattle through facial recognition and this research may lead to a faster way to track cattle in the event of a disease outbreak. [KOSU]

Education News

Oklahoma schools are starting to defy CDC quarantine rules: Some school leaders believe those rules are too restrictive and say masking should limit quarantines. Under a new district rule, if a child in Woodward Public Schools is wearing a mask and is exposed to a person also wearing a mask with COVID-19, they will no longer be required to quarantine. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Oklahoma parents to rally for in-person learning as COVID-19 cases climb [FOX25]

The coveducation week: House Dems ask two SVCSB members to resign: Members of the House Democratic Caucus education policy group released a statement this week asking two members of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to step down owing to alleged conflicts of interest with Epic Charter Schools. [NonDoc]

General News

Joy Harjo gets rare third term as U.S. Poet Laureate: Muscogee (Creek) Citizen Joy Harjo has been appointed to a third term as the U.S. Poet Laureate. First appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate in 2019, she’s the second poet to serve this many terms. The first was Robert Pinsky in 1997. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC City Council to vote on mask mandate extension [The Oklahoman]
  • Nazi-looted painting should return to OU, federal judge rules [The Oklahoman]
  • Muskogee City Council gears up for videoconferenced public meetings [Muskogee Phoenix]

Quote of the Day

“I think some of the new restrictions that have been put into place may have some benefit for reducing spread of the disease, but quite honestly … I think it’s too little, too late right now.”

-Dr. Dale Bratzler, University of Oklahoma’s Chief COVID Officer, speaking about the state’s virus-related restrictions announced last week [AP News]

Number of the Day


Percent of Medicaid-funded births in Oklahoma compared to 42.3% nationally.

[Source: Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Thanksgiving Myth gets a deeper look this year: It is now widely accepted that the story of a friendship-sealing repast between white colonists and Native Americans is inaccurate. Articles debunking the tale have become as reliable an annual media ritual as recipes for cornbread stuffing. But this year should be different, say Native American leaders, scholars and teachers. The holiday arrives in the midst of a national struggle over racial justice, and a pandemic that has landed with particular force on marginalized communities of color. The crises have fueled an intense re-examination of the roots of persistent inequities in American life. [New York Times]

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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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