In The Know: Virus surge is ‘unknown territory’ for state; local leaders frustrated by state response during pandemic’s early days; and 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.

New from OK Policy

Medicaid expansion: Ten years of unparalleled return on investment, improved outcomes: Oklahomans will be voting on a known quantity on June 30th this year when considering State Question 802, a measure to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income Oklahoma adults between the ages of 19 and 64. This paper provides a summary of the salient research on the impact of Medicaid expansion in order to specifically address remaining concerns, outlining the projected benefits to both the adults in Oklahoma that will be newly eligible for coverage, as well as the positive impacts for local and state economies. [Paul Shinn & MaryAnn Martin / OK Policy]

SQ 802 is good for Oklahoma — but don’t just take our word for it: OK Policy has collected editorials, opinion pieces, or endorsements on SQ 802 from across the state from the Cherokee Nation to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce to the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma. [OK Policy]  

Oklahoma News

Health Commissioner: Surge in cases “kind of unknown territory”: As Oklahoma’s surge in COVID-19 cases continued with 295 more on Tuesday, the state’s new Health Commissioner said “this is kind of unknown territory.” [The Oklahoman] State officials trying to figure out ‘new normal’ as COVID-19 surges; no indication of backtracking on reopening [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma City mayor reports ‘tsunami of cases’ among young: Oklahoma City’s metro area is witnessing an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections among young people that is being driven largely by “super spreader” indoor events like church activities, fitness classes, weddings, funerals and at bars, city officials said Tuesday. [AP News] Local employers and residents ages 18 to 50 are now being asked to take the lead in the effort to reverse the current trajectory of the pandemic before it overwhelms the health care system and inflicts yet worse harm on the local economy.  [The Journal Record] “If hospitalizations continue to rise at the rates seen over the last few days, or if deaths return to the rates seen previously, we will have little choice but to roll back to earlier phases of our re-opening,” Holt said. [The Oklahoman] OKC health officials urge special caution in seven types of situations to prevent spread of coronavirus. [KOCO]
  • McCurtain County sees outbreaks of COVID-19, with some cases at Tyson plant: The Oklahoma State Health Department is trying to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in McCurtain County that has vaulted Idabel and Broken Bow into the top 15 of city case numbers. Cases in McCurtain County, which is in the southeastern corner of the state, have risen from 200 on Friday to 349 on Tuesday. Positive tests at Choctaw Nation clinics have spiked in recent days. [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID-19: Two more deaths reported as cases rise by 295 across Oklahoma. [Tulsa World] Pandemic expert says spike in COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma is part of continuing first wave and not ‘second wave’ [KRMG] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma. 

City leaders frustrated by ‘inadequate leadership’ from state, county during pandemic: The Frontier requested coronavirus-related emails from dozens of cities and towns across Oklahoma and received more than 10,000 documents that revealed what city leaders were thinking and doing amid an unprecedented crisis. In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, many mayors and city officials in Oklahoma’s midsize cities often felt like they were receiving a lack of direction from state and county officials, according to those emails. [The Frontier]

Poteau March for Justice displays ‘Caucasian awakening’: On Saturday, the 76-year-old Ladell Phillips joined about 120 local residents, mostly white, in a march carrying signs and singing chants that have become familiar to those attending Black Lives Matter protests in large American cities. Only this time it was in Poteau, Oklahoma — population 8,520 and the seat of LeFlore County. One might say the Poteau March for Justice brought the Black Lives Matter movement to a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. But, in truth, the movement in Poteau came from within. [NonDoc]

Continuing coverage from last weekend’s presidential rally in Tulsa

  • Despite local police making arrests at behest of Trump campaign, city of Tulsa ‘will not bill the campaign’ [The Frontier]
  • BOK Center official: Future events will require guidance from city authority to be booked at BOK or Cox Business Center [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Mayor says “asterisk” needed next to Tulsa Fire Department’s Trump rally crowd figure [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Photojournalist says Trump rally arrest unjustified [Tulsa World]
  • Trump rally flop in Tulsa, but a hit on television [AP News]
  • How Tulsa, Oklahoma, mirrored a fractured nation during Trump’s rally [NBC]
  • Trump wants Tulsa’s John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park added to National Park Service [KOSU]

Health News

Expanding Medicaid in Oklahoma and Missouri a first step to improve American Indian and Alaska Native health care: Voters in Oklahoma and Missouri will decide on June 30 and August 4, respectively, whether their states will adopt the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion, which would improve access to health care for hundreds of thousands of low-income Oklahomans and Missourians — including tens of thousands of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people in these states. These ballot initiatives come at an important time: expanding coverage and improving access to health care for AI/AN people is especially crucial now, since COVID-19 has hit them particularly hard. [Analysis / Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Supporters, opponents forecast dire consequences if 802 passes, fails: Supporters and opponents of a controversial Medicaid expansion question say Oklahomans could face dire consequences depending on the outcome at the ballot box Tuesday. [CNHI via The Ada News]

G.O.P. faces risk from push to repeal health law during pandemic: At least one Republican lawmaker — Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a member of House leadership — conceded that the pandemic has made the electoral terrain for his party more challenging. He said he agreed with Mr. White, the strategist, that now may not be the best time to talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act. [New York Times]

State Government News

State agency to unveil new website for unemployment claims, other services: As it continues to chisel away at the backlog of cases, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission announced it would unveil a new website Wednesday that agency officials described as “designed to enhance user information and experience.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma high court rules on firearms, marijuana questions: A proposed state question to overturn Oklahoma’s ‘permitless carry’ law has been rejected, while another question to legalize marijuana statewide may proceed, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in separate cases. [AP News] But with the deadline for state questions to qualify for the ballot quickly approaching, it seems increasingly unlikely that any initiative petition campaigns that have not already collected signatures could qualify for the November ballot. [The Oklahoman]

Capitol Insider: Heading to the polls in 2020 (audio): With less than two weeks to go before the 2020 Oklahoma Primary Election, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and political science expert, Dr. Keith Gaddie, professor of journalism and architecture at the University of Oklahoma, discuss what to expect on election day. [KGOU]

Legislative scorecard showing lawmakers’ stands on child issues released: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) released its legislative scorecard for the 57th Oklahoma Legislature detailing lawmakers’ stands on children’s issues on Tuesday. [FOX25]

Federal Government News

National Endowment for the Humanities announces new CARES Act grants: The Greenwood Community Development Corporation in Tulsa, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and a Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Connecticut history project are among the 317 beneficiaries of additional CARES Act grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities that were announced on Monday. [The New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

One inmate COVID-19 positive at Payne County Jail: Payne County Sheriff Kevin Woodward announced Monday that no additional staff members at the Payne County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. One week ago, Woodward learned that one of his jailers had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus at a clinic in Guthrie after feeling ill and being sent home from work the previous weekend. [Stillwater News Press]

Accused judge takes paid suspension: An accused Oklahoma County district judge accepted a paid suspension Tuesday. Kendra Coleman, 44, faces trial before a special court on accusations involving unpaid taxes, her 2018 campaign and her behavior in court. She denies wrongdoing. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office to end contract with ICE to hold inmates in David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center: At the request of Sheriff Vic Regalado, Tulsa County commissioners voted Monday to give U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement a 90-days notice that the county is terminating its agreement to hold ICE inmates in the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. [Tulsa World]

“Perfectly designed”: New location enjoyed by Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office: The Oklahoma County sheriff’s office is fully moved out of the county jail and operating out of its new facility in northeast Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Saving a nonprofit uniquely Tulsa that improves trust between youth and police: Looking at the devastation rooted in the distrust between people of color and police officers, two Tulsa residents worked with Tulsa Public Schools to lease a ropes course with the idea of developing a program to bring officers and youth together on a level playing field. From that grew SkyWay, a nonprofit research institute with a mission to build trust, create leaders and increase hope. The curriculum and outcome measures were created in partnership with the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Hope Research Center. [Ginnie Graham column / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma could be facing an eviction crisis: Oklahoma could be hit by a flood of evictions of people who have lost jobs and face prospects of losing homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Kevin Stitt announced recently that $10 million in grant funding will be made available to nonprofit organizations suited to assist individuals and families in jeopardy of being evicted from homes, but concerns remain over whether that will be enough to stem an anticipated surge in evictions. [The Journal Record] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that reopening Oklahoma’s courts must be done thoughtfully to avoid a public health disaster.

Demand for free food increases: More people each week are benefiting from the City of Muskogee Foundation’s food box giveaway, reports indicate. The City of Muskogee Foundation began distributing the boxes on June 4 and will continue distributing them each Thursday through July 30. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Economy & Business News

Flash drought worsens dry conditions in southern great plains: Sheri Glazier is used to seeing dry conditions on the family farm in central Oklahoma around wheat harvesting time in June. But this year, the heat came faster than normal. She remembers the unusually early heat one day while driving the combine in the wheat field. [KOSU] Recent moisture has helped to slow drought in several areas in Oklahoma, and while it hasn’t eliminated it, the relief is important. [Woodward News]

Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Economic shut-down, restart stretches coin supply for banks, consumers: At least one Oklahoma bank has notified its customers it is conserving coins and seeking more as it deals with nationwide supply disruptions that have been caused by the coronavirus-spawned economic shutdown. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma cannabis businesses sue over residency, location requirements: Several medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma are asking a judge to block the state from enforcing laws they say could prevent some licensed cannabis businesses from continuing to operate. [The Oklahoman]

Chesapeake modifies debt agreement as it defaults on owed payments: Chesapeake Energy Corp. announced it has chosen to not make interest payments of about $3.4 million and $10.1 million that were due to investors involving two of its senior debt offerings on June 15. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Survey shows Oklahoma educators worried about health when school resumes: Nearly 2,900 teachers, administrators and support staff filled out a survey from the Oklahoma Education Association. The common theme across the board was safety concerns, especially in the classroom. [KOCO]

General News

White parents of Black children navigate a changing nation: Izzy Simons has been fired up about the prospect of driving on his own. The 15-year-old has craved the freedom a license promises. He imagines arriving at Southmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, someday in a navy blue crew cab Silverado truck with a lift kit. [AP News]

Local center launching one-of-a-kind program to help LGBTQ youth: A one-of-a-kind program for LGBTQ youth is launching in the Oklahoma City metro. The Nest program provides affirming treatment for teenagers who are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. [KOCO]

With no end of coronavirus in sight, blood donations needed in Oklahoma: With no known end to the coronavirus pandemic, Oklahoma is in need of blood donations to keep up the supply. The American Red Cross of Oklahoma says they are in need right now of blood donors to maintain a sufficient blood supply. [FOX25]

Editorial: Zarrow fund to commemorate race massacre victims is ‘what racial justice looks like’: Almost lost in last week’s fuss and fury was an announcement by the Zarrow Families Foundation that it would devote all of its resources for the next several years to a new commemoration fund honoring victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and addressing racial inequality in the city. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“We are now in a zone where we need to pay very close attention each day to what is happening with hospitalizations.”

-OKC Mayor David Holt about rising number of virus cases and hospitalizations in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage nationwide of uninsured Black adults in the coverage gap who would be newly eligible for health care if all states expanded Medicaid. The share among other races is 28% for people of color, 25% for Hispanics, and 23% for whites. 


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The impact of the coverage gap for adults in states not expanding Medicaid by race and ethnicity: People of color face longstanding and persistent disparities in accessing health coverage that contribute to greater barriers to care and poorer health outcomes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion to adults with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($27,724 for a family of three in 2015) makes many uninsured adults of color newly eligible for the program, which could increase their access to care and promote greater health equity. However, in states that do not implement the Medicaid expansion, many poor adults fall into a coverage gap and will likely remain uninsured. [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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