In The Know: White House: College towns are a concern for state | Lack of testing helped virus outbreak in prison | Every vote counts

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

Policy Matters: Every vote counts: Voting is one of our most important responsibilities as Americans, but it’s a civic exercise in which far too few Oklahomans participate. A little more than half of eligible Oklahoma voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, which ranked us 46th nationally for low voter turnout. It gets even worse when you look at the March 3 presidential primary, where only about 1 in 5 eligible Oklahomans made it to the polls. [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]

Oklahoma News

White House on COVID-19: Oklahoma’s ‘university towns’ a concern; state drops to No. 9 for test positivity: The White House Coronavirus Task Force lists Oklahoma in the “red zone” for new cases for the eighth consecutive week and above the national average for five straight weeks, according to its latest report released by the state Wednesday. [Tulsa World] This week’s report says Oklahoma has the 13th highest new case count in the country, and it has the 9th highest positivity rate. But, it does say that new cases and testing positivity have remained stable. Community transmission continues to be high in rural and urban counties across Oklahoma, and the report notes increasing transmission in major university towns. [KOSU]

  • Tulsa Health Board Member calls for additional steps to contain COVID [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 12 more deaths reported with 719 new cases in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Without widespread testing, the coronavirus exploded in an Oklahoma prison: Without mandatory testing for staff and inmates transferred from another prison, COVID-19 has spread rapidly at Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, where women sleep on bunk beds in open dormitories. [The Frontier]

  • Inmate advocates raise concerns about conditions amid COVID-19 outbreak at Taft women’s prison [Tulsa World]
  • Ten at prison test positive for COVID-19 [Lawton Constitution]

State officials pitch updated school guidance in Return to Learn plan: Much like how cities in Oklahoma are responsible for their own face-covering requirements, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he prefers local control and personal responsibility over mandates when it comes to school districts deciding whether to require masks or when to decide to go in-person or online. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

  • Jenks Public Schools changes course, will bring students back next week [Public Radio Tulsa
  • Teacher resignation comes after Jenks decides to transition to in-person instruction [Tulsa World]
  • Enid resident details battle with COVID-19 on social media, while the mayor cancels a special meeting on mask mandate [KFOR]
  • Enid Public Schools quarantine counts fall, under 600 remain at home due to COVID-19 Wednesday [Enid News & Eagle]

30 days left to be counted in the 2020 Census: Now is the time to be counted in the 2020 Census. Data collection will end on September 30, and the U.S. Census Bureau is encouraging everyone in (state/city) to respond between now and the deadline of September 30. [Guthrie News Leader] Charity Inc.: One month left to make census count [Marnie Taylor / The Journal Record

Health News

House committee hears testimony on racism and public health: Race and racism is not a popular subject with the Oklahoma Legislature, but racism as a public health hazard got a hearing Wednesday before the House of Representatives’ Public Health Committee. [Tulsa World]

Rapid testing machines arriving at nursing homes: Hundreds of rapid COVID-19 testing machines are arriving at nursing homes across Oklahoma. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s 300 nursing homes already have received a rapid antigen testing analyzer, and the rest are expected to ship out later this week, officials said. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

State Government News

CARES funding helps Oklahoma regain some momentum: Much of the $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding made available to Oklahoma has been committed already or soon will be to support communities, schools and businesses across the state in their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Journal Record]

First Lady Sarah Stitt raising money to prevent child abuse: Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt is helping to raise money for a nonprofit that helps victims of child abuse. Stitt launched a fundraising campaign Wednesday called “Sarah’s Challenge” to raise $250,000 for the Care Center in the next 30 days. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Boy handcuffed this summer in viral ‘jaywalking’ video this summer remains charged with crimes in Osage County: Body camera video of the incident drew criticism from the community and Mayor G.T. Bynum when it was released in June, but the boys remain charged with crimes, and an internal affairs investigation into the way the boys were handled by officers is ongoing. [The Frontier]

Immigration detainers will now be honored in Oklahoma County jail: The Oklahoma County jail’s new administrative team plans to honor immigration detainer requests by holding some inmates up to an additional 48 hours past their scheduled release, reversing a long-standing policy previously enforced by the county sheriff’s office. [The Oklahoman]

Incident report filed against Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey: A formal incident report has been filed against Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey for allegedly pushing a member of the public at a recent meeting. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Incarceration does nothing for addiction, mental illness: As a society, we have criminalized mental health struggles. There is, in this case, a trifecta—incarceration, mental health, addiction. The point at which you enter the cycle doesn’t seem to matter much because the journey will be the same. [Editorial / Claremore Daily Progress]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa landlords were offered rent if they didn’t evict. Few took the deal: A program in Tulsa designed to stem evictions amid the pandemic fell flat when lawyers advised landlords the deal offering to pay back rent was too risky. The Landlord Tenant Relief Program was prepared to pay the rent for anyone who needed help this spring using public donations and unlimited funding from a private donor. In exchange, landlords had to agree not to evict tenants for the next three months. But organizers said they provided money for fewer than 15% of eligible eviction cases. Attorneys for eviction services companies that handle two-thirds of Tulsa’s evictions said they had warned landlords it was a risk to waive their eviction rights. [University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Tulsa will use $1.5 million in CARES Act funds for homeless response: The City Council on Wednesday approved the allocation of $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding, which includes $1.5 million to shelter and serve people without homes. The $1.5 million will allow two existing programs to continue operating and a third to reopen after its funding ran out. [Tulsa World] Council signs off on spending $2 million of City of Tulsa’s coronavirus funds from state [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

40 Oklahoma meat processors receive grants to upgrade, expand facilities: The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry has distributed $10 million CARES Act grants to help meat processors expand, an effort to calm disruptions in the meat supply chain caused by COVID-19. The Agriculture Enhancement and Diversification Board received 197 applications, but only 40 locations received funding. [KOSU]

Education News

Whether in school or online, USDA says all students can still get free meals: Schools are resuming instruction but with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, they are facing an ever-changing metric for whether students are physically in school buildings. Being able to provide meals to them no matter how they’re learning remains a challenging priority. [KOSU]

General News

OKC Thunder announces voting initiative: The Oklahoma City Thunder announced a new initiative this week called Thunder Vote, which aims to ensure all eligible Oklahoma citizens are registered to vote, educated on candidates and issues and prepared to cast their ballots. [KGOU]

The Antifa hoax: Social media rumors stoke frustration: The organizers of Friday night’s “solidarity march” in northwest Oklahoma City were clear from the beginning about the event’s purpose: to honor the lives of those affected by racial injustice. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • ‘Black Lives Matter’ street painting to be removed as part of scheduled repaving of Greenwood Avenue [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • ‘A big one’: Largest highway project in cost for Tulsa to be considered next week [Tulsa World]
  • Norman City Council eyes restrictions, guidelines for game day [Norman Transcript] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Fort Sill says trends looking good following basic training ‘COVID pocket’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“We’re literally sleeping on top of each other in here. Social distancing is a joke.”

-Chelsea Norton, who is incarcerated at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center and has tested positive for COVID-19 [The Frontier

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s total voter turnout who voted-by-mail in the June 30 election.

[Source: Tulsa World]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to Combat Online Voter Suppression: Voter suppression has been defined traditionally as efforts to discourage or prevent certain groups of people from voting. But in the digital world, it is much more complicated. On social media, the most obvious forms include posting false information about dates, locations, and voting procedures, and those are relatively easy to combat with the proper mix of machine learning and human review. As it stands, there is nothing compelling Facebook, or any internet company, to protect the bedrock of our democratic process: free and fair elections. We have ceded the decision-making about what rules to write and what to enforce to CEOs of for-profit internet companies. With a few months to go until a presidential election that promises to be a major test of American democratic institutions, American laws are in desperate need of update to address digital forms of voter suppression and how political debate and campaigning has moved online. [Brookings Institute]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.