In The Know: White House: Oklahoma in virus ‘red zone’ | Officials bracing for future spikes | Census deadline looming

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

White House officials push Oklahoma to close bars and mandate masks in private task force document: The White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended Oklahoma close all of its bars and implement a statewide mask mandate. That recommendation came in a report that the White House has not released to the public, and that state officials have not released to city and public health leaders. [StateImpact Oklahoma] The report puts Oklahoma in the red zone for COVID-19 cases. The report is dated August 16, the same day Dr. Deborah Birx met with Oklahoma officials in Tulsa. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt told reporters that Birx gave no recommendations, but the report contains about a dozen recommendations, including a statewide mask mandate, bar closures and restricted indoor dining. [KOSU] [Read the Aug. 16 White House Coronavirus Task Force Report and Recommendations for Oklahoma

As state passes 50,000 infections and 700 deaths, experts warn of possible future spikes: As Oklahoma passed 50,000 reported infections and more than 700 deaths on Thursday, state health experts warned that the state’s months-long battle against the coronavirus is far from over. [The Oklahoman]

  • As confirmed coronavirus cases decline, deaths increasing [The Journal Record]
  • City’s mask mandate likely contributing to decline in new Tulsa County COVID-19 cases, officials say [Tulsa World]
  • Health department: Proportion of county COVID cases coming from Broken Arrow increasing [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma falls behind as census deadline looms: With the deadline to complete the 2020 U.S. Census looming just around the corner, Oklahoma is still lagging behind. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham in early August said in a prepared statement that field data collection will end by Sept. 30, as will self-response options, to permit the commencement of data processing. [Claremore Daily Progress] “If Oklahoma residents don’t self-report, no one will be looking for them after September,” said Larry Sanders, Oklahoma State University Extension agricultural policy specialist. “This is too important to put off any longer; there’s too much riding on the process.” [OSU News & Information] In order to supplement our capabilities to send census takers to households in person, the Census Bureau is training census takers to follow up with households by phone. [Woodward News]

Health News

Officials working to mitigate COVID-19 impact at Claremore Veterans Center: Health care officials at the Claremore Veterans Center on Thursday continued work to mitigate the ongoing deaths in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Nation’s unemployment rate at 10.2% as programs gear up to offer additional aid: The number of Oklahomans receiving continued unemployment assistance during the first week of August fell by about 10%, compared to the previous week. Data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor and Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) showed 117,141 residents getting continued assistance during the week ending Aug. 8, down from 129,971 the previous week. However, initial claims for assistance increased. [The Oklahoman]

Two more gaming compacts signed by Stitt deemed approved: The U.S. Department of Interior has deemed approved two tribal gaming compacts signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, he announced Thursday. The compacts are with the Kialegee Tribal Town and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. If the agency takes no action, the compacts are deemed approved. The tribes can begin operating under the terms once the compacts are published in the Federal Register. [Tulsa World] The new compacts would increase the fees the tribes pay on certain electronic games from 6% to as high as 13% if the tribes build casinos in new locations authorized under the deal. [AP News]

Stitt consolidates locations of 2 separate state agencies: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday plans to consolidate the location of two separate state agencies. Stitt issued an executive order consolidating the Office of Homeland Security with the Department of Emergency Management. [AP News]

Agriculture studies get a House look: The Oklahoma House Agriculture & Rural Development Committee at the state Capitol heard three interim studies last week. The studies were the first of more than 70 interim studies to be held in the House through Oct. 29. [Woodward News]

Criminal Justice News

OK County Commissioners transfer cares act relief funds to jail trust without hearing public comment: In less than five minutes two of Oklahoma County’s three county commissioners voted to transfer more than $34 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to the county jail trust. The board of county commissioners ignored days of protests against the move from local residents and one of their fellow commissioners. [KGOU]

Opinion: Oklahoma’s failure to pass bail reform is a crime against justice: The argument for bail reform that state Rep. Meloyde Blancett posted on her Facebook page last week is so convincing that it’s hard to believe the Legislature hasn’t listened. But it hasn’t … for years. Blancett has filed bail reform legislation every year she has been in the Legislature. So far, the jail-industrial complex has prevailed. [Wayne Greene Column / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Lessons from a crisis: While the pandemic of 2020 will no doubt be recalled in the future as a story of disaster, its final chapter may be about businesses in Oklahoma and elsewhere emerging more resilient and better prepared to handle a crisis, participants in a wide-ranging roundtable discussion said Thursday. [The Journal Record]

Industry players urge changes to production formula: Things have changed in the natural gas industry, and it may be time for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to reconsider its approach to regulating the industry, some producers and at least one commissioner argued Thursday. [The Journal Record]

Incentives offered to aerospace innovator: The Economic Development Trust has agreed to $275,000 in job-creation incentives for an aerospace company planning to set up shop in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

McAlester schools to reopen amid state-high COVID-19 rate: In the county with the highest COVID-19 rate in Oklahoma, McAlester Public Schools still plans to have students return in person. The McAlester Board of Education on Thursday adopted an alternating class schedule that will last only four days. After that, all students will return at the same time on Aug. 31. [The Oklahoman] Superintendent Randy Hughes said he believes the alternating schedule will allow fewer students on campus for the first week and limit contact as the district starts the year. [McAlester News Capital]

  • Moore schools to continue in-person instruction despite positive tests; Hofmeister continues to push for mask mandate [KOCO]
  • Grove Public Schools will resume on-campus classes Monday [Tulsa World]
  • Glenpool Public Schools requiring 41 to quarantine after potential COVID-19 exposure [Tulsa World]
  • Cordell kindergarten student tests positive for COVID-19 [KFOR]
  • Teacher at Marquette Catholic School tests positive for COVID-19, school official says [Tulsa World]
  • Meridian Technology Center students isolating after COVID-19 exposure [Stillwater News Press]
  • School for the Blind faces unique challenges against COVID-19 [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Dealing with COVID-19 increases costs for schools [Lawton Constitution]
  • Emergency Management distributes PPE to 10 counties for schools [The Lawton Constitution]

Schools short on substitute teachers as pandemic limits pool: For El Reno Public Schools Superintendent Craig McVay, it was the worst possible scenario. Two days before the start of in-person instruction, a COVID-19 outbreak inside the district’s third- and fourth-grade building sidelined 20 of 26 faculty and staff members until at least Sept. 2 [The Oklahoman]

Epic Charter Schools founders and backers keep up campaign influence spending amid state investigations: The operators of Epic Charter Schools and their backers have continued to promote and protect their political interests at the state Capitol by donating to candidates as law enforcement and state auditor’s investigations have been underway. [Tulsa World]

General News

Tribal courts toss Senate candidate’s lawsuit: Judicial bodies for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation last week tossed a wrongful termination lawsuit a state Senate candidate filed against the tribe’s chairman. Shane Jett, who was terminated on Aug 10 as CEO of the Nation’s Community Development Corporation, said he plans to pursue the lawsuit in federal court. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Mayoral Forum: Candidates clash over Tulsa’s racial divides and economic development [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Downtown Coordinating Council gets cares act money to help businesses expand outdoors [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa City Council again reaches no consensus on black lives matter street painting [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • American Airlines dropping flights: Stillwater among 15 cities losing service in October [Tulsa World] | [KOSU]
  • Stillwater restricts bars, Weedstock headliner has virus [AP News] | [Stillwater News Press]
  • Emergency order amended; looks to aid bars, restaurants [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“It’s unclear whether governors consistently share the reports with local leaders or even their own state health departments.”

-A report from the Center for Public Integrity about the White House virus reports that show Oklahoma is in the virus “red zone” [Read the Aug. 16 White House Coronavirus Task Force Report and Recommendations for Oklahoma]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults who expect someone in their household to have a loss in employment income in the next four weeks.

[Source: Census Bureau]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hiring outlook remains dim, with ‘scarring in the economy’: Although hiring nationwide has picked up in recent weeks, most of the payroll gains were temporarily laid-off workers who were rehired. The pool of employees whose previous jobs have disappeared and who must search for new ones has grown. [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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