In The Know: White House report recommended statewide mask mandate since Aug. 2 | School virus responses vary widely | Casino fees down

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

Varied backgrounds of elected officials can bring innovative solutions (Capitol Update): The Oklahoma House and Senate are made up of “we the people” who are elected and come from various backgrounds and areas of expertise. Each member adds to the mix, making the whole literally greater than the sum of its parts. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update

Oklahoma News

State publishes eight White House coronavirus reports: Oklahoma has been in the “red zone” for coronavirus cases for more than a month, according to White House reports published Monday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The reports show the state has been in the “red zone” for infections, which indicates more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population, since July 14. [The Oklahoman] The committee’s recommendations evolved to become more stringent and broad as daily cases and positive test rates jumped, going from “ensure public use of masks” in hot spots in late June to “put in a mask requirement statewide” in early August. [Tulsa World] The reports, which contain specific policy recommendations for both state leaders and officials in specific cities and counties, were not made available to either the public or local-level elected leaders until Friday, when Stitt announced he would reverse course and publish them online. [Public Radio Tulsa

  • COVID-19: 357 new cases, four deaths reported across Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Mask, in-person learning policies differ widely throughout Oklahoma: As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to mount across the state and country, more than 65% of students in Oklahoma’s 50 largest school districts are being given the option of returning to in-person learning. An Oklahoma Watch review of school re-opening policies shows a patchwork of strategies and approaches towards reopening amid an unprecedented global pandemic. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Over 500 EPS students, staff are now out of school due to COVID-19 [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Stillwater schools shift to distance learning [Stillwater News Press]
  • Noble Public Schools classes to return after COVID-19 causes delay [Norman Transcript]
  • Union High School students hopeful, apprehensive as they return to school in person [Tulsa World]
  • Glenpool Public Schools quarantines 43 after kindergarten student tests positive for COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Preparation for new school year focuses attention on staff [Lawton Constitution]
  • UCO did not require COVID-19 testing for students moving on campus [Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma election: Voters in 50 counties head to polls for runoffs and other elections: Voters in 50 counties head to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in congressional, state and local races, and Oklahoma’s top election official said safety measures will be in place at polling sites. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Casino fees paid to state lag behind 2019: Fees paid to the state related to casino earnings by Native American tribes rebounded considerably in July, but totals collected so far in 2020 lag by about $30 million behind totals collected through the first seven months of 2019. [The Journal Record] The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported monthly exclusivity fee payments under gaming compacts fell from $12.3 million in February to $6.6 million in March and bottomed out at less than $21,000 in April with casinos closed. [Public Radio Tulsa] Casinos began reopening in May, when fee payments rose to $2.7 million. Payments reached $11.7 million in June. [AP News]

Governor appoints district judge to appeals court: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday announced the appointment of Oklahoma County District Judge Trevor S. Pemberton to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. The appointment, Stitt’s second to the court, fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Larry Joplin. Pemberton was one of three applicants provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission for the governor’s selection. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief says legislation in the wake of McGirt v. Oklahoma would be rushed: Last week, KOSU aired an interview with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter about the agreement in principle between the state and the tribes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case, possible legislation and shared jurisdiction. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Public frustrated after Oklahoma County Jail Trust approves hazard pay: The Oklahoma County Jail Trust on Monday approved giving $3 million in “hero pay” to county jail employees who continue to go to work during the pandemic. The money will allow eligible employees to receive $1,000 bonuses in the coming weeks. The jail is experiencing a staffing shortage because of employees that need to quarantine due to COVID-19, and jail administrator Greg Williams said the bonus will be an incentive for employees to stay healthy and cautious. [The Oklahoman] Before hearing a controversial item regarding CARES Act funding, the Trust’s Chairperson, Tricia Everest, addressed the crowd saying that she was aware that many wanted to comment on this agenda item. [OKC Free Press]

State denies county’s plan to reopen jail: In a letter to Jail Administrator Bill Hobbs dated Aug. 19, the Oklahoma State Department of Health denied the county’s plan to reopen the Comanche County Detention Center, saying the county’s plan does not provide for capacity compliance after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. [Lawton Constitution]

Economic Opportunity

As federal moratorium ends, Tulsa tenants seek help paying overdue rent to avoid evictions: In just one hectic hour Monday morning, hundreds of Tulsa families requested more than $400,000 to help pay their overdue rent, easily exceeding the amount of money that the city’s biggest rent-assistance program usually gives out in a year. [Tulsa World] An online portal is available for people who have lost their jobs or are receiving less pay during the pandemic. Up to $3,000 per household will be given on a first come, first served basis, but applications will be held open for two weeks once completed. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • With school out in spring, food insecurity rose, income fell for Tulsa families in ongoing study [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

Experts: Construction industry on track despite pandemic: Oklahoma City’s construction industry is resilient and has adapted quickly to take on even the most unexpected challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the heads of two major construction companies said Friday during a webinar hosted by The Journal Record. [The Journal Record]

Education News

House Democrats urge for statewide school COVID mandates: Democratic lawmakers have implored the Oklahoma State Board of Education to mandate COVID-19 precautions in schools. The House Democratic Education Policy Group, made up of seven House Democrats, sent a letter to state board members on Monday, asking them to reconsider their stance on school mandates. [The Oklahoman]

Epic Charter Schools targets state senator again in pre-election email to parents: Epic Charter Schools’ feud with a state senator who has questioned how it reports some of its student enrollment and attendance has continued through the eleventh hour before Tuesday’s primary runoff election. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: ‘What are we going to do when people start dying?’: That’s the question our editorial board has been confronting over the past few days. If we’re going to write obituaries — if so for whom, and when will we write them. It’s not if people start dying — it’s when. [Editorial Board / OU Daily

General News

Oklahoma Joe: A ranking where Oklahoma doesn’t have to be in bottom 10: U.S. Census response is becoming another sign of systematic failure in Oklahoma. But we don’t have to accept this particular failure. If you haven’t already, fill out your census now. If you know of a relative who hasn’t done it, encourage them to do so soon. If you thought you missed the deadline, you didn’t. It has been extended for at least one more month because of the pandemic. If more don’t do it, the loss of federal funds to Oklahoma could be staggering. [Joe Hight Column / The Journal Record]

U.S. Census timer running down, state funding at stake: The opportunity for Oklahomans to be counted in the U.S. Census is only weeks away, and officials are concerned about participation. “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.” [Tahlequah Daily Press]

What’s Black Lives Matter about? Combating police violence but also economic empowerment, advocates say: Exactly who and what Black Lives Matter is remains something of a mystery to many Americans, especially as it — or at least the phrase — has grown in prominence over the past few years, and especially in the past six months. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Norman councilman dies after less than two months in office [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I can’t imagine being in a situation where you’re trying to figure out your housing and trying to figure out if it’s safe for your kid to go to school or to do distance learning.” 

-Rev. Jeff Jaynes, executive director of Restore Hope, speaking about the need for reinstating a federal moratorium on evictions to reduce some of the fear and anxiety people are facing. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Amount of federal dollars received by Oklahoma in FY 2016 through 55 programs that rely on Census data for distribution models.

[Source: George Washington University Institute of Public Policy]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Will the census’s data privacy efforts erase rural America? Population counts in small towns can easily be distorted by data privacy methods. Data cannot have perfect privacy and perfect utility. Privacy protection must be lowered to have higher utility and vice versa. [Urban Institute]

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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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