In The Know: COVID-19 testing expected to increase this week; no statewide plan to restrict businesses; 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

COVID-19 crisis shows the need for health care now. Here’s three things lawmakers can do to protect Oklahomans’ health care: Recent events have made glaringly apparent how public health and economic crisis are inseparable. Policymakers must prioritize access to health care, particularly for the low-income Oklahomans most likely to be facing serious economic hardship in the coming weeks and months. To that end, there are many things the state can do to address the issues, but here are three actions state policymakers must immediately take. [Carly Putnam / OK Policy]

Providing food security for Oklahoma students who might otherwise go without meals: In response to this need, OSDE received approval for waivers to allow schools to provide “grab and go” meals at no cost to low-income students who qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch through the Summer Food Service Program. Districts will determine where and when students can get meals, but many have already announced locations where students can pick-up lunch and breakfast for the following day. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]

In The News

Oklahoma expected to ramp up COVID-19 testing over the next week: With the addition of four mobile sites and two university labs going online for testing, Oklahoma is expected to dramatically ramp up its COVID-19 testing capabilities over the next week. [The Frontier] Sunday’s press conference was held at the Oklahoma National Guard Regional Training Institute where 19 members of the guard have been mobilized to observe COVID-19 developments and plan for any actions deemed necessary by the governor. [NonDoc] On Friday, state health officials announced Oklahoma was entering into a new partnership with a private COVID-19 testing laboratory amid the ongoing shortage in public testing kits. [CNHI / Muskogee Phoenix]

Stitt forms task force, no plans to close businesses: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Sunday he will expand a gubernatorial task force to enhance the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stitt’s announcement came as some elected officials and business leaders are calling on the governor to take stronger actions to curb the spread of coronavirus as 67 Oklahomans already have tested positive for the illness and two have died. [The Oklahoman] National Guard ready but not deployed: ‘No need to activate,’ Gov. Stitt tells Tulsa World. [Tulsa World

Stitt affirms it’s ‘not government’s job’ to push for restrictions on local businesses in reaction to coronavirus concerns: As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rise and some states are implementing stringent rules, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday said he has no plans to tell local governments to put restrictions on businesses. “I don’t think that is the government’s job,” Stitt said. [Tulsa World] Gov. Stitt on Sunday repeatedly emphasized that he would not yet subject Oklahoma to a shelter-in-place order despite other states in the country opting to do so. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma Coronavirus Tracker [Oklahoma Watch]

The state trying to turn Obamacare into Trumpcare: Oklahoma actually has two paths for expanding the safety net program. Voters could later this year decide to go for a straight expansion. Or under Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s preferred route, Oklahoma could become the first state to try and take up the Trump administration’s new offer of a block grant, part of a major conservative revamping of the program that’s been a high priority of this White House. [Politico] OK Policy has put together the website so residents can learn more about the proposal, as well as have their voices heard about the governor’s proposal during the 30-day comment period.

COVID-19 coverage: So many storylines worth following: As you start your Monday, NonDoc blown the dust off the old “filter” to highlight a few components of COVID-19 coverage. This global story is moving quickly, so here are a few things worth following. [NonDoc]

Capitol Insider: State government adapts to COVID-19: As the first person at the State Capitol tests positive for COVID-19, state officials and agencies change their workflow to keep government open. KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss a momentous week at the Capitol. [KGOU]

Oklahoma lawmakers won’t return to Capitol next week amid virus spread: Lawmakers will not return next week to the Capitol in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, officials said Friday. Lawmakers must craft a fiscal year 2021 state budget by the last Friday in May. The effort appeared daunting as the revenue picture was changing due to dropping oil prices, reduced tax revenue and increasing unemployment as restaurants and other businesses closed to hamper the spread of COVID-19. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Tax Commission extends Oklahoma income tax filing date to match federal extention until July 15: Oklahomans now have until July 15 to file and pay their state income taxes as well as their federal taxes. In response to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin’s announcement Friday that the federal income tax filing date has been pushed back from April 15 to July 15, the Oklahoma Tax Commission is extending the 2019 Oklahoma income tax return due date from April 15 to July 15. [Tulsa World]

Candidates vying for state offices encouraged to submit filing documents via mail in wake of COVID-19 threat: Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax is encouraging those filing for state offices to do so via delivery service or mail in reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma prison system stops accepting newly sentenced prisoners amid pandemic: In a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Oklahoma prison system has locked its doors to newly sentenced prisoners from county jails from around the state. Depending on how long the crisis lasts, it could cause a logjam at Oklahoma’s two largest county jails in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. [The Frontier]

‘It’s terrible’: Health care providers struggle to secure protective equipment: OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City is reusing face masks and triage gowns. A doctor who owns a clinic in a rural Oklahoma town is completely out of masks for symptomatic patients and is making her own hand sanitizer. Medical providers are taking to social media, pleading for construction workers, painters and welders to donate supplies. [The Frontier]

‘Unforseeable future’: Laid off service industry workers face unprecedented unknowns: Countless workers were laid off as restaurants and bars were closed, some on their own accord and others by local governments, amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Bars have shut down and many restaurants, including Los Cabos, had to change drastically to keep operating. [Tulsa World] ‘The situation is really real’: Chesapeake Energy Arena’s hourly contract workers seek answers amid coronavirus shutdowns. [The Oklahoman]

Local homeless population remains concern amid Tulsa County COVID-19 community spread and limited testing capabilities: Without a home, it’s rather difficult to self-quarantine amid the COVID-19 outbreak. So the Tulsa Day Center remains open, but social distancing is impossible as officials grapple to develop contingency plans, according to Mack Haltom, the shelter’s executive director. Haltom said he feels a moral duty to remain open. [Tulsa World]

Cases of domestic violence, child abuse expected to climb: Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse are expected to rise in the coming days as families isolated by the coronavirus struggle to cope with fear and uncertainty, those who work to protect victims told The Oklahoman. [The Oklahoman]

Educators working to ensure support personnel get paid: Education leaders are dusting off an obscure pandemic law allowing public school teachers and administrators to still collect a paycheck while schools are shuttered the next two weeks amid the worsening COVID-19 outbreak. [CNHI / McAlester News]

Melissa Abdo: One lesson of coronavirus? We need public schools more than ever: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the State Board of Education are diligently making weighty decisions that affect 90% of Oklahoma schoolchildren and their families. These are decisions that don’t come with any easy options. [Melissa Abdo / Tulsa World]

Medication, meals and therapy; closed schools cut off lifeline for students: The shutdown of Oklahoma’s public school system has separated thousands of students from therapy and counseling services, disrupted the routine of medication management from a school nurse – often the only medical professional in a student’s life – and cut off a steady meal supply. [The Frontier]

Here’s why the state Education Department won’t let school districts implement remote learning during extended closure: Oklahoma State Department of Education officials say they’re working with superintendents to establish a remote-learning plan in the likely event the shutdown is extended. [Tulsa World]

Without classrooms, schools urged to push ahead with distance learning: School buildings may stay shuttered into summer due to COVID-19 but the state Education Department has begun giving school districts the green light to provide alternative instruction beginning April 6. [Oklahoma Watch]

‘One less thing for people to worry about’: School districts will set up ‘grab and go’ meal sites to keep students fed during extended closure: With public schools shut down for at least two weeks due to COVID-19, Tulsa-area districts are prepared to start distributing meals this week in an effort to prevent student hunger. [Tulsa World]

How to file for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma: The spread of the COVID-19 virus has led to a surge in furloughs and layoffs all across the country as restaurants, theaters and other venues have been ordered to close in many states. As consumers hunker down in their homes following the advice of public-health officials, many people are wondering how to file for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma. [NonDoc]

Janelle Stecklein: A first-person look at possible exposure: When news quickly spread across the Capitol that an unidentified Senate employee tested positive for COVID-19 last week, I wondered if I needed to be tested or self-isolate inside my home. After all, I work full time in the Capitol pressroom located just down the hallway from three state senators and the House minority leader. [Janelle Stecklein]

Many local small businesses devastated by outbreak, others bracing for more bad news: The coronavirus pandemic is devastating some sectors of thousands of small businesses in the Tulsa metro while helping others, at least in the short term. “There are some, like restaurants and some of the small shops, that are really feeling it,” said Colleen Almeida Smith, executive director of the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s Tulsa Small Business Connection. [Tulsa World]

Claremore area daycare owners share current response to COVID-19: While the state of Oklahoma is considering closing schools through the end of the school year, most daycare facilities are still up and running. Claremore area day care owners, however, have made multiple changes to the ways they do business in order to limit the spread of disease. [Claremore Progress] OK Policy: Child care plays pivotal role during national health emergency

‘We’re talking about lives’: Krebs mayor, business owners clash on coronavirus measures: Business leaders and the mayor of Krebs argued whether temporarily closing establishments would kill the city’s economy and leave several families without incomes, or if it would save lives amid the coronavirus pandemic. [McAlester News]

Five OKC hospitals change visitation policy: Adult patients at five health systems in the Oklahoma City metro area will no longer be able to receive visitors in an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus linked to COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Inhofe stock sale savings represents only a fraction of senator’s net worth: Stocks Sen. Jim Inhofe sold in the weeks and days leading up to the COVID-19-fueled stock market crash saved the longtime Oklahoma congressman between $68,624 and $136,289, an analysis by The Frontier shows. Inhofe was one of four senators whose stock sales drew scrutiny this week after the New York Times reported there had been a previously undisclosed private Senate briefing about the seriousness of the coronavirus. [The Frontier] U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe responds after stock deal draws scrutiny. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa, Trump administration warn of upheaval in Creek case: The city of Tulsa and the Trump administration warned last week of upheaval in eastern Oklahoma if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has a reservation. Such a ruling “would upend Tulsa’s system of government and force the City into years of litigation over the most basic exercises of regulatory authority,” the city said in written arguments filed Friday with the high court. [The Oklahoman]

The continual erasure of Greenwood: By now, most Tulsans are familiar with the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when miles of Black-owned businesses and homes were destroyed. Black residents have worked tirelessly for nearly a century to recover the history of Black Wall Street and their labor is finally being acknowledged. Yet, as our city’s collective memory is being restored, Greenwood’s physical presence is continually being erased. [Tulsa Star]

Quote of the Day

“It’s a possibility. Everything is on the table as we are in uncharted territory. This is changing so rapidly as the CDC gives more recommendations to us. So we’ll take that as it comes.”

-Gov. Kevin Stitt, when asked hypothetically if he would follow any recommendations from health officials to put all Oklahoma restaurants, bars and theaters under the same restrictions implemented by the mayors of Oklahoma City, Norman, Tulsa and other cities [NonDoc

Number of the Day


The number of days’ worth of protective equipment that Oklahoma hospitals have on hand (as of Sunday evening) 

[Source: Tulsa World]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How can Medicaid enhance state capacity to respond to COVID-19? Non-expansion states (like Oklahoma) could significantly expand access to care for low-income adults by implementing the expansion and would receive enhanced federal matching dollars (currently at 90%) for this coverage. A substantial body of research shows that the ACA Medicaid expansion has expanded coverage, increased access to care and utilization, and improved various economic measures. [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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