In The Know: COVID-19 testing supplies remain scarce in Oklahoma; Governor criticized for lack of statewide response; 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

Oklahoma courts have not suspended fines and fees: Oklahoma’s county courts, which handle all civil and most criminal cases across the state, have suspended most of their activities until April 15 at the earliest. There has been no official guidance about the collection of criminal fines and fees while court activity is suspended. Some agencies have taken action on their own, for instance Tulsa County has suspended new failure to pay warrants. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]

(Capitol Update) Future uncertain for Oklahoma’s 2020 Legislative session: It’s an understatement to say the future of this legislative session is uncertain. Last Tuesday when legislators left the Capitol, we knew the session would be interrupted for the week, which was already planned for spring break. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

In The News

Despite efforts to boost testing, Oklahoma still dependent on scarce supplies from outside sources: Though state officials announced Sunday that Oklahomans would see a boost in testing for the novel coronavirus by the end of the week, the state still must depend on testing supplies from manufacturers and federal sources. Those supplies, such as reagents, a chemical needed to complete the tests, remain in short supply across the U.S. During a press conference on Sunday evening, Gov. Stitt announced the state would establish four satellite COVID-19 testing sites in Oklahoma, Tulsa, Kay and Pittsburg counties this week. [The Frontier] Confirmed cases of the condition caused by novel coronavirus jumped by 14, totaling 81 for the state of Oklahoma. There have been two deaths and 15 hospitalizations due to COVID-19. [Tulsa World] More testing will show dramatic increase in COVID19 cases, experts say. [The Oklahoman]

Governor criticized for COVID-19 response: Gov. Kevin Stitt is drawing criticism for not ordering a statewide shutdown of businesses where people might normally congregate, like bars, full-service restaurants and hair and nail salons. [The Journal Record] The House Democratic caucus Monday called on Gov. Stitt to enact statewide closures of bars, fitness centers and indoor dining portions of restaurants in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. [CNHI / The Norman Transcript] One of the state’s most prominent CEO’s — Chad Richison from Paycom — has now sent the Governor two letters, urging him to do more for the well-being of Oklahomans. [KOSU]

COVID-19 in Oklahoma podcast: March 23: Host Ben Felder and Frontier reporter Kassie McClung discuss the increase in coronavirus tests expected this week and where the state is putting four mobile testing sites. [The Frontier] The Oklahoman has also launched a daily COVID-19 podcast. [The Oklahoman] Interactive maps: Known cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. [The Frontier] Oklahoma Coronavirus Tracker: Confirmed Cases Rise to 81. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health Care

State health department slow to let staff work from home: While urging other Oklahomans to stay at home to fight the spread of coronavirus, the state Health Department was telling its own employees to come to work anyway. “This event is going to be an all hands on deck,” Health Commissioner Gary Cox said in a video to the agency’s more than 2,300 employees early last week. [The Oklahoman]

Younger people test positive for Coronavirus, Oklahoma Department of Health says: The Oklahoma State Department of Health said younger people are testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) across the state. “The data that we see that derives specifically within our borders differs, even from that which we’ve seen from New York, California, and elsewhere,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Health Jerome Loughridge. [NewsOn6]

As cases rise, many hospitals say visiting hours are over: Integris, Mercy, Norman Regional, OU Medicine and SSM Health St. Anthony have all said no adult patients will be allowed visitors, with the exception of labor and delivery patients who will be allowed to have one visitor. Children will also be allowed one visitor for the duration of their stay. [The Oklahoman]


Lawmakers continue budget work with wary eye on state’s financial situation: Lawmakers are working to craft a budget for the next fiscal year and are preparing to plug holes in the existing budget in the midst of waves of financial uncertainty. Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, said while the numbers are fluid, it is possible the state could be short some $200 million for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. [Tulsa World]

Tom Ivester on COVID-19: ‘We are not immune in rural Oklahoma’: As of Sunday, Custer County (Weatherford/Clinton) and Jackson County (Altus Air Force Base) are the only western Oklahoma counties that have registered a positive COVID-19 test. But communities big and small in Oklahoma need to practice social distancing and be vigilant, according to Ivester. [NonDoc]

Inhofe, Lankford say they would vote for $2 trillion aid bill: Oklahoma Republican Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford said Monday that they support a massive aid package to help Americans through economic hardship, despite their concerns about the cost and increase to national debt. “Yes it is a big bill,’’ Lankford said in an interview in regard to the GOP-backed legislation. “It’s a very unique moment … I do plan to support it.” [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Corporation Commission closes offices to public until further notice: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission closed its Oklahoma City headquarters, its regional office in Tulsa and oil and gas field offices to the public. Officials stressed Monday that all agency operations are continuing, with the majority of staff working remotely. [The Oklahoman]

REAL ID deadline to be pushed back: President Donald Trump announced Monday the federal government will push back a federal deadline for states to implement REAL ID due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He did not announce the new deadline, but said it will be revealed soon. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business

All Oklahoma tribal casinos have suspended operations: All Oklahoma Indian casinos are now temporarily closed as each tribe seeks to do its part to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association announced Monday. [The Oklahoman] Each sovereign Tribal Nation has drafted its own COVID-19 response plans and protocols. [CNHI / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Utilities and companies that provide Oklahomans with electricity, natural gas and some phone services are suspending disconnects, for now: Companies that provide Oklahomans with electrical, natural gas and phone services in some rural areas have been working with state officials on ways to keep those services flowing. [The Oklahoman]

Attorney general tackles ‘inordinately large number’ of price gouging complaints: Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday said his office received 116 complaints of price gouging as COVID-19 spreads. Of those, half have been unsubstantiated and the rest are under investigation, he said. [Tulsa World]

OKC Amazon employee found with coronavirus: Amazon said an employee at Oklahoma City’s sort center has COVID-19, and is receiving medical care while recovering in quarantine. The individual was last onsite March 18, Amazon said. [The Oklahoman]

Hobby Lobby CEO urges employees to ‘pray for our health,’ won’t shut down stores: While numerous businesses around the country are closing in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the founder CEO of Oklahoma City-based national chain of craft stores, Hobby Lobby, told employees last week to “pray for our health” but stopped short of ordering its stores to close during the pandemic. [The Frontier]

Facing reality: More business recommendations expected later this week: Brace yourself for perhaps another month of social distancing, price increases and an inevitable surge of patients putting pressure on Oklahoma’s health care system, a panel of health experts told Oklahoma businesses through a conference call held Monday. [The Journal Record]


State superintendent will recommend school buildings remain closed: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister plans to recommend that the state Board of Education keep public school buildings closed for the remainder of the school year, according to multiple education officials. [The Frontier] Hofmeister said the new approach is “far from ideal, but necessary” in her announcement Monday afternoon. [The Oklahoman] ‘Distance learning’ recommendation will likely force OSSAA’s hand. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Area schools begin free meal pickup, materials for home-bound learning because of COVID-19: Thousands of kids went back to school across Tulsa on Monday, but the doors were locked and classes were not in session. The offer of free breakfast and lunch or at-home learning materials drew full carpool lanes amid the mandatory, statewide school shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World] Muskogee Public Schools distributed hundreds of free school meals Monday, on what would have been the first day of class after spring break. [Muskogee Phoenix]

In virtual meeting, Tulsa school board secures pay for support employees, reschedules elections to June 30: The Tulsa school board voted Monday to secure pay for support employees during the extended school closure and delay its own election until summer. Board members unanimously approved the adoption of a new policy declaring that all district employees are entitled to receive their full contract rates when they are unable to work because of an epidemic or mandated school closure. [Tulsa World]

State Superintendent Hofmeister asks schools to donate medical supplies: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is asking school leaders across the state to help hospitals and nursing homes by donating needed items like hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfecting wipes. The COVID-19 pandemic is a draining facility’s supply of personal protective equipment or PPE. [NewsOn6] Leaders in Oklahoma’s healthcare field underscored the serious need for such items. [State Department of Education Blog]

Criminal Justice

Counties hope to keep jail populations low during viral pandemic: During a viral pandemic jail administrators want fewer prisoners, not more. To help, some district courts are issuing orders to decrease their county jail populations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Tulsa World report, Tulsa County District Court ordered the release of nearly 70 people charged with both misdemeanors and felonies last week. Orders from Cleveland County district judges have helped reduce their jail population by nearly 15 percent. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

General News

In late-night phone meeting, Epic sets internal audit of controversial ‘Learning Fund’: After more than three and a half hours of special board meetings conducted by teleconference that included a 90-minute executive session, the governing body of Epic Charter Schools voted late Monday night to approve “a contract compliance audit” of its controversial “Learning Fund.” [NonDoc]

Tulsa mass graves excavation postponed over COVID-19 threat: A test excavation in Tulsa’s search for mass graves from the 1921 race massacre has been postponed because of the COVID-19 threat. OU archaeologists were set to explore a section of Oaklawn Cemetery starting April first, but that has been postponed indefinitely. [Public Radio Tulsa] The city also said an agreement has been reached with Rolling Oaks Cemetery to conduct subsurface scans there. A date for that work was not disclosed. [Tulsa World]

Local Headlines

  • Group of Oklahoma County lawyers pushing for closure of courthouse to the public. [The Oklahoman]
  • Cleveland city leaders to go over safety plans after Coronavirus (COVID-19) death. [NewsOn6]
  • Tahlequah school board elections now set for June 30; others could be delayed. [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Bixby issues ordinance restricting restaurants to pickup options, shuttering businesses. [Tulsa World]
  • Claremore issues emergency order closing bars, dining rooms, and more. [The Claremore Daily Progress]
  • Norman mayor announces changes to city to slow the spread of the coronavirus. [FOX25]

Quote of the Day

“(N)urse staffing is critical in Oklahoma, but the presence of COVID-19 and the capability for our numbers to increase has the ability to cripple our staffing if those rates climb.”

-Michele Bradshaw, a nurse and leader at Midwest Regional Medical [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The number of states (Arizona and Iowa) seeking to temporarily ease their Medicaid waiver requirements and make it easier for residents to get and keep coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program during the coronavirus pandemic.

[Source: Modern Healthcare]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

GOP-led states diverge on easing Medicaid access during COVID-19: At least two Republican-led states want to temporarily ease their Medicaid waiver requirements and make it easier for residents to get and keep coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program during the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, Arizona and Iowa sent requests to the CMS so they can make temporary changes to their Medicaid programs, including eliminating premiums and pausing disenrollments. [Modern Healthcare]

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.