In The Know: Gov. defends reopening plan; looking at virus’ impact on Medicaid expansion efforts, 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  Saturday, April 25Sunday, April 26

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma governor defends plan to reopen businesses: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Sunday defended his plans to reopen businesses in the state, saying signs point to the coronavirus threat decreasing as long as people take the proper precautions in public. [AP News] On Friday, salons, spas and barbershops were allowed to reopen in much of the state, despite concerns from medical professionals. [AP News] Gov. Stitt appears set to give it a month before implementing the third phase of his Open Up and Recover Safely Plan and have businesses running at nearly normal levels. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Coronavirus pandemic complicates Medicaid expansion efforts in Oklahoma: Oklahoma is on track to expand Medicaid on July 1, but legislators still don’t know how to pay for the state’s share of the expansion. And the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the situation. Skyrocketing unemployment claims mean the expansion, and costs for the state’s current Medicaid program, could be about $100 million more than previously anticipated. [The Oklahoman]

Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Confirmed cases top 3,200; 195 dead: Oklahoma’s number of positive COVID-19 cases now stands at 3,253, an increase of 60 from Saturday. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Oklahoma stands at 195, an increase of one from Saturday. [The Oklahoman] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State Government News

Three key questions hover over the Oklahoma Capitol: The answers to three key questions about the ongoing 2020 legislative session will shape what happens over the next month at an Oklahoma State Capitol currently closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In less than five weeks, state lawmakers must pass a Fiscal Year 2021 state budget and adjourn sine die. [NonDoc]

In national television appearances, Stitt, Holt talk about reopening businesses: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt made separate appearances on national television Sunday to talk about reopening businesses amid the pandemic, with Stitt arguing that the state accomplished its goal of relieving pressure on hospitals. [The Oklahoman]

National Guard team cleans long-term care facilities to help stifle COVID-19 outbreak: Members of the Oklahoma National Guard this week began cleaning nursing homes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, said Lt. Col. Geoff Legler, a spokesman. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

State taxpapers get $2 billion in aid from IRS: About 1.1. million Oklahoma taxpayers received about $2.1 billion in economic impact payments from the IRS as of April 17, the Treasury Department reported. Approximately 88 million people nationwide received payments totaling nearly $158 billion in the program’s first three weeks, according to a news release. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic could see ‘next wave’ of mental health and addiction implications, policy report indicates: The mental health and substance abuse fallout from COVID-19 is expected to be long-lasting, but it’s not too late to try to lessen it, experts say. The Healthy Minds Policy Initiative released its latest projections this week for Oklahoma based on past natural disasters and economic downturns, while guided by emerging national research. [Tulsa World]

Nearly 200 temporary medical licenses issued in Oklahoma so far during pandemic: Oklahoma’s state medical board has approved almost 200 doctors for temporary licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. An executive order from Gov. Kevin Stitt allows the board to approve 90-day critical care licenses for out-of-state physicians. As of last week, 192 doctors had been approved. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Nursing-home lockdowns made more difficult when loved one inside has memory issues: What the coronavirus pandemic has done to our world is difficult for anyone to wrap their mind around, but when your mind can’t think and reason like it once did, it’s even more difficult. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Vacancy rates for OKC office space could reach 14%: Vacancy rates in Oklahoma City’s commercial office space are continuing to rise as COVID-19 and the oil industry pack a “one-two punch,” Paul Hendershot, director of market analytics for Washington, D.C.-based real estate information company CoStar Group, said Friday. [The Journal Record]

Chesapeake adopts ‘poison pill,’ shares rise: Shares of Chesapeake Energy rose 45.2% Friday after it announced the adoption of a shareholder rights plan, devised to discourage any takeover attempt borne from the company’s low stock price. [The Journal Record]

Six Oklahoma companies in line for $6.1 billion worth of Defense contracts: The U.S. Navy selected Oklahoma City-based Delaware Resource Group and five other Oklahoma companies for a $6.1 billion contract for aircraft maintenance services and sustainment. [The Oklahoman]

Guns, ammo continue to be big sellers during pandemic: Gun shops in Tahlequah are staying busy and trying to stay stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Williams Shooting Supply & Gun has limited the number of days it’s open to Tuesdays and Fridays, but is still struggling to stay stocked on ammunition. [Tahelquah Daily Press]

Education News

Teachers, students work to stay connected: Students, teachers, and parents have had to readjust so kids can still get educated while schools are closed during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some are still figuring out what works best for each family and student, both academically and emotionally. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

General News

Lawmaker: Mail-in ballot numbers could quadruple at next election: A state lawmaker who tried to make it a little easier for voters to cast ballots by mail predicts the COVID-19 epidemic will result in three to four times more people trying to cast ballots by mail during the next election. [Tulsa World]

Lottery sales up as scratch-offs boom: While sales were down four weeks ago compared to the same time last year, the Oklahoma Lottery Commission reports an increase over the last three weeks, driven by scratchers sold during the novel coronavirus pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

No place like home, away from home: Campgrounds swell with COVID-19 closure escapees this season: RV and tent campers are hitting the hills of Green Country lakes at campgrounds that are happy to have company after out-of-state travelers canceled their bookings due to COVID-19 restrictions. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

The internet is spotty at best, so a lot of the time we are watching the circle spin on the screen instead of watching or making content. It is frustrating.”

-Amy Batie, a teacher at Tahlequah’s Cherokee Elementary, speaking about managing bandwidth and technology from home as her school district has pivoted to online learning following the virus outbreak. [Tahlequah Daily Press

Number of the Day


Percentage of expected learning gains in mathematics from students returning in fall 2020 when compared with normal conditions. As a result of education disruption caused by the virus outbreak, students nationwide in fall 2020 are likely to be returning with less than 50% of the learning gains behind what would be observed in normal conditions. In some grades, some students may be nearly a full year behind. 

[Source: NWEA Research]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Who counts in 2020? Boosting outreach to black and brown communities has been a major component of the Census Bureau’s efforts this time around; Latinx and black residents have long been some of the most undercounted populations, and their communities suffer for that, as Cardi B pointed out. “We can’t let this happen again,” the rapper said. “¡Mi gente, presente!” One message most census ads include is the assurance of confidentiality. [NPR Code Switch]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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