In The Know: Gov. releases plan to re-open Oklahoma businesses; medical officials, others say it’s too soon; 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.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: A time for courage, not expediency: When considering our next steps toward safely reopening our communities, we must move forward with a data-driven approach. Now is the time for the moral and political courage that will allow us to safely reopen our society at a pace that protects public safety. Our nation’s leaders should avoid making such important decisions based on economic or political expediency. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Stitt details plan to re-open Oklahoma businesses: Outlining staggered dates of implementation and an emphasis on data monitoring, Gov. Kevin Stitt and four advisors on Wednesday explained a three-phase approach to re-open Oklahoma businesses beginning May 1. [NonDoc] Gov. Kevin Stitt’s rationale for reopening businesses appears to be based primarily on the state’s ability to handle hospitalizations, with some passing nods to recently released White House guidelines for when states should declare themselves ready. [The Oklahoman] Stitt’s plan begins Friday, when barbershops, hair and nail salons, pet groomers and spas can reopen. [AP News] Many other businesses previously deemed “nonessential” will be allowed to reopen on May 1 so long as they adhere to social distancing and sanitation recommendations. [The Oklahoman] Some Democrats think it’s too soon to ease restrictions, while many Republicans have increasingly pushed for the governor and his task force to start making moves to reopen the state’s economy. Meanwhile, some medical groups were critical of the plan. [The Frontier] Stitt advised that older Oklahomans and people with health conditions that might make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 should continue to remain at home even as life begins returning to normal in phases. [The Journal Record]

  • White House: Oklahoma among worst states for virus testing capacity. [AP News / Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Specific guidelines for the first two phases of reopenings. [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Watch published a Q&A on the plan to reopen state. [Oklahoma Watch
  • ‘Hasty at best’: Oklahoma doctors, mayors react to Stitt reopening plan [The Oklahoman]
  • Agree or disagree? Businesses offer wide range of reactions to Stitt’s three-phase plan [The Oklahoman]
  • Officials: Some city leaders to not follow Gov. Stitt’s reopening plan [KFOR]
  • OKC Health Department deliberates businesses reopening (Audio) [KGOU]
  • Tulsa mayor will share his plan for Tulsa’s business reopenings on Friday [Tulsa World]
  • Tahlequah city officials will follow governor’s plan, reopen personal care businesses Friday [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • City of Chickasha has announced the limited reopening of city-owned properties to the public [The Express-Star]
  • City of Duncan announces re-open plans lining up with Gov. Stitt’s [Duncan Banner]

Six more deaths, 87 more cases reported in Oklahoma: Public health officials in Oklahoma have confirmed six more people died due to COVID-19 complications. A total of 170 deaths have been reported in the state from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Health officials reported 87 more positive cases, totaling 2,894 for the state. [Tulsa World] Deaths surpass the bombing total of 168. [The Oklahoman] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Tulsa pediatric disease specialist says ‘widespread testing is definitely the answer’ in return to post-COVID-19 normalcy: What life will look like a few weeks from now, after the COVID-19 pandemic has finally run its course, is hard to say. But one thing is certain, said Dr. Kimberly Martin. Testing will be a routine part of it. [Tulsa World]

Medical advocacy groups worried about protective equipment: Oklahoma’s governor will allow providers to resume elective surgeries Friday, but advocates caution it won’t be business as usual with fears of possible COVID-19 surges and a continued shortage in protective equipment for providers. [CNHI / Duncan Banner] OSDH issues guidance for resuming elective surgical procedures in Oklahoma on April 24. [Guthrie News Leader]

Oklahoma’s rural hospitals to split $5.1 million grant to help during COVID-19 crisis: Oklahoma’s rural hospitals will receive $5.1 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma’s legislative leaders tell Gov. Stitt his new tribal gaming compacts are invalid: Oklahoma’s top two lawmakers tartly rebuked Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday, telling him in a letter that the two tribal gaming compacts he signed this week are “unauthorized by law and void” without the approval of the Legislature. [Tulsa World] House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said the governor’s inclusion of sports betting is one of several flaws they found in their review of the compacts. [AP News] Prior to receiving the letter from legislative leaders, the governor’s office issued a statement Wednesday defending the agreements, saying they had been “thoroughly researched” by a number of legal experts. [The Oklahoman] On Tuesday evening, Hunter issued a statement that indicated the compacts might not withstand legal scrutiny. [The Journal Record]

State budget: Oil, agriculture and opportunity: With a budget shortfall suddenly expected to grow to over a billion dollars, legislators are scrambling to assess the actual damage and come up with some possible solutions. [Woodward News] OK Policy: The state budget is at risk, but how much risk and for how long?

Stitt compares Oklahoma medical marijuana laws to recreational marijuana laws: Gov. Stitt said that he doesn’t think legalizing recreational marijuana will help with the billion-dollar budget shortfall. [KTUL]

Federal Government News

REAL ID progress for Oklahoma slowed by COVID-19: A long-awaited REAL ID program that would help Oklahoma passengers board airline flights without issue has been delayed again — this time because of COVID-19. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

How Oklahoma popped its prison bubble, in charts: In 2016, Oklahoma had the highest incarceration rate in the United States. If it were a country, it would have led the world. That same year, lawmakers and activists in Oklahoma began working to reduce the number of people behind bars. [Politico] OK Policy: Justice reform in Oklahoma has a chance to address the scale of Oklahoma’s prison crisis.

A Republican crusader takes on Oklahoma’s prison machine: In the state that locks up more of its citizens than any other, a former politician is using the ballot box—and some surprising alliances—to nudge his own party toward change. [Politico]

Could coronavirus end cash bail? In New Orleans, some city judges are reducing some bail amounts to one-tenth of what they would otherwise be to let some people out. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the jail’s occupancy has reached a record low as people deemed nonthreatening are being released without bail. [Politico] OK Policy has recommended moving forward with policies that rebuild the criminal justice system’s financial structure to remove its reliance on fines and fees to fund its operations.

State agency responsible for certifying police officers to resume some in-person training: Like most institutions around the country, Oklahoma’s Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, was forced to scale back in-person instruction at its academy in Ada due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma has a supply of the drugs needed to carry out an execution — it just doesn’t have the drugs themselves: Oklahoma’s prison system was one of several that received a letter earlier this month from a group of healthcare officials and experts asking to divert drugs used for executions to hospitals seeking to treat COVID-19 patients. But the state, which only recently announced it was seeking to soon begin executions by lethal injection after a five-year death penalty hiatus, doesn’t have any of the drugs on hand, an Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman said. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

Pawn shops at crossroads of economic crisis: Those who are unemployed are more likely to use pawn services for emergency financial needs. And they may fall into neat but woeful categories drawn by the federal government — the unbanked and underbanked. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

‘We’re dying on the vine’: Relief for struggling Oklahoma child care providers is focus of virtual town hall: As they fight to stay in business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state child care providers want to know what’s holding up $50 million in federal dollars that could bring immediate relief. [Tulsa World] OK Policy and nine other state organizations developed a series of policy recommendations and policy changes that can bring relief to Oklahoma child care providers. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced via email Thursday morning that it would be waiving copayments for families in March and April, as well as lifting the place holding fees DHS was charging families to hold their subsidy spot in a child care facility, which were among the recommendations.

Small businesses, banks continue to wait for more relief funding: More than 35,000 Oklahoma small businesses received loans from the federal $2 trillion stimulus plan last week, but thousands more are stuck waiting for a refill for a program that blew through $350 billion in less than three weeks. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma energy regulators OK move allowing well shut-ins: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved an emergency order on Wednesday that allows oil producers to stop or reduce production without losing their leases for non-production. [AP News] That will let energy companies temporarily halt drilling — or shut in wells — while the battered oil market recovers. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Pandemic response: State Board of Education to consider stop-gap measure for new teachers unable to complete final certification requirements: Pandemic-related school closures and the halting of all public gatherings for everything including teacher certification tests could put a whole new batch of Oklahoma teacher candidates in limbo. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19 is changing the way Oklahoma schools are educating English learners: Districts are trying to reach them any way possible. After an initial period of taking care of their basic well-being, teachers are now trying to maintain English proficiency while building ability in other subjects. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City of OKC prepares to feel the revenue pain from COVID-19 pandemic [Free Press OKC]
  • Tulsa Mayor proposes 3% decrease in city budget for fiscal year 2021 [Tulsa World]
  • 14 Tulsa firefighters quarantined after firefighter shows COVID-19 symptoms during shift change [Tulsa World]
  • Expo Square in Tulsa selected as latest site for appointment-only COVID-19 testing [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Port of Catoosa bouncing back after flood-riddled 2019 [Tulsa World]
  • U.S. Commerce Department awards Tulsa County $3 million grant for levee improvements [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Muskogee County COVID-19 infection rates slower than state average [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Nine deaths listed at Grove nursing home [Joplin Globe]
  • Delaware, Adair counties report covid-19 deaths [Siloam Springs Herald Leader]
  • Edmond city council to hear economic recovery recommendations [Edmond Sun]
  • 1 additional COVID-19-related death in Norman; city case total at 193 [Norman Transcript]
  • 25 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Grady County, 14 recoveries, 1 death [The Express-Star]
  • Stephens County numbers stay same; one recovery added countywide [Duncan Banner]
  • Garvin County stays at 12 [Pauls Valley Democrat]

Quote of the Day

“I won’t be back then (May 1). I’m 67 with a stent and on blood pressure meds. I wouldn’t feel safe. Look how they gear up to swab a throat. I’ll listen to doctors, nurses and scientists, not politicians, evangelical preachers and CEOs.” 

-Danny Bean, barber at Casady Style Shop, speaking about Gov. Stitt’s plan to reopen Oklahoma businesses  [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

30 in 1,000

Estimate of Oklahoma’s monthly ability to test for COVID-19, which ranks the state among the nation’s four lowest rates. Oklahoma, Oregon, Montana, and Maine are able to test fewer than 30 in 1,000 people per month, according to a recent White House communication. 

[Source: Public Radio Tulsa]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It’s too soon to reopen states. The coronavirus is not under control: Leaders are overestimating how far we’ve come and are underestimating what it will take to manage Covid-19 in a near-normal world. Failure to properly prepare will either result in a surge of infections and all the negative health and health care system ramifications that come with it, or a second round of sheltering in place much sooner than anyone expects. Neither is a good outcome. [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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