In The Know: Many cities following state reopening plan, but concerns voiced; new unemployment figures released; 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.

Oklahoma News

COVID-19: ‘We’re still going to get it. … But we do need to slowly and measurably be opening,’ Gov. Stitt says: Gov. Kevin Stitt held firm Thursday night to his decision to begin allowing businesses that are closed because of the COVID-19 epidemic to begin reopening in the coming days. [Tulsa World] Gov. Kevin Stitt said his decision to reopen barbershops, hair salons, spas and pet groomers as early as Friday is in line with the phased-in approach recommended by the White House and is supported by data showing hospitalizations in the state have gone down. But the decision was criticized as “hasty” by the Oklahoma State Medical Association. [AP News / US News]

  • Cities alter proclamations to reopen businesses early [The Oklahoman]
  • Northeast Oklahoma cities lining up behind governor’s reopening plan [KTUL]
  • List of cities in Oklahoma that will allow personal care businesses to reopen this Friday [KOCO]
  • Federal lawsuit asks judge to strike down Guthrie’s COVID-19 ‘shelter-in-place’ ordinance [The Frontier]
  • OKC Mayor on Gov. Stitt’s plan to reopen Oklahoma economy (Video) [News9]
  • New COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County have declined, but will it be enough for mayor to ease restrictions? [Tulsa World]
  • Metro mayors likely to reopen businesses slower than governor’s pace [FOX25]
  • State Department Of Education head says schools not included in Governor’s reopen plan [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma governor’s plan bucks COVID-19 projections [Joplin Globe]
  • Oklahoma State Medical Association President: Stitt’s virus reopen plan “probably premature” [Public Radio Tulsa]

First-time jobless claims in Oklahoma dip by 26%; total unemployment filings at 40,297: Weekly first-time jobless claims in Oklahoma continued their slow decline from historic levels reached earlier this month as the effects of shutting down the economy to fight COVID-19 forced thousands of workers out of work. [Tulsa World] State unemployment officials acknowledged Thursday that an increasing number of Oklahomans are finding themselves struggling to access unemployment benefits. [CNHI / The Norman Transcript] “While businesses look toward a phased-in reopening of our state, we’re now focused on both connecting claimants with the relief they need and helping them reenter the job market,” said Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Robin Roberson. [The Journal Record]

This Oklahoma hospital has only 8 nurses left. They double as the janitors: Eight nurses at the lone hospital in the rural Oklahoma town of Stigler now double as the cleaning crew. They stabilize patients with life-threatening conditions, mop floors and scrub toilets. The nurses, along with an office manager and a part-time maintenance worker, are the only remaining employees at the Haskell County Community Hospital, which two years ago had a staff of 68 and provided some of the highest-paying jobs in the southeastern Oklahoma town. [The Frontier] OK Policy: Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals, which face higher closure rates in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid

COVID-19 cases top 3,000, with deaths climbing to 179: The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma broke through the 3,000 mark Thursday, reaching 3,017, and deaths climbed by nine to a total of 179, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported. [Oklahoma Watch] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

  • This Week in Oklahoma Politics (Audio): Reopening Oklahoma, revenue failure, new gaming compacts & more. [KOSU]

State Government News

League of Women Voters sues Election Board over absentee ballot requirements: A lawsuit was filed Thursday seeking to drop a requirement that absentee ballots be notarized during the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit was filed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma and two individuals. The requirement for a notary to sign the absentee ballot puts a burden on those seeking to avoid contracting COVID-19, according to the suit. [Tulsa World]

Virus pits health vs. public duty for some state lawmakers: When the Oklahoma Legislature met this month to pass three budget bills designed to prevent cuts to state agencies, the House had approved rule changes allowing remote voting but the Senate had not. Sen. Carri Hicks, who has a young son with diabetes, said she wrestled with the decision about whether to attend the Senate session. She opted against it, and missed the votes. [New York Times]

Federal Government News

House sends small businesses relief funding to Trump, with all five Oklahomans in favor: The U.S. House approved another $484 billion of coronavirus relief on Thursday, with the biggest chunk of the money targeted for a small business program that ran out of funds last week. All five Oklahoma members of the House voted for the legislation. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Child care providers feel financial impact of coronavirus pandemic: Child care providers across the state of Oklahoma are struggling. From home day cares to childcare centers, providers have been financially impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have yet to see much relief. [The Oklahoman] 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.

Oklahoma Bankers Association cautions PPP lenders: Oklahoma banks should be aware that the public is keeping a keen eye on how they prioritize applications for federal aid to small businesses, the Oklahoma Bankers Association cautioned on Thursday. [The Journal Record]

KC Fed survey: Manufacturing tumbles in Oklahoma and some neighboring states: Manufacturing in a seven-state area that includes Oklahoma has slumped to its lowest survey reading since the survey began in 1994, according to information released Thursday by the Kansas City Fed. [Tulsa World]

Cattlemen scrape by while processors reap the profit: Many of the ranchers and farmers across Oklahoma and the Midwest are praying they can just hang on until the economy rebounds. While cattlemen may sow the seeds and harvest the crop, packers and processors are the only ones now reaping the profits. [NonDoc]

Legal limbo: Oklahoma law grads seek waiver of bar exam: Thousands of third-year law students are on the edge of their seats this spring as states from across the nation weigh the health risks associated with administering upcoming bar examinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Journal Record]

Health News

Some elective surgeries may resume Friday: Hospitals and surgery centers will be asked to take additional precautions due to COVID-19 when some elective surgeries resume Friday. Health care providers are being asked to test all patients for the virus prior to surgery. [The Oklahoman]

New COVID-19 test developed in Oklahoma can test 180,000 in 3 months: A game changer for testing will soon be available at OU Medicine. On Thursday, doctors announced a new test that can reach thousands of people. [KFOR]

To guard against protective gear shortage, 911 operators are screening calls to help EMSA crews measure COVID-19 risk: To avoid shortages of protective gear like first responders have seen in other cities, Tulsa 911 operators are screening calls to gauge the risk of patients having COVID-19, officials said. [Tulsa World] Weeks before the novel coronavirus was considered a community-spread concern in northeastern Oklahoma, an EMT from Cushing got sick and was so close to death that by the time she tested positive for COVID-19, doctors treating her thought “there’s no way.” [Tulsa World]

The Oklahoma Editorial: COVID’s mental health toll could be substantial: Let’s not overlook the significant toll that COVID-19 could take on Oklahomans’ mental health, as noted in a recent report by the Tulsa-based Healthy Minds Policy Initiative. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma education funding ‘hard to envision’ avoiding cuts next year, officials say: Oklahoma education officials expect to tighten their belts next year, even while state lawmakers hope to protect school funding during major revenue shortfalls. Climbing enrollment coupled with declining local revenues likely will spread the state education budget even thinner, said Carolyn Thompson, chief of government affairs at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. [The Oklahoman]

Hofmeister: Federal funds should be used to boost internet connectivity for Oklahoma students: State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister says she wants to use federal stimulus funds earmarked for education to boost internet connectivity for Oklahoma students. “Our primary focus is on connectivity and our ability to close the digital divide,” Hofmeister said Thursday. [KOSU]

State Department Of Education head says schools not included in Governor’s reopen plan: While Oklahoma prepares to reopen certain businesses following mandated closures meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said on Thursday that students, parents and teachers shouldn’t take that to mean schools will be reopening any time soon. [Public Radio Tulsa]

New teachers will be able to work in the fall thanks to State Board of Education action: Though it’s unclear what school will look like, recent graduates and others will be able to teach in Oklahoma in fall 2020. The state school board voted to unanimously allow a one-time, single year certification for people who were on track to get their certification. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Johnson to postpone retirement 9 months from Oklahoma higher education: Chancellor Glen D. Johnson will remain nine months longer than expected as the head of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced Thursday that Johnson would stay in office until Sept. 30, 2021. Johnson was planning to retire in December. [The Oklahoman]

‘There’s no roadmap for how to be a teacher during a global pandemic’: Dr. Quisto Settle is an assistant professor of Agricultural Communications at Oklahoma State University. In his audio diary for KOSU, he talks about the challenges of living and working from home, trying to be there for his students during a global pandemic and taking time to enjoy life’s little moments.  [KOSU]

‘Zoombombers’ taunt Oklahoma State Board of Education members with racial epithets, sexually explicit language: Thursday’s meeting of the Oklahoma State Board of Education was disrupted by racist and sexually explicit attacks posted to the videoconferencing platform it is using to conduct public meetings while public gatherings are deemed unsafe. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Broken Arrow ends emergency proclamation following governor’s ‘Bounce Back’ plan; Bixby weighing options [Tulsa World]
  • Edmond City Council to update emergency declaration today [Edmond Sun]
  • Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother dies of coronavirus in Oklahoma [NonDoc
  • City of Claremore revises COVID-19 order in response to new guidance from Oklahoma [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • Muskogee joint task force to recommend adoption of Stitt’s plan [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Muskogee woman added to Oklahoma COVID-19 death toll [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Partial restart of businesses in Tahlequah raises concern for many locals [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Stillwater area towns prepare to reopen under governor’s plan [Stillwater News Press]
  • Woodward issues new proclamation on reopening plans [Woodward News]
  • Woodward County has second positive virus test [Woodward News]
  • Texas County now at 46 virus cases, ranks 15th in Oklahoma [ABC7 News]
  • OSDH: 31 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Grady County [The Express-Star]
  • Marlow prepares for Open Up and Recover Safely [Duncan Banner]
  • McAlester to consider modifying Stitt’s timeline to reopen economy [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Hartshorne, Krebs councils to consider reopening businesses [McAlester News-Capital]

Quote of the Day

“I have to believe that we have a future here and we have to just keep moving as if it’s going to happen.”

-Andrea Randall, a nurse who also serves as interim administrator for Stigler’s hospital, discussing the hospital’s financial future [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Weeks of unemployment benefits Oklahoma’s unemployment trust fund has funds to pay for. (As of April 4, 2020)

[Source: Tax Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The other COVID risks: How race, income, ZIP code influence who lives or dies: Some public health experts contend that social and economic conditions ― long overlooked by government leaders, policymakers and the public ― are even more powerful indicators of who will survive the pandemic. [Kaiser Health News]

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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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