In The Know: ‘Safer at home’ extended; error from Gov.’s office creates inaccurate commutation count; 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

Statement: Thousands of Oklahomans speak out against Governor’s health care proposal: During the past 30 days, thousands of Oklahomans have spoken out against Gov. Stitt’s health care proposal, which would implement health care barriers that could keep more than 200,000 Oklahomans from being able to see a doctor or even fill a prescription. [Dave Hamby / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: A low-tax state? Take a closer look: Wednesday would have marked the traditional deadline for Oklahomans to file their income taxes. For those who owe taxes, the extension to July 15 allows them much-needed time to save up money, especially those who lost jobs or income. That extension, however, does little to address the inherent unfairness of Oklahoma’s tax system. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Stitt extends ‘safer at home’ order, sets earlier return of elective surgeries: Saying that health officials believe Oklahoma’s “curve is flattening” in terms of day-to-day COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gov. Kevin Stitt said yesterday he will be amending his executive order to extend its “safer at home” provisions for seniors and the immunocompromised through May 6. [NonDoc] Amid increasingly vocal demands from the public to loosen pandemic restrictions, Gov. Kevin Stitt urged Oklahomans Wednesday to stay home as much as possible “just a little bit longer.” At a briefing on the COVID-19 situation, the governor announced he is working with health officials on plans to reopen the state. [The Oklahoman] 15 more fatal cases reported; state death toll at 123. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Error from Stitt’s office leads to inaccurate count of prisoners to be released: An error in a news release from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office said over 400 incarcerated individuals would be released from state prison facilities April 16 after receiving commutations, but the actual number being released is much lower. [The Oklahoman] According the the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, 111 inmates will be released. Others are serving time for felonies other than drug or property crimes that have since been reduced to misdemeanors, and discharging those other crimes requires more steps from the parole board, not just those Stitt took Friday. [Public Radio Tulsa] OK Policy and eight other organizations have urged elected officials and state officials to take urgent action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma Corrections facilities.

With less than a week remaining until deadline, Gov. Kevin Stitt still undecided on which ballot Medicaid expansion will appear: With less than a week to go before he must choose when Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion state question will appear on a ballot, Gov. Kevin Stitt hasn’t reached a decision on if voters will make their decision this summer or if they’ll have to wait for the fall. [The Frontier] A record number of Oklahomans signed the petition to have voters decide SQ 802. The measure has been on Gov. Stitt’s desk since its Jan. 9 certification, which was 98 days ago. OK Policy has prepared information and resources about SQ 802

Health News

As public comment period ends, advocates call Stitt’s Medicaid proposal a “bait and switch”: Governor Kevin Stitt’s proposal to retool Oklahoma’s Medicaid system closed its 30-day public input period on Wednesday, but some Oklahomans say the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic made that timeframe inadequate for such a consequential policy change. [Public Radio Tulsa] During its 30-day state comment period, thousands of Oklahomans spoke out against the health care proposal through the site. 

Rumors of outbreak prompt testing at northeastern Oklahoma nursing home; more than 60 COVID-19 cases confirmed: On Monday morning, after one day of testing last week, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported that 37 residents and 19 staff members at Grove Nursing Center had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Since then, an additional seven cases have been reported. [Tulsa World]

Death in a state-run veterans center among 36 COVID-19 fatalities in Oklahoma nursing homes: The death of a patient whose COVID-19 diagnosis was the first in a state-run nursing home for veterans is among 36 deaths now being reported in long-term care and nursing homes across Oklahoma. [Tulsa World] The state Health Department has revised downward to seven its count of the deaths at the state’s hardest hit nursing home. The new data for Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman was released Wednesday night. [The Oklahoman]

After lawsuit, Vinita council rescinds emergency COVID-19 curfew, stay-at-home ordinance: The Vinita City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind an emergency ordinance establishing a city curfew and, with certain exceptions, requiring people to remain in their homes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Frontier]

Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients proving valuable for new patients, researchers: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tapped The Mayo Clinic to coordinate the nationwide investigational new drug therapy to collect and distribute convalescent plasma — an antibody-rich blood plasma — to severely or critically ill COVID-19 patients. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Showdown in Oklahoma: Oklahoma House and Senate leaders have asked the state Supreme Court to call a meeting of the state body charged with officially declaring a revenue failure, in a challenge to Gov. Kevin Stitt. [Bloomberg Tax]

Need for food stamps spikes during pandemic; applications ‘way more than double’ for SNAP benefits, Oklahoma DHS says: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has seen an explosion in the number of individuals applying for assistance. The number of applicants has more than doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak, said Patrick Klein, DHS director of adult and family services. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma democrats ask Gov. Stitt to declare grocery workers as emergency personnel: The Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus Gov. Kevin Stitt a letter Wednesday asking him to temporarily declare grocery store, food retail, and food processing workers as emergency personnel in response to the coronavirus pandemic. [FOX25]

Oklahoma health commissioner’s SUV purchase canceled: The Health Department was going to pay $27,239 for a 2020 Ford Explorer for the commissioner, according to a purchase order signed in January. The purchase was called off last week. [The Oklahoman]

Candidate challenges filed in area legislative races: Ten candidate challenges were filed with the Oklahoma State Election Board by Tuesday’s deadline. The State Election Board will consider the challenges on April 21. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Roughly 130,000 Oklahomans who owe child support may not see their federal stimulus checks: As many as 130,000 Oklahomans who owe past due child support may not receive their stimulus check from the federal government, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. [The Oklahoman] Congress did not include any provisions to protect the funds from debt collectors when it recently passed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, advocates say. [CNHI / Duncan Banner]

SCOTUS to hear McGirt v. Oklahoma by telephone: A tribal sovereignty issue that has been winding its way through the courts for two decades may be heading toward a final decision before a home-bound U.S. Supreme Court. [NonDoc]

Unemployment update: 5.2 million more seek aid — four-week total at 22 million: The wave of layoffs that has engulfed the U.S. economy since the coronavirus struck forced 5.2 million more people to seek unemployment benefits last week, the government reported Thursday. [Associated Press]

Criminal Justice News

Officials say no COVID-19 cases inside Oklahoma County jail thanks to precautions: The Oklahoma County jail has still seen no cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, officials told county commissioners on Wednesday. Captain Gene Bradley with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said the jail’s quarantine measures, which include putting each new inmate into isolation for 10 days while monitoring their temperatures and symptoms, has contributed to the success. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma banks disburse billions through Paycheck Protection Program: Oklahoma’s banks dispersed more than $4 billion thus far to small businesses in the state through the Paycheck Protection Program. A Small Business Administration report, updated daily, also shows Oklahoma banks processed 26,451 loans. That puts the state just a few hundred below loan transactions recorded in Virginia, Massachusetts and Colorado. [The Oklahoman] The nearly $350 billion allotted by Congress as part of the CARES Act is running out. Oklahoma Senator James Lankford says the program could be dry by Wednesday night. [KTUL]

Education News

Oklahoma getting $40 million in emergency block grants for education: On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education announced Oklahoma will receive $40 million in emergency block grant funds to disburse to the state’s education system because of COVID-19. [KOSU] The waivers will allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for a number of COVID-19 related matters, including technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning. [Woodward News]

General News

‘Dad was killed’: Twenty five years of despair, hope and rebuilding a family: Twenty-five years later, the bombing remains a central part of Oklahoma’s identity for those who lived through it, yet largely unknown to the majority of residents who were not alive or were living elsewhere on April 19, 1995. [The Frontier]

Israel Sauz, gas-station worker and new father, dies at 22: He graduated from high school in Tulsa, Okla., four years ago. He worked at QuikTrip and his son was born a month ago. Then he died of the coronavirus. [New York Times]

The Coronavirus Storytelling Project to help struggling journalists: A collaboration between three organizations will launch a new initiative to help Oklahoma journalists who have been furloughed or displaced as well as those in struggling community news organizations.[Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Jury trials will not resume in May in Oklahoma County [KTUL]
  • Bynum among mayors who heard from former presidents Bush, Obama on COVID-19 response [Tulsa World]
  • Fort Sill Commanding General: “I think we’re very much at risk to COVID” [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Norman leaders working on ways to help businesses affected by coronavirus pandemic [KOCO]
  • 1 new death, 17 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Cleveland County [Norman Transcript]
  • Lawton signs amendment allowing some businesses to reopen [Lawton Constitution]
  • Stephens County still at 15 cases for COVID-19 [Duncan Banner]
  • Distance learning going well in Duncan [Duncan Banner]
  • One Grady County man dies from COVID-19 [Express-Star]

Quote of the Day

“It’s unfair to voters to wait until the last second for them to see if they’re going to have to vote, or if they’ll have to request absentee ballots or locate a notary to comply with the safer at home order. Really this problem has been going on before the pandemic and (Gov. Stitt’s) opposition to the state question has led him to drag his feet.”

-House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaking about Gov. Stitt setting an SQ 802 election date [The Frontier

Number of the Day


Daily average number of Oklahomans who have applied for safety net programs since March 16, with a bulk of the applications for food assistance through SNAP benefits. Between January 1 and March 15, the average daily applications for programs was 508.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

‘I have no money’: Debt collection continues despite pandemic: One out of every six Americans has an unpaid medical bill on their credit report, amounting to $81bn in debt nationwide. Every year, about 530,000 Americans who file bankruptcy cite medical debt as a contributing factor. Legal groups across the US are calling on federal and state governments to halt debt collection as it continues unabated. [The Guardian]

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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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