In The Know: State ramping up testing capabilities; ‘safer-at-home’ violations can result in misdemeanor; 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

This is the emergency we’ve been saving for: During the last week, it became clear that oil prices have plummeted, the coronavirus has spread across the nation, and normal life has paused, at least for now. We’ve clearly entered new and unknown territory, and our thinking must change to protect our fellow Oklahomans’ health and financial stability, and to speed our state’s recovery from this crisis. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

State ramping up to process 2,000 tests per day, Stitt says: A week after declaring Oklahoma critically low on materials to test for COVID-19, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday that the state will be soon able to process 2,000 tests a day after Oklahoma State University received a shipment of 10,000 kits capable of rendering results. [The Oklahoman] Officials: No, not every person who wants a COVID-19 test will get one yet. [KTUL] COVID-19 has been confirmed in 33 Oklahoma counties, with 248 confirmed cases and 7 deaths. [Tulsa World] Seven more Norman nursing home residents test positive. [The Oklahoman] Interactive maps: Known cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. [The Frontier]

Violations of ‘safer-at-home’ order can result in misdemeanor, AG says: Oklahomans can be charged with a misdemeanor for violating the executive order Gov. Kevin Stitt updated on Tuesday, said state Attorney General Mike Hunter. The decision on whether to charge someone will be left up to the discretion of law enforcement, Hunter said Thursday in a news release. [The Oklahoman] Although violating the executive order can be a misdemeanor, Hunter said law enforcement agencies have been advised to inform violators about the gravity of the crisis to encourage compliance. The safer-at-home order doesn’t impose martial law, Hunter said. [Tulsa World]

Amended ‘essential business’ order expands number of businesses that can stay open during pandemic: On the same day Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a statewide day of prayer for Oklahomans affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, he also amended his “essential businesses” order, drastically increasing the number of businesses that can stay open during the pandemic. [The Frontier] Confusion grows as ‘nonessential’ businesses shut down in some counties, but not in others. [KFOR]


Nursing home violations, and now deaths, highlight COVID-19 dangers: Health inspectors cited Oklahoma City’s Windsor Hills Nursing Center last November after a certified nursing assistant was seen not washing her hands before, during or after treating five residents with incontinence one morning. [Oklahoma Watch] Details of infection control citations in Oklahoma nursing homes. [Oklahoma Watch]

Ascension St. John in Tulsa launches state’s first COVID-19 treatment clinical trial for severely ill patients: The first clinical trial in Oklahoma seeking a possible treatment for the most severely ill COVID-19 patients launched Thursday in Tulsa based on a promising early study overseas. [Tulsa World]

Rural healthcare providers receiving help from OSU Medicine: To assist rural hospitals and healthcare providers, OSU Medicine has created Project ECHO COVID-19 which is a service line that can pass resources along that are needed for Oklahoma’s rural health systems. [FOX25]

Despite pandemic, doctors urge child vaccinations to prevent another outbreak: While Oklahomans are urged to use extreme caution during the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors say it is important to remain current on child vaccinations in order to avoid additional outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, chickenpox or other preventable diseases. [The Frontier]

Lupus sufferers fear loss of drug anecdotally touted for COVID-19: While hydroxychloroquine has been linked as a possible treatment for COVID-19, people with autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have long depended on the drug. [The Oklahoman]

Digital health: In age of coronavirus, demand for telemedicine surges: Doctors and clinics were encouraging patients with non-emergency issues to avoid physically visiting the doctor’s office, and instead, use online or telemedicine options. [The Journal Record]

State Government

State makes ‘multimillion-dollar’ PPE purchase: Oklahoma has made a “multimillion-dollar” private purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and could have the supplies in two weeks, state officials have told hospital CEOs. The state secretary of health and mental health, Jerome Loughridge, and secretary of science and innovation, Kayse Shrum, made the disclosure in a letter emailed Wednesday night. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma governor’s cabinet member tests positive for virus: A member of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet is among the 84 new coronavirus cases reported Thursday in Oklahoma, bringing the state’s tally of infections to at least 248. Oklahoma’s death toll rose to seven. [AP News]

200 state lawmakers and staffers tested for COVID-19 by a private lab: The House and Senate will remain closed next week to the public as lawmakers and staff work remotely to reduce the threat of spreading COVID-19. Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said about 200 people including lawmakers and staffers were tested by a private lab after learning one Senate staffer had tested positive for COVID-19. [Tulsa World]

Governor Executive Order, unemployment numbers, distance learning & more (Audio): The latest episode of This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses about Governor Stitt’s “Safer at Home” policy to curb the outbreak of COVID-19, a U.S. Department of Labor email asking local employment agencies to limit the amount of information released to the public, and the State Health Department is withholding much needed medical supplies pending an audit. [KOSU]

Grace period granted for expired Oklahoma driver licenses: As part of its coronavirus response, the state is giving an indefinite grace period to Oklahomans whose licenses expired on or after February 15, 2020. The Department of Public Safety granted the extension in response to Governor Kevin Stitt’s executive order declaring a state of emergency for Oklahoma. [KOSU]

OSDH moves to online vital record services: In order to protect the health of the public and reduce the number of staff in the office, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) will temporarily suspend lobby and mail application services for Vital Records until further notice. [The Duncan Banner]

Stephen McKeever Op-Ed: Social distancing precautions must not be eased: Even a small reduction in the rate of infection will see a drastic reduction in the projected number of infected people. However, if the opposite occurs, if social distancing restrictions are eased, the infection numbers will increase dramatically. [Stephen McKeever Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Federal Government

Oklahoma U.S. House members up to bat on coronavirus relief bill: With Wednesday night’s unanimous Senate approval of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill known as the CARES Act, Oklahoma’s five U.S. representatives contemplated their approach to what is expected to be a quick vote in the House. At least four of the five favor the measure, but something less than that are likely to be present for a final vote on it. There are several reasons for that, all of them related to the ongoing viral epidemic. [Tulsa World] Only one of Oklahoma’s five U.S. House members is expected to vote Friday on the estimated $2 trillion package to help individuals, businesses, hospitals and governments suffering economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business

Oklahoma jobless claims skyrocket to record high: Oklahomans who filed 17,720 initial claims for unemployment benefits last week shattered a nearly 30-year-old record. The previous record for filings in a week in the state occurred in January 1991 when 9,778 initial claims for benefits were recorded. [The Journal Record] Oklahoma unemployment claims increased by 865% last week as thousands of Oklahomans filed for unemployment amid the state’s worsening COVID-19 outbreak. [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]

Camps help city employees stay on the job: Day camps for school-age children are helping city of Oklahoma City employees stay on the job. With schools closed during the coronavirus crisis, the Parks and Recreation Department opened camps this week at five recreation centers. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: As Oklahoma closes schools and businesses to help stop the spread of COVID-19, child care providers are playing a critical role.

Curbside pickup, but no delivery for dispensaries: Oklahoma dispensaries will not be allowed to deliver medical marijuana during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. However, dispensaries can offer curbside pickup in order to limit personal interaction. [The Oklahoman]

State tribes extend shutdown of casinos through mid-April: The Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee nations will keep their casinos closed through mid-April, the tribes announced in separate news releases Thursday night. [Tulsa World] Chickasaw Nation casinos and offices will remain closed through April 15 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby announced Thursday. [The Oklahoman]


Oklahoma superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks about schools’ distance learning plans: Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister joined KOCO 5 for an interview after the Board of Education voted to approve distance learning plans to keep school buildings closed through the rest of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [KOCO]

OETA educational broadcasts begin Monday for at-home learning: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has partnered with OETA, the state’s public TV network and PBS affiliate, to broadcast programs for various school subjects and grade levels. [The Oklahoman]

OSSAA ends high school sports season, summer activities still up in air: By a 13-0 vote Thursday morning, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association ended the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. [Muskogee Phoenix] School closing officially scraps state tournaments. [The Ada News]

General News

Coronavirus in Oklahoma: ‘I would hate to be in a shelter with this going on’: As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads throughout the metro area, homeless outreach groups are expanding shelter capacity and altering practices in an effort to provide safer aid for those considered among the most vulnerable populations. [The Oklahoman] Those serving Oklahoma City’s homeless must “adapt everything” to deal with virus. [The Oklahoman] In Tulsa, the Day Center for homeless will limit access to avoid spread of COVID-19. [Tulsa World]

Census participation urged during coronavirus response: Disruptions and distractions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic must not be allowed to keep Oklahomans from participating in the Census, officials said. “There’s too much at stake for the entire decade ahead of us,” said Larry Sanders, Oklahoma State University Extension agricultural economist. [OSU News & Information]

Tribe delays census marketing campaign amid pandemic: As the coronavirus pandemic lingers, the U.S. Census Bureau is making adjustments but pushing forward with the decennial census, and Oklahoma Native American tribes are adjusting aggressive marketing campaigns planned to address acute undercounting from the 2010 census. [The Journal Record]

Local Headlines

  • Oklahoma County & Cleveland County waive fees on late property tax payments [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa closes city playgrounds, sports courts to encourage social distancing: ‘We all have to do our part’ [Tulsa World]
  • Norman grapples with businesses, stay at home order concerns [The Norman Transcript]
  • Muscogee (Creek) Nation reports first case of COVID-19 [MVSKOKE Media]
  • Second positive case of COVID-19 confirmed in Grady County [CNHI / Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • First positive COVID-19 confirmed in Pittsburg County [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Former Wetumka Mayor James Jackson arrested on child sexual abuse charges [NonDoc]
  • Life in a Pandemic: Share your story [Oklahoma Watch]

Quote of the Day

“What we are calling on, more than anything, is for Oklahomans to be good citizens, good neighbors and comply with the governor’s executive order, as well as the ordinances of local governments, to protect one another from this deadly illness.”

-Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter  [Tulsa World]

$1.534 billion

The amount in federal funding Oklahoma will receive from the new federal stimulus to aid our responses to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. But more will be needed to offset the skyrocketing cost and harm to our communities.

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Voters support a response to the Coronavirus that meets the scale of the crisis: Among the measures they endorse: paid sick leave for all workers, emergency funding for food supplies for those affected by the crisis, free testing for the virus, and moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoff. [Data for Progress]

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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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