In The Know: Stitt enacts conditional shelter-in-place policy; medical providers say stronger actions needed; 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

Oklahoma prisons at risk during COVID-19 health emergency: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections on March 13 suspended visitation to Oklahoma prisons. Last week, the Department of Corrections released an initial pandemic planning guide. These were appropriate first steps, but much work remains to ensure the health and safety of inmates, law enforcement, corrections staff, and the broader community. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

School support personnel play vital role, should receive pay during closure: While teachers, administrators, and other certified staff will continue to receive pay during the school closure, non-certified support staff only receive pay for the hours they work. Support staff serve as the backbone of schools, and their responsibility to keep schools safe and clean have become even more critical amidst the coronavirus outbreak. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]

In The News

Stitt enacts conditional shelter-in-place policy, business limitations: Two days after he acknowledged the “possibility” of having to implement statewide limitations for private businesses, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced five new orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. [NonDoc] Saying Oklahoma could have more than 500 positive cases of coronavirus, Stitt announced he is enacting a “safer-at-home” policy to mandate the state’s “vulnerable populations” remain at home until April 30. [The Oklahoman] “I cannot emphasize enough the need for us to continue with the social distancing and making sure that we don’t get into groups of 10 or more,” Stitt said. “We need all Oklahomans to take this really, really seriously.” [KOSU]

Doctors, nurses, hospitals, dentists say Stitt efforts fall short: Oklahoma’s doctors, dentists, nurses, hospitals and other health care providers said Gov. Kevin Stitt should have gone further on Tuesday to stop the spread of the coronavirus. A state coalition of medical groups, which urged Stitt in a letter to issue a “shelter-in-place” order for the state, said the governor’s actions regarding vulnerable populations and non-essential businesses were positive steps but that “more can and must be done to protect the health of all Oklahomans.” [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa World editorial: Gov. Stitt’s 19-county COVID-19 order is an improvement, but isn’t strong enough: Gov. Kevin Stitt should be more aggressive in the face of the spreading COVID-19 virus. On Tuesday, Stitt ordered the closing of all nonessential businesses in 19 Oklahoma counties where at least one person has tested positive for COVID-19. The order, which includes Tulsa County, starts at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and lasts 21 days. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Third death reported as Oklahoma passes 100 COVID-19 cases: COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma have passed the 100 mark. So far, 106 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state, according to numbers released Tuesday morning. Three people have died from the disease — in Cleveland, Pawnee and Tulsa counties. The latest victim was a Cleveland County woman in her 60s, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [Tulsa World] Stitt predicts thousands of COVID-19 cases. [The Oklahoman]

Health Care

Study ranks Oklahoma sixth-least aggressive state in responding to COVID-19: A new study by the financial analysis firm WalletHub ranks Oklahoma the sixth-least aggressive state in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The study sought to evaluate “which states are taking the largest actions to combat coronavirus,” and compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across “46 key metrics.” [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]

Mobile emergency rooms are being set up to screen patients for COVID-19: Mobile emergency rooms are being set up near the emergency room entrance at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City to screen patients for COVID-19, hospital officials announced Tuesday. [The Oklahoman] Mobile testing available as soon as supplies are delivered. [CNHI / The Ada News]

Hospitals seek help limiting unnecessary testing, producing medical supplies: As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, local health officials are asking the public to help avoid unnecessary testing, and for local companies to help produced needed medical supplies. [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]

Cherokee Nation has its first confirmed coronavirus patient: The first positive case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the Cherokee Nation, according to the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Health Services. [FOX25]

Dena Drabek: Explaining Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma: As Oklahomans, along with the rest of the world, focus on the present COVID-19 health crisis, we could soon be faced with another health challenge in Oklahoma depending on the choices our state makes regarding Medicaid expansion. [Dena Drabek / Tulsa Kids]

State Government

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission confirms record set for initial unemployment claims last week: The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission set a record for unemployment claims during the week ending March 21, it confirmed Tuesday. However, a specific number of Oklahomans who lost their jobs and filed initial claims sometime last week either through the agency’s online portal or over the phone wasn’t released by the agency Tuesday. [The Oklahoman] Essential information on Oklahoma employment law amid coronavirus provided during panel. [KFOR] OK Policy has suggested actions Oklahoma can take to help workers hurt by the pandemic.

Attorney general warns of fake COVID-19 tests: Oklahoma’s attorney general has issued an alert after receiving reports of scammers selling at-home COVID-19 tests during the coronavirus pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoman Editorial Board: Oklahoma lawmakers should pass budget, end session: Members need to pass the budget and call it a day. What about the hundreds of pieces of non-budget-related legislation that would go wanting because of an early adjournment? Those can wait — many of them probably aren’t worth the effort anyway. The coronavirus has made 2020 a year unlike any other, and needs to be treated as such regarding the budget. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman] OK Policy last week called for the Legislature to take a break to focus energy only on the budget, pandemic.

Oklahoma Sen. Paul Rosino tests positive for COVID-19: Sen. Paul Rosino, R-OKC, has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Reached this afternoon, Rosino said he began feeling ill Sunday, March 15, and has left his house only once since: to go to the doctor. [NonDoc] State Sen. Paul Rosino, who represents parts of southwest Oklahoma City and Mustang, tested positive for COVID-19 and is recovering at home. [The Oklahoman]

Two Oklahoma House staffers test positive for COVID-19: Two staff members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, according to House senior advisory for policy and communications John Estus. [NonDoc]

DHS caseworker tests positive: A Department of Human Services caseworker who recently tested positive for COVID-19 experienced symptoms during a juvenile court docket earlier this month, The Oklahoman has learned. [The Oklahoman]

Expo Square is closed, and the Oklahoma National Guard is tired of hearing rumors: Misinformation is ‘spreading faster than the virus’: “Misinformation, sometimes, is spreading faster than the virus,” Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson told the Tulsa World. “Every time I think it’s put behind us, it just pops up again.” [Tulsa World]

Federal Government

Department of Labor tells states to limit information provided regarding unemployment: As unemployment insurance claims spike across the nation, the U.S. Department of Labor is instructing state agencies to limit the amount of information released to the public. According to an email the Department of Labor sent to state agencies across the country last week, unemployment insurance claim information should be released only once a week and claim levels should be described in generalities such as “very high” or “large increase” when responding to media questions on the subject. [The Oklahoman]  

HHS announces grants to provide meals for older adults in Oklahoma: On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced $250 million in grants from the Administration for Community Living to help communities provide meals for older adults. Oklahoma received a grant for $2,713,680. [Shawnee News-Star]

Inhofe urges all Oklahomans to take COVID-19 seriously: Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Tulsa, urged everyone to take the COVID-19 coronavirus seriously, while he continued to work toward Senate passage of an economic stimulus package. [McAlester News-Capital]

Economy & Business

As cities, state tighten restrictions, one question rules: Is it essential?: Each step taken by public officials to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Oklahoma raises questions about what is banned and what’s just a recommendation. Stitt said more details are coming soon. But if his executive order and cities’ proclamations are similar to other states’, including California’s, the definitions will be specific and itemized in some areas, and broad and undefined in others. There will be gaps. [Oklahoma Watch] LIST: Oklahoma’s ‘essential’ businesses during coronavirus outbreak. [KTUL]

Looking for a lifeline: Estimated 10,000 state businesses may need SBA funding: Some 10,000 businesses in Oklahoma may have to turn to the Small Business Administration for loan help as a result of the global pandemic, the state’s secretary of commerce and workforce development said. [The Journal Record]

‘People think they did not hoard’: Grocers urge customers to shop sanely during pandemic: If the grocery industry has an overarching message to consumers during the coronavirus crisis, it is this: Take. A. Deep. Breath. “Just as the president has said, the governor has said, Mayor Bynum has said and other legislative folks, everybody needs to slow down a little bit and work through this,” said Jeff Reasor, CEO of area grocery chain Reasor’s. [Tulsa World]

Restrictions on alcohol delivery temporarily removed in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma ABLE Commission has temporarily removed restrictions on alcohol delivery to people 21 years old and older. Alcohol retailers – including liquor stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants and bars – can deliver certain alcoholic beverages to consumers age 21 and over until April 17, 2020. [KFOR]

Essential services: Truck drivers up their efforts to meet demands, work through virus shut-down rules: Leaders of two national trucking firms based in Tulsa said the country’s essentials keep on rolling as drivers take on challenges day-by-day, while an industry representative said state leaders need to avoid rules with unintended consequences. [Tulsa World]

As gas prices drop, virus keeps drivers at home: Amid decreasing demand and continuing overabundant supply, Oklahoma led the nation in the lowest average price of gas Monday at $1.71 per gallon, falling to an average of $1.698 Tuesday. [The Journal Record]

Tribes sue insurance companies over business interruption coverage: The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations filed separate lawsuits against several insurance companies Tuesday seeking judicial rulings that financial losses to their casinos and other businesses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are covered by their business interruption insurance policies. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice

Over 200 nonviolent offenders released from Oklahoma County jail to limit COVID-19 spread: Over 200 nonviolent, low-level offenders have been released from the Oklahoma County jail as officials attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep space open for violent offenders. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa County jail detainees sue over visitation policy: Tulsa County jail officials’ visitation policy discriminates against those who can’t afford the 30 cents-per-minute charge for video calls, according to a lawsuit filed in Tulsa federal court on behalf of about 40 pre-trial detainees. The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, seeks an injunction against the jail visitation policy, though it isn’t clear which policy is being criticized. [Tulsa World]

Local Headlines

  • Oklahoma City mayor commends state order that, while limited, broadens metro-area restrictions [The Oklahoman]
  • In Oklahoma City, call goes out to sew masks for those serving the homeless [Oklahoma Watch
  • ‘We don’t want you to be boxed up inside for weeks’: Tulsa Mayor says it’s OK to go outside but ‘be smart about it’ [Tulsa World]
  • Owasso to implement stricter restraints per Stitt’s latest executive order [Owasso Reporter]
  • Nursing home resident in Norman dies after testing positive [The Oklahoman]
  • Sweeping coronavirus restrictions go into effect Tuesday night in Stillwater [FOX25]
  • City of Stillwater’s prepared budget a ‘springboard’ at mercy of COVID-19 impacts [Stillwater News-Press]
  • Mobile testing in McAlester set for Wednesday [CNHI / McAlester News-Capital]
  • No quorum after McAlester mayor registers slight fever [McAlester News-Capital]

Quote of the Day

“Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said the secret to his success was to ‘skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.’ Likewise, Oklahoma’s leaders need to base such serious decisions not on the numbers and situation in which we find ourselves today (which we already know are inaccurate due to a lack of testing), but on where we could be in the coming weeks or, more appropriately, where we want to be in that time frame.”

-A letter from Oklahoma medical professionals urging Gov. Stitt to take stronger action to contain the COVID-19 virus [via Non Doc]

Number of the Day

18,000

The record number of unemployment claims filed during the week ending March 21. The prior week, approximately 9,000 unemployment claims were filed.

[Source: The Oklahoman]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As layoffs skyrocket, the holes in America’s safety net are becoming apparent: State unemployment insurance offices are reporting real-time record spikes in claims. The surge is straining state unemployment offices, which deliver benefits to the jobless so they can buy food and pay rent. On Monday, there were so many people trying to file for unemployment insurance in New York, Oregon and elsewhere that the websites crashed, workers say. Newly laid-off workers waited hours on poorly staffed phone lines. [Washington Post]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: Stitt enacts conditional shelter-in-place policy; medical providers say stronger actions needed; and more

  1. Does this mean one parent can refuse visitation that is court ordered for another parent when both are negativeforcovid 19

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