In The Know: Stitt extends statewide ‘safer at home’ order, but falls short of ‘shelter in place’ 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’s safety requires statewide “stay-at-home” order: Gov. Stitt on Wednesday extended his executive order to close non-essential businesses to all 77 counties through April 30. However, that’s not enough. To slow the virus’s spread and give our health systems the resources to respond, Gov. Stitt should issue a statewide stay-at-home order. [Carly Putnam / OK Policy]

Policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis. We’re tracking these cases with our new Oklahoma Court Tracker tool: The Oklahoma Court Tracker, a tool by OK Policy’s Open Justice Oklahoma program, displays information on who is filing eviction and foreclosure cases and where those cases have been filed. As of April 1, plaintiffs have filed 1,137 evictions and 159 foreclosures since Oklahoma’s emergency declaration on March 15. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Prisons, jails are focus in combating outbreak: Oklahoma’s prisons and jails are highly susceptible to viral pandemics due to the absence of statewide protocols, overcrowded conditions, and the lack of health care access commonly experienced by incarcerated people. Actions today can reduce the risk of a mass outbreak to Oklahoma’s hospitals and time is running out for officials to be proactive. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Private labs limit COVID-19 testing data, Stitt extends shutdown order statewide: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the latest version of his COVID-19 executive order this afternoon, expanding business restrictions statewide and extending his “safer at home” requirements for seniors and those with compromised immune systems through April 30. [NonDoc] All non-essential businesses must close, but no order to shelter in place. [CNHI / The Ada News] Commissioner of Health Gary Cox issued a letter notifying county health departments today that all COVID-19 testing centers and providers are to loosen requirements for Oklahomans to be tested. [Claremore Daily Progress] OSU begins COVID-19 testing, relaxing strict restrictions on who qualifies for a test. [Tulsa World

Stitt: More hospital beds needed to treat virus patients: As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma jumped by 154 and deaths increased by seven, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday the state will need up to 6,800 hospital beds to treat coronavirus patients at the peak of the pandemic. [The Journal Record] Governor Stitt says they are working with FEMA and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers on alternative care sites. [KJRH] Wednesday marked the sharpest increase yet in positive tests for COVID-19. Latest numbers on the coronavirus in Oklahoma: 719 confirmed cases, more than 2002 hospitalizations, and 30 deaths. [Tulsa World] Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Map and Case Count [New York Times]

‘Demanding transparency’: Local health officials frustrated with state’s messaging: Oklahoma’s death rate for COVID-19 may be twice that of the national average, data compiled by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department would indicate. But at a time when accurate messaging to the public is the most critical tool health officials have in the effort to curb the spread of the disease, members of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s board on Wednesday voiced some frustration with the inconsistent messaging coming from the state level. [The Journal Record]

Panel expected to declare state revenue failure: A panel led by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to declare a revenue failure for the current fiscal year as plummeting oil prices and dwindling tax collections batter the state budget. The Board of Equalization will meet early next week in a move that will allow the state to tap into some of the roughly $800 million in the state’s Constitutional Reserve Fund, commonly called the Rainy Day Fund, said Sen. Roger Thompson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. [The Journal Record]

Laura Bellis and Nate Morris: Gov. Kevin Stitt must issue a shelter-in-place order now to save lives and #SaveOurState: According to, a resource created by a group of public health experts and data scientists, Oklahoma is in the middle of its “point of no return” window. These experts suggest that the governor must issue a statewide shelter-in-place order by April 3. Without it, Oklahoma will be unable to avoid an overcrowding of hospitals within a few short weeks, potentially resulting in thousands of deaths. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Health News

Dr. Larry Bookman: COVID-19 deaths also underreported: For the last few weeks, Dr. Larry Bookman, an Oklahoma City physician and president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, has been speaking on various platforms about COVID-19 and challenges faced by the state. [The Oklahoman]

Mental health crisis projected to hit Oklahoma, nation after COVID-19: As many as 18,400 Oklahomans could attempt suicide over the next 12 months under the burdens of stress and depression, according to a report from the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, basing the prediction on suicide patterns that have followed previous disasters and recessions. [Tulsa World] More than 13,000 also could develop substance use disorders. [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]  State urged to increase mental health funding. [The Journal Record]

Nursing home operators want facility to care for COVID-19-positive residents returning from hospitals: Oklahoma nursing home officials are pushing for something akin to a halfway house for COVID-19-infected nursing home patients returning from hospitals. Hospitals are sending the patients back to the nursing homes after the critical danger to their health has been treated but while they still may be contagious. [The Oklahoman]

Product developed by Oklahoma cardiologist green-lit for use in COVID-19 treatment: The Food and Drug Administration gave remarkably quick, temporary approval to a cardiac monitoring device that helps doctors monitor patients who take a controversial COVID-19 treatment. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Seeking consistency: Mayors wish for more state leadership: Some of Oklahoma’s mayors, including Stillwater mayor Will Joyce, have been responding to the threat of COVID-19 with more aggressive restrictions than Gov. Kevin Stitt has been willing to take at a state level. [Stillwater News-Press]

What is essential? Opinions differ on Stitt’s business closure mandate: In the past week, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s order to close “nonessential” businesses in counties with confirmed cases of COVID-19 has expanded from 19 to 77 counties, after the governor announced Wednesday he is expanding the order to cover the entire state. But across Oklahoma, many businesses remain open, which critics attribute to Stitt’s broad definition of “essential” businesses. [The Oklahoman]

Dept. of Health workers outline care, safety precautions amid COVID-19 outbreak during chamber live video: The announcement of Stephens County’s first death related to COVID-19 came from an Oklahoma State Department of Health worker Wednesday during a Facebook live video, though the statistic was not included in the state data April 1, 2020. [The Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma WIC applications available online: The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program has implemented an online application for new and existing clients in order to minimize exposure to COVID-19. [KFOR]

DPS waiving certain driver’s license requirements for those under 18: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and Oklahoma public school students not returning to school this year, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety is waiving certain driver’s license requirements for those under the age of 18. [KFOR]

Federal Government News

Social Security recipients who don’t usually file tax returns will automatically get $1,200 payments, Treasury says in reversal: The Treasury announced late Wednesday that Social Security beneficiaries who typically do not file a tax return will automatically get the $1,200 payment. The announcement is a reversal from earlier in the week when the Internal Revenue Service said everyone would need to file some sort of tax return in order to qualify for the payments. Democrats and some Republicans criticized the IRS for requiring so many extra hurdles for this vulnerable population to get aid when the government already has their information on file. [The Washington Post]

Direct coronavirus relief payments are coming. Here are more details: If all goes according to plan, individual payments authorized by last week’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill will start showing up in the bank accounts of most eligible Americans within a few weeks, officials say. That may sound simple enough, but a lot of terms and conditions are squeezed into that one sentence. [Tulsa World]

Funds coming to assist gig workers, independent contractors idled by the pandemic: Federal dollars to help gig economy workers and independent contractors idled by the new coronavirus pandemic are headed to Oklahoma. Those dollars will help each state’s unemployment insurance system boost compensatory rates and lengthen the time benefits can be received for all idled workers, regardless of whether they work for themselves or someone else. [The Oklahoman]

Maximum monthly allotment for SNAP customers approved by USDA amid coronavirus crisis: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted approval to Oklahoma Human Services to issue emergency allotments to SNAP customers. The move is in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Act, which was signed by the president last week. [FOX25]

Federal officials seek input from tribes on how $8 billion in coronavirus relief funds should be distributed: The U.S. Department of the Interior has sent letters to tribal leaders across the nation seeking recommendations on how $8 billion in coronavirus relief funds should be distributed among this nation’s various tribes. [The Oklahoman]

Tinker Air Force Base orders 1,800 employees back to work: More than 1,800 workers are heading back to work at Tinker Air Force Base on Wednesday. In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Tinker’s Air Force Sustainment Center said it needed to recall 1,870 essential employees back to work. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa World editorial: Pandemic makes state reconsider who belongs in jail: The COVID-19 crisis adds a public health perspective to the mass incarceration issue. Jails confine people among strangers, which is an opportunity for disease to spread — to inmates and to jail employees. Diseases that spread in jails don’t stay locked up there. [Tulsa World Editorial

Enforcing closures of nonessential businesses proving difficult as confusion persists: Across Oklahoma, law enforcement officers are struggling to enforce rules about the closure of non-essential businesses as confusion persists. The vastness of the task and the focus on education before citation is being called unprecedented. So far, in Oklahoma’s three largest cities, only one citation is said to have been issued. [The Oklahoman]

OKC Fire Department short of masks, other gear: Oklahoma City firefighters are using sophisticated breathing apparatus on medical calls due to a shortage of common safety masks. “We are running low on PPE,” or personal protective equipment, said Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

OCU economist says unemployment could exceed 10% soon: Severe distress in the energy industry and the COVID-19 pandemic could combine to deal Oklahoma more economic pain than was suffered during the Great Recession, an economics professor at Oklahoma City University believes. [The Journal Record]

City of Tulsa sets aside $1.1M for no-interest small business loans: The City of Tulsa is offering no-interest loans of up to $50,000 to small businesses affected by COVID-19. Businesses can spend loans from The Resilience and Recovery Fund on things like payroll and insurance premiums. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

State Regents for Higher Ed hold first virtual meeting: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education held their first virtual meeting via Zoom conference this morning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the 11-minute meeting went on as normal, there were hopes that the group’s first virtual meeting will be its last. [NonDoc]

General News

American Sign Language interpreters shine during COVID-19 press conferences: As the coronavirus has spread throughout Oklahoma, press conferences have become the fastest way for elected officials to get updates and directives to the people they serve. And right beside Stitt, or Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, or Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, are the increasingly visible American Sign Language interpreters helping carry the message. [The Frontier]

How to Handle Rent Payments and Bills During the Public Health Emergency: According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, evictions across the state have mostly been suspended. The only exception is an “emergency eviction.” Most county courthouses are not hearing eviction cases, so experts say if you get a notice, wait, and contact your landlord. [KJRH]

Tulsans urged to complete 2020 Census online, by phone or mail amid pandemic concerns: Census Day arrived Wednesday to a nation gripped by COVID-19, begging the question, how does the government conduct a complete count of its population during a pandemic? [Tulsa World]

Point of View: It’s census time. Let’s make sure every Oklahoman is counted: I wanted to pause and take a moment to remind Oklahomans about the importance of completing the 2020 Census. Our “new normal” and the state of our economy should be an important reminder that even when life seems a little out of control, we must continue to think about the future. And the future of our communities is largely impacted by the results of the 2020 Census. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tahlequah is the first community in Oklahoma to enact a curfew to prevent spread of virus. [KTUL]
  • Free COVID-19 Testing at the Ardmore Convention Center April 2, 2020 [The Duncan Banner]
  • Tulsa extends stay-at-home order, offers $1.1 million in loans to small businesses [Tulsa World]
  • Owasso latest city to adopt a shelter in place order [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Old Tulsa Juvenile Justice Center to Be Used as Emergency Homeless Shelter [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Jackson County Health Dept. to open satellite location Wednesday [FOX25]
  • Woodward County Health Department announces first case of COVID-19 [Woodward News]
  • Grady County back up to 3 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 1 [The Express-Star]
  • City of Marlow orders residents to ‘shelter in place’ [Duncan Banner]
  • City of McAlester extends closures to April 30 [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Fort Sill reports seven cases, first case recovered [KSWO]
  • Sapulpa newspaper apologizes for coronavirus prank story claiming students have to repeat current grade level [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Until we get ahead of this disease by keeping people at home and isolated and closing businesses down, we’re always going to be behind.”

-Dr. Larry Bookman, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahomans that could attempt suicide over the next 12 months under the burdens of stress and depression due to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.

[Source: Healthy Minds Policy Initiative]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The coronavirus is exacerbating vulnerabilities Native communities already face: While nearly no one in the country is safe from the coronavirus outbreak, its impact on Indian Country looks different from the rest of the US. emergency federal funding for tribal health organizations has been delayed within the bureaucracy at US Health and Human Services. Then there are the negative economic effects, with hospitality businesses like casinos — often tribes’ greatest source of income — closing. Indian Country’s resources were stretched thin to begin with, and the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the disparities. [Vox]

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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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