In The Know, Weekend: Officials say state in ‘good shape’ for virus surge; tribal leaders urge statewide shelter order; 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.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  

Oklahoma News

‘We are in good shape’: As Oklahoma prepares for COVID surge, leaders say the state is well-equipped: Oklahoma hospitals are bracing for an expected COVID-19 patient surge, but the state is equipped to handle patient capacities even in the “worst case scenario,” officials said Friday. The outbreak has not yet reached its patient peak in Oklahoma, but as the state prepares for one that is projected to be just under two weeks away, Gov. Kevin Stitt said there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. [The Frontier] Stitt urged Oklahomans to stay home over the Easter holiday weekend and avoid groups of 10 or more. Oklahomans should continue to practice social distancing and going out only when necessary. [CNHI] Tulsa-area hospital systems say they’re prepared for at least up to a 40% increase in bed use and are confident that they’ll have enough equipment to treat patients while keeping themselves safe from becoming sick. [Tulsa World]

Pandemic peak projected for April 21: The death toll from COVID-19 in Oklahoma could be nearing 500 by the start of May, the state Health Department said Friday. Oklahoma is projected to have its worst day of the coronavirus crisis on April 21. [The Oklahoman] Even with flattening of the curve, the number of projected deaths in Oklahoma is expected to reach 469 by May 1. On Friday morning, 88 deaths had been reported. The state had reported 1,794 positive reported cases by Friday. That is projected to be 9,300 by May 1. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Tribes ask Stitt to issue statewide shelter-in-place order: The leaders of 26 tribes sent a letter to Oklahoma’s governor urging him to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to protect the public from the spreading COVID-19 virus. The coming weeks will be particularly challenging as the virus moves toward its peak, the tribal leaders wrote in the letter to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. [CNHI] The leaders said each of them has taken strong actions within their own tribes by closing their public operations, including their gaming operations and hospitality venues. [The Oklahoman] In their letter, tribal leaders urged Stitt to go further and “issue a full and statewide shelter-in-place order.” A statement from the governor’s office did not address the tribal leaders’ call for the stronger order. [Tulsa World] ‘Safer at home’ vs. ‘shelter in place’: Key difference between Gov. Stitt’s mandate and orders in other states. [Tulsa World]

Stitt signs over 450 commutations, reduces prison overcrowding during COVID-19 pandemic: On Friday, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he signed over 450 commutations to help reduce prison overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 452 total individuals approved for commutations, 404 will be released on April 16 after paperwork is filed. [The Oklahoman] The bulk of the offenders were commuted to time served. The Governor’s Office is recommending that the inmates self-quarantine for 14 days if they’re coming from a facility with a known case of COVID-19. [Tulsa World] OK Policy joined with organizations around the state to urge commutations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreak, and there are additional actions the state can take to address the virus’ spread in Oklahoma’s prisons and jails.  


Health News

Stitt administration proceeding with Medicaid overhaul: The Stitt administration’s plan to revamp the state’s Medicaid program continues apace despite the spring’s disruptions to the health care system, the economy and the country’s social framework, a top administrator says. [Tulsa World] Tulsa World editorial: We can’t undo a decade of Medicaid obstinacy, but we can stop repeating it. [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

Chickasaw Nation opens COVID-19 test centers: The Chickasaw Nation Department of Health has built COVID-19 temporary testing centers to provide patients with access for symptoms relating to the coronavirus. The tented structures are located at Chickasaw Nation Health Clinics in Ardmore and Purcell in addition to the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada. [The Oklahoman]

State hospitals to receive nearly $500 million in federal aid: Oklahoma hospitals will receive nearly $500 million from funding approved by Congress to help health care providers make up for lost revenue during the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

OSU Medical Center designated as COVID-19 hospital in surge plan: Tulsa’s OSU Medical Center will serve as a COVID-19 hospital in the event of a surge in cases. A hospital in the Oklahoma City area will be designated as a COVID-19 hospital for that area of the state in the coming days. [Public Radio Tulsa] OU Medicine expands bed capacity amid coronavirus pandemic [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

More than 40 Oklahoma legislators re-elected by default: At the conclusion of Oklahoma’s election filing today, 46 out of 147 incumbent members have functionally been re-elected to the state Legislature without a campaign. The high number of automatic re-elections comes two years after the state’s teacher walkout combined with 18 term-limited Oklahoma legislators and numerous retirements to give 2018 the largest field of candidates in modern state history. [NonDoc] Filing ends with crowded fields for Inhofe, Horn [The Oklahoman] Final day of candidate filing brings some surprises. [Tulsa World]

In harm’s way: Pressure builds to recognize grocery workers as first responders: Frequently overlooked and taken for granted, thousands of grocery store workers across the state are now finding themselves on the front lines, helping people obtain food as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic rages outside. A growing number of voices are joining a call for Gov. Kevin Stitt to recognize Oklahoma’s grocery store workers first responders, serving a vital need the public depends on for survival. [Journal Record]

Legislators say governor’s new powers not a threat: The Oklahoma Legislature last week approved Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Executive Order to declare a health emergency for all 77 counties, a move that granted him authority to temporarily suspend laws and regulations that interfere with the state’s ability to address the pandemic. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Economy & Business News

Tulsa area COVID-19 response fund taking applications from nonprofits: Tulsa area nonprofits can now apply for grants from the Tulsa Area COVID-19 Response Fund. Organizations must show grant funds will go toward basic needs like housing, food and health care for people directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

OKC seeks consultants to help small businesses: If you have the know-how to help small business owners navigate the financial, technical or legal challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma City needs you now – and the city will pay you for your services. The Oklahoma City Small Business Continuity Program is seeking consultants to assist small businesses affected by COVID-19. [Journal Record]

OEPA requests hearing to limit Oklahoma oil production: The Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance announced Friday that it filed a request for a hearing with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to discuss a previous request that the commission restrict oil production in the state. [Journal Record] The application argues there is no correlation in Oklahoma between what producers in the state are getting (usually discounted, compared to WTI pricing) and its actual value, and further asserts the cost to recover crude oil for many operators exceeds current value, which statutorily constitutes waste under Oklahoma law. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Department of Commerce launches manufacturing reboot program: The Oklahoma Department of Commerce announced the creation of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Reboot Program, which will address the negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic on Oklahoma businesses, specifically manufacturers. Awards will range from $25,000 to $150,000, depending on market potential and long-term impact of the new production capabilities on Oklahoma’s economy. [OK Energy Today]

Oklahoma businesses join mask manufacturing efforts: From Oklahoma City to Claremore, the nationwide shortage of high quality masks needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus has inspired Oklahoma manufacturing businesses to spring into action. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Despite pleas, hundreds of Oklahoma child care centers close: When the coronavirus pandemic hit Oklahoma, state officials urged child care centers to stay open. The goal was to ensure child care would still be available to first responders and other essential personnel. But as of this week, 734 child care centers have closed, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. And many more are struggling to make ends meet. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy: Child care plays pivotal role during health crisis.

Tulsa Public Schools leadership aims to support students and families through pandemic uncertainty: At a special meeting of the Tulsa Public School Board of Education on Friday, administrators and board members were unanimous in approving six recommendations aimed at helping the district and its students deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa] TPS waives many requirements affecting student attendance, grades, graduation and more. [Tulsa World] Several Tulsa-area local school districts reschedule graduation for this summer, plan virtual ceremonies as backup. [Tulsa World]

Rogers State University Public TV pitches in to help educate Oklahoma students: The public television station from Rogers State University in northeast Oklahoma is taking lessons learned from its Cherokee language telecourses and supplying classes to students whose schools are closed to combat COVID-19. RSU Public TV will air courses taught by teachers from Tulsa Public Schools and Sequoyah Public Schools in Claremore four days a week. The programming is designed to bring courses to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access teaching via the internet. [KOSU]

General News

Virtual COVID-19 support groups for public, frontline workers begin Saturday: The nonprofit Mental Health Association Oklahoma is going to launch new statewide COVID-19 virtual support groups this Saturday, April 11. [CNHI] County health departments offering virtual mental health visits [CNHI]

What to do if domestic violence occurs during coronavirus shutdown: With stay-at-home orders and quarantine measures taken to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of domestic violence incidences could increase. [Miami News-Record] The frequency and severity of domestic abuse likely will increase while Americans are staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Legal Aid Services can help if you’ve been affected by coronavirus: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is here to help you with problems created by the coronavirus. If you are unemployed or unable to work, Legal Aid can help you if you have been denied for benefits such as unemployment, sick leave and food stamps. [Edmond Sun]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC mayor: ‘People are staying home because they don’t want to die.’ [The Oklahoman
  • Tulsa mayor: ‘We cannot let up now.’ [Tulsa World
  • Garfield County woman first official death due to COVID-19 in Northwest Oklahoma [Enid News & Eagle]
  • No new COVID-19 cases in three days, Muskogee County Health Department says [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Health department offers guidance for Spring holidays, festivities [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • 23 cases, 0 deaths: COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Rogers County [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • 13 cases, 2 deaths: The latest COVID-19 numbers in Mayes County [CNHI]
  • Mayor extends Stillwater’s state of emergency through April 30 [Stillwater News Press]
  • Edmond to receive $284,977 to assist public needs [The Oklahoman]
  • Ada Church campaign aims to erase medical debt [Ada News]
  • Panhandle drought growing. [OK Energy Today]

Quote of the Day

“We’re required to be there to keep everybody fed, and we’re taking big risks that others don’t have to take. People are in their masks and gloves and they’re in and out of the store while we’re there for eight, 10 or 12 hours.”

-Dusty Gearhard, meat counter manager at an Edmond Homeland store [Journal Record

Number of the Day


Number of commutations announced Friday by Gov. Kevin Stitt to reduce prison overcrowding during the pandemic

[Source: The Oklahoman]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Grocery workers are keeping Americans alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they need: As worried Americans pack supermarket aisles in anticipation of quarantines and shelter-in-place orders, grocery workers are working at a frantic pace to keep Americans fed and alive, and risking their own health in the process. As grocery workers put their lives on the line—often for low wages and few benefits—it is imperative that employers, policymakers, and even customers act with urgency to protect, support, and compensate them. [Brookings Institute]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.