In The Know, Weekend: OKC, Tulsa to let ‘shelter-in-place’ plans expire; nursing homes struggle to find protective equipment; 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.  

New from OK Policy

County jails in Oklahoma face immense risk from COVID-19: Oklahoma’s county jails are poised to become another epicenter in the COVID-19 crisis. As the state grapples with this pandemic, overcrowded and under-resourced jails present enormous risk to rural hospitals and to the state’s most vulnerable communities who are typically jailed at disproportionate rates. County jails are uniquely dangerous places to manage an outbreak. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

In tug of war between Governor, mayors, Stitt gets his way: As Oklahomans grapple with what will happen as cities and towns across the state begin reopening their economies as early as this week, it’s clear that Gov. Kevin Stitt has gotten his way. [The Frontier] U.S. reopening: Which states have relaxed restrictions? [USA Today]

  • Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Oklahoma City to ease ‘shelter-in-place’ starting May 1: OKC Mayor David Holt’s intent is to let Oklahoma City’s shelter-in-place emergency order expire May 1 but conditions for reopening businesses such as mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing, to be announced later, will be requirements — not “suggestions.” Holt acknowledged the pressure exerted by “external factors” — most specifically Gov. Kevin Stitt’s directives to begin lifting statewide measures instituted to arrest the spread of coronavirus — and said next Friday “isn’t the date my gut would pick.” [The Oklahoman] Until there is a vaccine or a proven effective treatment for COVID-19, OKC Mayor David Holt was not going to feel good about loosening restrictions on businesses and activities that pose a high risk of spreading the disease, and he would not have picked May 1 to be the day to do so. But at the same time, Holt said he realized Oklahoma City cannot shelter in place indefinitely. [Journal Record] Mayor Holt’s press conference (video) [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘It isn’t ideal, but …’: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum will allow shelter-in-place order to expire after April 30: Mayor G.T. Bynum grudgingly announced Friday that he will not extend his shelter-in-place order beyond April 30, setting in motion a phased reopening of the local economy as the county’s rate of new COVID-19 infections continues to trend upward. [Tulsa World] Watch the ‘Let’s Talk’ town hall: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum shares behind-the-scenes insights. [Tulsa World] Mayor Bynum’s press conference (video) [Tulsa World]
  • What medical groups, mayors say about reopening Oklahoma’s economy: In the wake of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to start reopening Oklahoma’s economy, Oklahoma Watch reached out for reaction from top medical groups and checked the remarks from Oklahoma City and Tulsa mayors. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Oklahoman Editorial: Oklahoma governor’s reopening plan has some risks: Most Oklahomans have abided by the rules, but walk into just about any store and you will see customers — and even employees — without facemasks, despite regular calls by public officials to wear them. This relaxed approach must change to keep Oklahoma’s COVID-19 situation from going from manageable to problematic, or worse. [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Coronavirus in Oklahoma: 3,121 confirmed cases, 188 deaths: Oklahoma’s number of positive COVID-19 cases now stands at 3,121. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Oklahoma stands at 188. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Friday an additional nine deaths due to the virus. [The Oklahoman] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Nursing homes, where COVID-19 cases abound, struggle to find protective equipment: Nearly a month after the state’s first nursing home residents died of COVID-19, many of Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities are struggling to find enough gowns and other protective equipment needed to prevent infections. [Oklahoma Watch]

National Guard team cleans long-term care facilities to help stifle COVID-19 outbreak: Members of the Oklahoma National Guard this week began cleaning nursing homes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. A facility in Muskogee and one in McAlester have been cleaned. A Tulsa facility was set to be cleaned on Saturday. Gov. Kevin Stitt has called up 260 members of the Oklahoma National Guard to perform a variety of tasks. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Capitol Insider: Oklahoma plan for re-opening economy begins (Audio): Gov. Kevin Stitt moves forward with a plan to do a phased-in re-opening of private businesses in Oklahoma following several weeks of closure due to COVID-19. KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss the plan and the latest developments in a dispute over new tribal gaming compacts. [KGOU]

As Governor begins reopening businesses, state capitol remains closed: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plans to begin opening businesses like salons and restaurants does not include any direction for when to reopen the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Capitol has been closed to the public since mid-March. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribes won’t press sports betting issue, attorney says: The two tribes that signed gaming compacts with Gov. Kevin Stitt this week won’t press the contentious issue of sports betting until the state resolves the matter, their attorney said Friday. Rosette said the primary immediate benefit of the new compacts is that they lower the rate for the exclusivity fees the tribes pay the state from 6 percent to 4.5 percent unless they expand their operations. [Tulsa World]

Compliance in doubt: Testing of medical marijuana products questioned: It’s likely that at least some medical marijuana and cannabis-infused products are making it to store shelves without first being tested for safety as required by Oklahoma law. [Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Subsidized child care to be available for state’s unemployed families: Taking advantage of $50 million in federal stimulus dollars, a new program announced on Friday will allow Oklahoma families facing unemployment to keep their children enrolled in child care while they search for jobs. [Tulsa World] The fund will allow families seeking employment to receive up to 60 days of child care as they try to reenter the workforce. Additionally, DHS is waiving its usual financial eligibility requirements. [The OklahomanOK Policy and nine other state organizations developed a series of policy recommendations and policy changes that can bring relief to Oklahoma child care providers.

Oklahoma processes more unemployment claims in April than in a typical year, state announces: The state has processed more than 160,000 new unemployment claims since April 1, a total larger than the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission typically processes in a whole year, officials announced Friday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City metro area business owners face tough reopening decisions: Oklahoma City-area business owners faced tough decisions this week when Gov. Kevin Stitt and some local leaders outlined a timeline for some of them to reopen. Some are eagerly preparing to open their doors on or before May 1. Others are taking a more cautious approach. [The Oklahoman]

Poll: Most losing jobs to virus think they’ll return: One out of every four American adults say someone in their household has lost a job to the coronavirus pandemic, but the vast majority expect those former jobs will return once the crisis passes, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. [AP via Tulsa World]

Golf courses teeing up to reopen after COVID-19 closures: Mayor G.T Bynum’s announcement Friday that golf courses can reopen May 1 with heightened sanitary measures did not catch golf course operators off guard. They’ve been planning to tee it up again — and advocating for it — almost since courses were closed a month ago as part of the mayor’s shelter-in-place order. So they are ready. [Tulsa World]

Restaurants proceed with caution toward reopening dining rooms: Gov. Kevin Stitt gave restaurants the green light to reopen dining rooms on May 1, but many are approaching it like a yellow. Stitt’s office released guidelines for reopening dining rooms based on recommendations from a task force of food-service professionals. [The Oklahoman]

Lt .Gov. Matt Pinnell Op-Ed: The case for the great American road trip: Thanks to the hard work of our health care professionals and the sacrifices made by our people to be responsible and stay at home, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. As we emerge from the immediacy of the health crisis, many questions will be asked. What did we learn? How did we innovate? When will we be OK again? I would argue that big, important questions like these demand the clarity and reflection that can come from a great American road trip. [Tulsa World Op-Ed]

Education News

Stimulus funds for tuition program may require more transparency: Oklahoma’s private school scholarship tax credit program lacks transparency about which schools receive the funding and how much. But if the governor decides to use emergency stimulus funds on the program, as he suggested last week, it might require more detailed reporting on where the scholarships go. [The Frontier] Listen Frontier: Stimulus funds for private school tuition? (Audio) [The Frontier] OK Policy: Despite their name, these tax-subsidized scholarships to private schools do not promote equal educational opportunity.

OU plans to resume classes on campus this fall, president announces: The University of Oklahoma plans to resume classes on campus in the fall semester, according to a letter sent Friday afternoon by interim President Joseph Harroz. But Friday’s letter confirms that OU has no intention of continuing distance learning during 2020-21. [Tulsa World] Instruction and housing models will be adjusted to ensure a return to campus is “realistic and safe.” Classes begin Aug. 24. “While we cannot eliminate all risk, we will mitigate it in every reasonable way we can.” [The Oklahoman] OSU officials plan to resume in-person classes for fall 2020 semester. [KFOR]

Oklahoma education officials preparing for all scenarios this fall: School has shifted to distance learning for the rest of this academic year. And it’s too soon to say if in-person classes at Oklahoma schools will be back in session next fall.  But State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says educators are working carefully to prepare for any educational scenario in the fall. [KOSU]

General News

A new call to fill out Census to help communities: Every decade citizens have a chance to fill out Census paperwork to help their communities get properly funded by the Federal Government. As of late Friday evening, Oklahoma was below the national response rate of 52.4 percent as state wide only 47.3 percent of Oklahoma residents have filled out a response to the Census. [Duncan Banner] OK Policy: an accurate Census count in the state is vital for Oklahoma to secure its share of federal funding, have fair voting representation, and more.

Kuma Roberts Op-Ed: Bias is a virus:  this fear and anxiety can lead to stigma and discrimination, as we’ve unfortunately seen evidence of across the country. The STOP AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) HATE coalition reported more than 1,100 incidents of verbal and physical harassment during a two-week period in late March. Alarmingly, more than 45% of these reported incidents occurred in a place of business. [Tulsa World Op-Ed]

Oklahoma professors’ study tracks social distancing patterns: A wife and husband who both teach at a regional university in Northeast Oklahoma have developed an online survey to track thought patterns on social distancing. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

On video town hall, viewer wants to know: Where did Lankford and Stitt get their ‘hairs cut?’ The town hall on Thursday covered common pandemic topics, with several questions about Stitt’s plans to reopen businesses, which started on Friday with services like pet grooming and haircuts. Haircuts came up a couple times, once from a viewer. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa County looks for federal guidance on distributing $113 million in CARES Act money [Tulsa World]
  • What will OKC look like after the pandemic? [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa World editorial: Keep Greenwood Rising History Center in the Greenwood District [Tulsa World Editorial]
  • Bixby City Council clears personal care businesses to reopen on Saturday [Tulsa World]
  • Thousands of Moore customers overcharged for water service [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma Contemporary delays opening of new arts center to at least mid-July [The Oklahoman]
  • Garfield County Health Department starts Facebook Group to provide COVID-19 information [CNHI]
  • Stillwater plans to begin Phase 1 of re-opening May 1 [Stillwater News Press]
  • Tahlequah business owners take precautions when reopening [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Anonymous $200K donation to help food, aid programs in Northwest Oklahoma [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“My concern is if we open up Oklahoma too soon, we’ve deeply damaged our economy for no reason.”

-Jenna Franks, owner of multi-purpose salon in OKC, speaking about city and state reopening plans [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who have completed their 2020 Census, which lags the national average of 52.4 percent. [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

New data shows more Americans are having trouble paying their rent: With nearly 10 million Americans filing for unemployment in March, April 1 was always going to be a difficult day for US renters. Now we have an idea of just how difficult: Nearly a third of 13.4 million US renters, 31%, didn’t pay their rent between April 1 and April 5. [CNN]

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.