In The Know, Weekend: State’s COVID-19 cases surpass 1,100; poll shows most Oklahomans sheltering 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

Dr. John Schumann: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s health care proposal is a bad choice for Oklahoma: While Oklahomans increasingly turned their focus to dealing with the pandemic, the Stitt administration has insisted on staying the course on the meager 30-day public comment period. As a physician and an Oklahoma Policy Institute board member, I support full Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma because it represents the best health care opportunity for residents who otherwise can’t see a doctor or even fill a prescription. [Dr. John Schumann / Tulsa World Op-Ed]

Oklahoma News

Four more deaths reported as cases surpass 1,100 in Oklahoma: Four additional people have died from COVID-19 and 27 more people have been hospitalized as confirmed cases reach 1,159 in Oklahoma. The deaths occurred in Cleveland, Latimer, Osage and Washington counties, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health data released Saturday. The most recent deaths were three women older than 65 and one man in the 50-to-64 age group. [Tulsa World] The leap in Oklahomans testing positive was not unexpected, with Gov. Kevin Stitt having announced earlier in the week that the state had substantially expanded its testing capability and strongly encouraging testing for everyone who had COVID-19 symptoms or who had been around someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. [The Oklahoman

Poll: Vast majority of Oklahomans sheltering in place, say normal life is months away: A large majority of Oklahomans in all age groups are sheltering in place, according to a new poll that shows many residents of the state expect some changes forced by the coronavirus to last beyond the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Tulsa World editorial: Medicaid expansion would help state deal with crises like COVID-19: Public health has always been one of the strongest arguments for accepting Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. The current public health crisis illustrates why, and why that should matter for people who will never be eligible for Medicaid. Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of uninsured people in the United States. An estimated 200,000 Oklahomans would be eligible for health care coverage if the state would accept available federal funding for expansion. [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

Health Care Authority implements SoonerCare relief measures: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is taking measures to ensure continuity of care and services for SoonerCare members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Oklahoma Health Care Authority via CNHI]

Self-quarantine if you know a COVID-19 patient? Close contacts being notified as cases tracked in Tulsa: Tulsa Health Department has an ever-expanding team of epidemiologists and nurses dedicated to investigating case origins, as well as a team that communicates with those who might have been exposed to patients who tested positive. Epidemiologists use information a patient’s primary physician might have collected, such as symptoms and date of symptom onset, to determine where to begin. [Tulsa World]

Proxy family: The lights and sounds of thank you: At both hospitals, citizens had come to let nurses, doctors, ER attendants, lab techs and the cleaning crew — and all those other persons necessary to provide medical help to our neighbors who need it — know they are important and appreciated as they work to save lives from COVID-19. [NonDoc]

State Government News

Legislative proceedings available via livestream: The Oklahoma Legislature will convene in Special Session at 8 a.m. Monday, followed by House proceedings in regular session. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Belt-tightening ahead for Oklahoma state agencies: The pain from this latest downturn will require tough choices by policymakers, although a flush state savings account will ease that a bit. The state budget for fiscal year 2021 is based on estimates of oil selling at about $54 per barrel. The price of late has been closer to $20 per barrel, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on demand and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Political notebook: Potential issues in GOP primaries: The June 30 Republican legislative primaries could turn out to be a referendum on GOP priorities, judging from the challengers who have registered campaign committees ahead of this week’s three-day filing period for county, state and federal offices. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Too soon for another coronavirus relief bill?: With federal agencies still scrambling to process checks for individuals and make loans to small businesses, some members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation say it’s too early to talk about another major relief package. [The Oklahoman] 10 things you might not know about the CARES Act [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

U.S. jail incarceration rate decreases, while Oklahoma’s increases: Fewer people are being arrested and sent to jail in the United States, but Oklahoma seems to defy the trend. The U.S. Department of Justice reports the incarceration rate for county and city jails across the country fell by 12 percent between 2008 and 2018. But, data from the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice suggests Oklahoma jail populations mostly increased over most of that time period. [KOSU] OK Policy analysis has shown that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate should prompt an evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system. 

Department of Corrections distributing thousands of masks to facilities: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced more than 28,000 face masks are headed to its facilities Saturday. The masks, donated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, are part of the ODOC’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among inmates, corrections officers and employees. [Tulsa World] Nine Oklahoma organizations have come together to ask state officials to take urgent action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma Corrections facilities. 

Arrests down in OKC during pandemic: As the coronavirus spread across the state and nation in March, emergency phone calls increased in Oklahoma City while arrests and the number of bookings into Oklahoma County jail dropped dramatically. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Point of View: Real estate “essential”? Not quite: “Take the fact that our local government was so easily persuaded to declare that real estate was an essential business, and combine that with having to watch my own industry prioritize the almighty dollar over the health and safety of our local communities, and that is exactly why I am sick — no virus necessary.” [Scott Martin Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma liquor stores see sales spike amid outbreak: Liquor stores across the Oklahoma City metro have seen a spike in sales over the last month as people quarantine themselves during the coronavirus outbreak. [The Oklahoman]

Business viewpoint: COVID-19 survival guide for small business: A Tulsa business owner started a Facebook group to help friends and clients who own small businesses. The idea caught on quickly. Less than three weeks later, there are more than 25,000 members — business owners, nonprofits and consumers. [Diane White / Tulsa World]

Nonprofits dealing with no fundraisers due to pandemic: Spring is the prime time for fundraising events, from formal galas to golf tournaments, celebrations to fun runs. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced citizens throughout the country to practice “social distancing” in the hope of limiting the virus’ spread. [Tulsa World] Creating a playbook for nonprofits in the COVID-19 crisis [NonDoc]

Fueled by a price war and a virus pandemic, the oil business is in crisis: In the midst of what could be the biggest crisis ever in the oil industry, coronavirus COVID-19 is playing a starring role. Earlier this year, energy companies in Oklahoma already were feeling the impact of a worldwide price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The price for a barrel of oil dropped from $66 in January to around $20 in March, before rallying Friday to around $25. [Enid News & Eagle]

Lakeside destinations adapt to crowds seeking wide-open spaces: People escaping coronavirus threats and congested urban areas are going to the state’s lakes and parks — and in some cases, bringing the congestion with them. Nowhere is it more obvious than around Grove, Monkey Island and the rest of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, where some businesses are adapting and others have closed. State parks, likewise, remain busy with campgrounds and cabin rentals in demand but with facilities closed. [Tulsa World]

The bands play on: Oklahoma musicians and venues stream shows during coronavirus pandemic: As the coronavirus pandemic has canceled or postponed concerts worldwide, musicians from around the globe — including Oklahoma — are taking busking — the time-honored tradition of performing for tips — digital, setting out virtual tip jars and playing live-stream shows from their homes or other safe places. [The Oklahoman] Wayne Greene: Art saves lives … now more than ever [Tulsa World Opinion]

Education News

Learning must go on, even for preschoolers and older students in sciences, upper-level math and even band: Oklahoma’s kids are going to get back to the business of school on Monday from the confines of home. But what will “distance learning” look like for a 4-year-old? How will third-graders stay on track in reading through the end of their milestone year? How will a middle- or high-schooler finish a band credit all alone? [Tulsa World]

Superintendent Deborah Gist: Give each grace as we get through ‘The For Now Normal’ together: Next week, our school year will resume in living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms across our city as Tulsa Public Schools and districts statewide launch distance learning. To borrow a phrase from our friends on Sesame Street in “The For Now Normal” segment, teachers will engage with students from afar using internet tools, videos, email, phone calls, paper pickup and postal mail. [Dr. Deborah Gist / Tulsa World Op-Ed]

Quote of the Day

“When Oklahomans are no longer in collective survival mode, perhaps we can then more closely consider the governor’s Medicaid expansion proposal.”

-Dr. John Schumann, physician and OK Policy board member, urging Gov. Stitt to withdraw his health care proposal while Oklahomans are grappling with the pandemic [Tulsa World Op-Ed]

Number of the Day


At least this number of Oklahoma’s 700,000 students don’t have home internet access, according to survey results from 546 Oklahoma’s K-12 school districts.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Education]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to protect the 2020 vote from the coronavirus: Given the scope of the challenge, large-scale preparation, backed by the concerted support of the government and the public, is needed immediately to ensure that the 2020 election is free, fair, accessible, and secure. We will need substantial modifications to our election procedures, substantial flexibility, and a substantial infusion of resources to ensure that every eligible American can register and vote safely, securely, accessibly, and as conveniently as possible; to ensure that every ballot cast by an eligible voter counts; to maintain the security of the election; and to ensure the safety of election workers. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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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.

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