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View the latest posts about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

94 Oklahoma cities, counties register for Coronavirus Relief Fund reimbursements


94 CITIES, COUNTIES REGISTER FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR COVID-19 EXPENSES
The State’s application window is open until June 10 for cities, counties to receive first round of reimbursements from CARES Act CRF funds.

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 2, 2020) – The State of Oklahoma announced today that cities and counties have from June 1 through June 10 to submit their first round of applications to the State’s CARES FORWARD team to receive reimbursement funding for local government expenses incurred due to the presence of COVID-19. To date, 94 cities and counties across Oklahoma have requested to participate in the CARES FORWARD reimbursement platform.

“The State has put into place a sound platform to thoroughly review and quickly process reimbursement needs from cities and counties impacted by COVID-19,” said State COO John Budd. “We have 94 cities and counties who have already engaged with the State, and we encourage all others to reach out to the State as soon as possible to begin discussions on how these federal funds can support their services impacted by the novel virus.”

OSDH adjusts COVID-19 data publishing due to expiration of Gov's emergency declaration


OSDH Announces Adjustments to Publishing of COVID-19 Data

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 1, 2020) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today that its COVID-19 data tracker, located at coronavirus.health.ok.gov, will continue reporting active and recovered COVID-19 cases by county only, as permitted by State law, and the agency will no longer be able to publish COVID-19 data by city, zip code, or by long-term care and nursing home facility due to the State’s Catastrophic Emergency Declaration expiring on May 31, 2020.

OSDH and the office of Governor Kevin Stitt are actively exploring additional legal opinions and solutions to ensure the public, the medical community, and elected leaders can access relevant COVID-19 data that will allow for quick and effective decision-making while Oklahoma awaits a treatment or vaccine to mute the novel virus.

“OSDH will continue to publish daily the most recent active and recovered COVID-19 cases by county,” said OSDH Communications Director Kristin Davis. “The State’s infrastructure is in a much stronger position for continuing to address the presence of the novel coronavirus, and the core purpose of the emergency declaration is no longer needed. At the same time, Governor Kevin Stitt and Commissioner Lance Frye continue their shared commitment to transparency and availability of critical COVID-19 data. They have tasked the State’s legal experts to explore other options for providing critical health data that would support all stakeholders’ decision making during the presence of COVID-19, while also safeguarding Oklahomans’ protected health information.”

Monday, June 01, 2020

Hern comments on George Floyd and the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre


Hern statement on George Floyd and the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre

TULSA, OK – This morning, Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) released the following statement recognizing 99 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the protests in Tulsa this weekend.

“99 years ago, Tulsa faced one of the darkest moments in our city’s history,” said Rep. Hern. “White rioters burned down Black Wall Street, our nation’s most affluent black neighborhood, in the worst act of racial violence American has ever seen. This is the most shameful chapter in our city’s history.

“Nearly a century has passed, but racial inequality is still alive and well in the United States. The injustice done to George Floyd and his family is reprehensible. Records show that this bad cop had a history of excessive force incidents – he should not have been on the police force in the first place. I join President Trump’s call for a full investigation, and I pray justice is served.”

Rep. Hern continued, “Our nation is hurting, that much is crystal clear. We are currently facing unrest unlike any we’ve seen since the 1960s. We have a right to be angry, and I applaud those around the country who have engaged in peaceful protests. This weekend, we had multiple peaceful demonstrations around Tulsa. While many of our country’s cities are on fire, protesters in Tulsa worked hard to keep the peace, protect our city, and stop out-of-state agitators from inciting violence. I support the Tulsans who marched this weekend, and I support those who attended similar demonstrations around the country. I cannot, however, sanction or support the destruction of property. Businesses in our country have never been in a more vulnerable position. We are just beginning to reopen get our local economies running again, we cannot sabotage our own recovery. Fortunately, this was not the case in Tulsa, but I’ve seen countless small business owners across the country, including many minority and immigrant business owners, watch their life’s work go up in flames in response to a crime committed by four white cops in Minneapolis.

OSDH Provides Contact Tracing Guidance, Increases Tracers


OSDH Provides Contact Tracing Guidance, Increases Tracers

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 1, 2020) – In light of increased contact tracing efforts in the state, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) released today a Contact Tracing Overview document to inform the public on what to expect when contacted by a health department contact tracer.

Contact tracing is a method aimed at reducing the spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19 and involves public health department employees contacting people who have tested positive for the disease. Contact tracers ask questions to find out who may have been in contact with the COVID-19 patient in order to provide symptom checking, testing information and quarantine guidance when needed. An overview of contact tracing can be found here. An informational video can also be viewed below.

“Testing and contact tracing are key elements in the ongoing fight to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye said. “Through public-private partnerships that include trained professionals from the Oklahoma National Guard, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University, we are pleased to have quickly grown our state’s contact tracing team to nearly 600 individuals.”

Oklahoma enters Phase 3 of reopen plan

Governor Stitt sent this out today, noting that Oklahoma is now in Phase 3 of his administration's reopening plan:
Today I’m happy to tell you Oklahoma has moved to Phase 3 of the Open Up and Recover Safely plan. We will continue to listen to health officials and experts and make responsible decisions based on the data in our state. Oklahoma has just 708 active cases out of our nearly 4 million residents and 5,236 people have already recovered.

Our positive test percentage continues to decline 36 days into the OURS plan. As of May 28, 188,665 tests have been performed with just 3.77% coming back positive. Since Phase 2 was initiated on May 15, 69,914 tests have been performed and just 2.1% have been positive.

Active cases in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties, the two largest in our state, make up less than 0.03% of the population in their respective counties.

OCPA column: Dishonest or ignorant?


Dishonest or ignorant?
By Jonathan Small

If this year is like most election years, Oklahomans will receive campaign mailers from state Republicans decrying Washington, D.C.-style politics and proclaiming themselves fiscal conservatives. But in this year’s session—primarily because of House Republican leaders—lawmakers fully embraced D.C. politics and abandoned responsible financial stewardship.

Few things highlight this sad reality more than House Republicans’ decision to increase Oklahoma’s unfunded liability by advancing an unfunded “cost of living adjustment” (COLA) for retired state government workers—a transparent election-year ploy to buy votes with other people’s money.

The negative consequences for working families will be significant.

When Democrats controlled the Legislature, they also advanced unfunded COLAs in election years. That ultimately drained pensions so fast Oklahoma ranked 47th among the 50 states by 2007.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pursuit announces 3rd annual scholarship competition; video or essay on debt, accountabilty issues


Founded by the late Dr. Tom Coburn, Pursuit is a non-partisan organization aimed at making government transparent, exposing wasteful spending, and inspiring future generations to get involved. They recently announced their third annual scholarship competition. Read below for details:

3RD ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP COMPETITION
[OurPursuit.com]


There is a lot at stake for the future of young Americans. Even prior to the response to the crisis we are currently facing, both political parties had already placed our nation on an unsustainable fiscal course. In the absence of decisive action from our leaders, one generation of Americans is about to leave the next generations with an unbearable financial burden.

The national debt is more than $25 trillion, soon to exceed the size of our entire economy. There is another $100 trillion in unpaid for promises coming down the pike. Report after report warns of wasteful spending and unsustainable deficits, yet year after year nothing is done by our elected leaders to address them.

If this continues, millennials and generation Z will spend their peak earning years paying for the excesses and promises they had no knowledge of or say in. However, this is not an unsolvable problem. It’s a grand opportunity. But young Americans must start speaking up now.

Pursuit will award four scholarships to incoming Freshmen, Sophomores, or Juniors enrolled in an American university or community college who produce a video (maximum 5 minutes) or write an essay (maximum 2500 words) on one or a combination of the following topics:

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Attorney General Hunter: unmarked stimulus debit cards not always a scam


Attorney General Hunter: Unmarked Stimulus Debit Cards Not Always a Scam

OKLAHOMA CITY – In response to reports that some Americans are mistakenly discarding stimulus debit cards, Attorney General Mike Hunter today urged Oklahomans to not assume the unmarked envelopes containing cards are junk mail.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week the agencies had begun the process of sending nearly 4 million Visa debit cards loaded with the $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans.

The debit cards are arriving at households in plain envelopes, leading to confusion and individuals mistaking it for junk mail or fraudulent activity.

Attorney General Hunter is encouraging Oklahomans to open such correspondence and ensure they are not accidentally throwing away their stimulus payments.

1889 Institute: excessive credentialing wastes talent, limits opportunity


Excessive Credentialing Wastes Talent, Limits Opportunity
By Byron Schlomach

We, as a society, think university-granted degrees are more valuable than they actually are. Consequently, college degrees are often demanded to qualify for a job when degrees are not necessary. A degree might even cause us to think someone is qualified when they are anything but.

While I was in graduate school, two tenured economics professors vehemently argued to me that United States silver coins had never actually consisted of the element, silver. Actually, prior to 1965, they were 90 percent silver. I’d already had doubts about the true value of an advanced degree, but that discussion put my doubts into overdrive.

Many state jobs require a college degree for one to be hired, but could be filled by individuals with relevant experience but who have no degree. The 1889 Institute identified several state agency openings that unnecessarily required college degrees. Organizational skills can be obtained in a number of ways without college. Many state information technology positions require college degrees, but IT experience and certifications produce well-qualified candidates.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Oklahoma to begin Phase 3 of reopen plan on June 1st


OKLAHOMA TO BEGIN PHASE 3 OF OPEN UP AND RECOVER SAFELY PLAN ON JUNE 1
Additional guidance issued for individuals and businesses

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 29, 2020) – Oklahoma will proceed to Phase 3 of the Open Up and Recover Safely plan Monday, June 1, Governor Kevin Stitt announced Friday.

Oklahoma currently has just 708 active COVID-19 cases out of nearly 4 million residents and 5,236 people have already recovered.

Active cases in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, the state’s two largest, make up less than 0.03% of the population in their respective counties.

As of May 28, 188,665 tests have been performed with just 3.77% coming back positive. Since Phase 2 of the OURS plan was initiated May 15, 69,914 tests have been performed and just 2.1% have been positive.

“We are making responsible decisions based on the data in our state,” said Gov. Stitt. “While cases continue to decline 36 days into our reopening, it is important Oklahomans remember COVID-19 is still in the United States and we must continue to be diligent about washing our hands frequently, maintaining physical distance and protecting our most vulnerable populations.”

Under Phase 3, businesses may resume unrestricted staffing at their worksites by observing proper CDC-recommended social distancing protocols and are recommended to continue increased cleaning and disinfecting practices.