Saturday, March 28, 2020

Oklahoma leaders pay tribute to Dr. Tom Coburn

Following the passing of Dr. Tom Coburn this morning, tributes are pouring in from Oklahoma elected officials and leaders. I'm sure I'll have more come in as the weekend progresses, but for now, here are comments from the following:

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe
  • Rep. Tom Cole
  • Sen. James Lankford
  • State Senate President Greg Treat
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt
  • Attorney General Mike Hunter
  • Rep. Kevin Hern
  • The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
  • State House Speaker Charles McCall
Inhofe Statement on the Passing of Former Senator, Dr. Tom Coburn

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement after learning of the passing of former Senator, Dr. Tom Coburn:

“There was no one like Dr. Tom Coburn—in the Senate or in Oklahoma,” Inhofe said. “He was respected by everyone for a lot of things—as a medical doctor, an intellectual, a fearless advocate against government waste, a sought after advisor —but more than that, he was a brother in Christ. I was honored to serve the people of Oklahoma with him, and Kay and I are praying for Carolyn and the rest of his family in their time of grief. He will be missed by Oklahoma and the nation.”

Cole Mourns Loss of Dr. Tom Coburn

Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after learning about the passing of Dr. Tom Coburn, a beloved Oklahoman who previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives and most recently in the U.S. Senate.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my former colleague in Congress and client, Dr. Tom Coburn. He was an Oklahoma original – a politician who hated politics. He disliked campaigns, but he never lost an election. Voters appreciated his strong conservative views, his candor and his honesty as a person,” said Cole.

“Tom felt a strong call to serve his fellow Oklahomans as both a physician and an elected official. He did both with genuine personal integrity. In Oklahoma and far beyond, Tom became a legendary figure who fiercely fought for what he believed in and what he thought was best for future generations of Americans. And he did so with great conviction and resolve.

“I extend my deepest sympathy to Tom’s devoted wife Carolyn and his close-knit family. Nothing gave Tom more pleasure and pride than his loving and talented children and grandchildren. His family truly brought him the greatest joy in life. I offer them all my prayers for their loss, and I wish them God’s healing in this time of tremendous grief and sorrow.”


Lankford Remembers the Legacy of Former US Senator Tom Coburn

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) issued the following statement on the passing of former-Oklahoma US Senator Tom Coburn, M.D.:

“Oklahoma has lost a tremendous leader, and I lost a great friend today. Dr. Coburn was an inspiration to many in our state and our nation. He was unwavering in his conservative values, but he had deep and meaningful friendships with people from all political and personal backgrounds. He was truly respected by people on both sides of the aisle.

“Dr. Coburn will be remembered by many around the country for his work in Congress, but in Oklahoma, he will be remembered as a physician, a Sunday School teacher, and a mentor. He delivered over 4,000 babies and cared for thousands of moms in Muskogee. His greatest joy was his wife Carolyn and his daughters Callie, Katie, and Sarah and their families. Cindy and I pray for the Coburn family as they walk through this incredibly hard journey. They have lost a husband, father, and grandfather; we have lost a friend and a leader.”

Senate leader Greg Treat comments on passing of former US Senator Tom Coburn

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat commented on the passing of former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn:

“One of the greatest honors of my life was to have known and worked for Dr. Tom Coburn. He was a mentor to me and lived out a great example of how to serve with conviction, honor and compassion. Whether it was fighting for the unborn or the next generation of Americans, he was unshakeable in his convictions, regardless of the extreme political or public pressures, and was successful in pulling America back to its core values and principles."

"He was a man of God devoted to his family and friends, and not afraid to let anyone know that. I’m saddened by his passing, and my heart is with his family and all those who had the great fortune to have worked for him over the years. Besides family, no one has had a more profound impact on my life than Tom Coburn. His impact on our nation was real and his legacy lives on through all of those who were blessed to know and learn from him.”

Treat said in college he earned a internship in Washington, D.C, and went to work for Coburn, who served as congressman for the Second District of Oklahoma at the time. Treat said that experience inspired him to think about public service. In 2004, Treat served as regional director on Coburn’s successful run for U.S. Senate and went on to work as state government liaison for Coburn in the U.S. Senate.

STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT ON THE PASSING OF FORMER U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN

“We lost a giant today – an Oklahoma legend. Dr. Coburn devoted his life to serving others both by way of his career as a physician and by tirelessly fighting for our country as a true statesman.

Our state and our nation are better because of the lessons in fiscal responsibility we’ve learned from Dr. Coburn and I pray especially in these trying times ahead of us that we can find ways to ensure his legacy lives on.”


 Attorney General Hunter Comments on the Passing of Former Sen. Tom Coburn

OKLAHOMA CITY - Attorney General Mike Hunter today released the following statement on the passing of former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

"Former Sen. Tom Coburn was an accomplished man, husband, father, doctor, leader and politician. He served our state in both chambers of Congress with dignity and distinction.

"I was privileged to know Tom as a friend and colleague. He was a man of principle and dauntless in his pursuit of conservative policy objectives. I often thought of him as the embodiment of Theodore Roosevelt's Man in the Arena comment in his Citizenship in a Republic speech, which surmised that the credit belongs to the man who dares greatly.

"Despite the partisan divide in Washington, Tom managed to earn respect on both sides of the political aisle. He spent his legislative career as an ardent supporter of pro-life policies, second amendment rights, healthcare reform and fighting against wasteful government spending.

"My wife Cheryl and I send our deepest condolences to the Coburn family during their time of mourning.

"Well done good and faithful servant. Matthew 25:23."


Hern statement in memory of Sen. Tom Coburn

TULSA, OK – Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) released the following statement after the passing of former Senator Tom Coburn.

“Senator Tom Coburn was a great leader and a great man,” said Rep. Hern. “More than that, he was a dear friend and mentor to me long before I ever dreamed of entering politics. He lived a truly Christ-centered life, for this I am glad that his suffering is over and he is at peace with our Lord. I mourn his loss today along with the family, friends, and thousands of Oklahomans who knew and loved him. I will see you again one day, my friend.”

OCPA comments on passing of Dr. Tom Coburn

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 28, 2020)—Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement today in response to the passing of Dr. Tom Coburn.

“History will rank Dr. Coburn among Oklahoma’s greatest leaders. His unwavering adherence to principle, even in the face of intense political pressure, is why he will be remembered as a true statesman. At OCPA, we were blessed to have Dr. Coburn serve on our board, where his insight and leadership was invaluable. While all Oklahomans share in this loss today, Dr. Coburn’s legacy will live on in the countless lives he directly impacted, both as a doctor and a stateman, and the even larger number who remain inspired by his example. For those who ask if a conservative can remain true to his principles once in office, there will forever be an answer: Yes. Tom Coburn showed it could be done, and he blazed a path others can follow.”

STATEMENT: Speaker McCall comments on passing of Tom Coburn

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, issued the following statement on the passing of former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn:

“Tom Coburn embodied Oklahoma because he stood fearlessly firm on his principles, whether that meant standing alone or standing with the crowd. A true citizen legislator, he was a force for change whose legacy will stay with us always. He was successful in politics, medicine and business, but never forgot his faith in Jesus Christ. My family has his in our prayers during this difficult time.”


Oklahoma statesman Dr. Tom Coburn passes at age 72


Oklahoma has lost one of its greatest adopted sons, with the death of Tom Coburn.

Husband. Father. Christian. Employer. Student. Physician. Congressman. Senator. Conservative. Oklahoman. Patriot. These were all labels held by Thomas Allen Coburn during his 72-year long life.

Born in Wyoming, Coburn graduated from Muskogee High School in 1966, married former Miss Oklahoma Carolyn Denton in 1968, and Oklahoma State University with a degree in Accounting in 1970. For most of the 1970s, Coburn worked in the family business, Coburn Optical Industries, in Virginia, growing the company to prominance in its industry.

After a bout with malignant melanoma, Coburn turned his tremendous focus and energy to what became his most iconic and defining role, that of physician. At the age of 35, Dr. Coburn graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine with a M.D., opening a private family practice in Muskogee the following year.

Over the rest of his medical career, Dr. Coburn delivered over 4,000 babies in Muskogee, including yours truly and my sister. The number of families that Dr. Coburn touched and impacted through his role as a physician numbers in the tens of thousands.

In 1994, Dr. Coburn transitioned yet again to another role, that of citizen legislator. He became the first Republican since Alice Robertson (elected to one term in 1920) to hold Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.

A hardcore conservative in every aspect, Coburn was a pro-life champion and advocate for fiscal discipline.

Dr. Coburn hit the United States House of Representatives like an Oklahoma tornado, tearing into wasteful spending with an unprecedented ferocity. His focus on attacking legislation congressional pork barrel spending and wasteful appropriations gave him the moniker 'Dr. No'. He was a "Tea Party radical" fifteen years before the movement emerged.

A man of character and integrity, Dr. Coburn made a pledge to serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House. Of the dozens of members who made the same pledge, he was one of just a handful who actually kept their word.

Dr. Coburn returned to his medical practice after leaving the House, but in 2004 he returned to politics when he was elected to the United States Senate. His Senate tenure mirrored that of his House service. Doctor No was back in service, blocking wasteful spending bills with a vengeance. Dr. Coburn was the leading fiscal conservative in the Senate for the ten years that he served.

A citizen legislator, during his time in the House and Senate, Dr. Tom continued practicing medicine. Due to ethics rules, Dr. Coburn essentially paid out of pocket for the privilege of continuing to serve his patients, barred from receiving any profit.

Protecting freedom and fiscal security for America's children and grandchildren motivated Dr. Coburn to warn about the dangerously increasing national debt. He constantly made the bankrupting national debt a focus of his warnings for the future, authoring two books that made the topic a central theme.

His use of the Senate hold on pork-barrel spending was legendary and record-breaking, angering both Democrats and Republicans. A direct result of his long efforts, congressional earmarking eventually came to an end.

Frustration with Senate gridlock and refusal to exercise any fiscal restraint led Dr. Coburn to the conclusion that he could better effect fiscal awareness and change as a private citizen, leading to his resignation from the Senate in 2014.

Cancer, the factor that drove Coburn into medicine, continued to plague him, as he survived bouts with melanoma, colon, and prostate cancer, the latter of which he fought off and on since 2011.

Tom Coburn passed away today at his home in Tulsa from complications relating to his long-running battle with prostate cancer, according to close associates. Services will be announced later.

Doctor Coburn was our family physician, a carpet cleaning customer, and a family friend. I am grateful and better for having known and interacted with him.

Oklahoma has lost a true statesman, a son of which she can be forever proud. He will be sorely missed.

Farewell, Doctor Tom.

In closing, here is his farewell address to the United States Senate. It's well worth the watch.


P.S. Have a memory or tribute about Dr. Coburn that you'd be willing to share? Send it to JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

OSU lab on Stillwater campus to assist state with COVID-19 test analysis


OSU lab on Stillwater campus to assist state with COVID-19 test analysis

(STILLWATER, Oklahoma - March 27, 2020) – Oklahoma State University is helping Oklahoma ramp up its COVID-19 testing capability after procuring supplies sufficient to analyze approximately 10,000 COVID-19 test samples being taken by health care professionals across the state.

Through coordination with partners from the OSU Center for Health Sciences, the lab has been certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to run the tests for COVID-19. In partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), OSU’s certified diagnostic laboratory has the personnel and equipment to begin testing next week.

“Oklahoma State University has done incredible work to quickly find innovative ways to help our state significantly increase its COVID-19 testing capacity,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “Secretary Shrum has been an invaluable member of my Governor’s Solution Task Force, and I commend President Hargis and her for answering the call to help their fellow Oklahomans.”

Individuals will need to get the initial swab administered by a medical professional. Health care providers will be notified by the OSDH next week regarding how to submit sample test samples.

“We are pleased to support the state’s extensive efforts to blunt the spread of this virus. I commend the innovation of our researchers and administrators to find ways we can use our experts and resources to overcome the challenges we face as this crisis evolves, ” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “Both OSU and OSU Center for Health Sciences experts are committed to doing our part to protect Oklahomans during this public health crisis.”

Dr. Kenneth Sewell, vice president for research at OSU, said the university is uniquely prepared to take part in the statewide effort to accelerate testing.

“We will be able to test hundreds of samples in an eight-hour shift,” he said. “If necessary, our lab can increase our capability to additional shifts.

“All of our universities in the state play different roles, but only a few of us are research universities and have this kind of equipment, have the faculty that are trained up in this with staff and graduate assistants. Everything they do at a research level is meant to have a positive impact on the public, but it’s a rare time when we can put that impact in play almost in real time. This is going to matter today and tomorrow, and we think that’s why we’re here.”

OCPA column: Saving works. What a surprise (to government “experts”)!


Saving works. What a surprise (to government “experts”)!
By Jonathan Small

Some special-interest groups suggest tax increases are the only way to deal with budget shortfalls. But Oklahomans are benefitting from a far better, preemptive solution: Saving money during boom years.

Last year, when the state had around $600 million in growth revenue, legislators were analyzing proposed ideas to increase spending. Gov. Kevin Stitt recommended setting aside $200 million of that total, a goal many lawmakers embraced.

Most families, upon receipt of an unexpected financial windfall, see the wisdom of cubby-holing some money rather than using it to increase ongoing expenses. No one buys a new house on the theory that a one-time bonus will cover the higher annual costs of a larger house payment. Yet that’s how government often operates.

Thus, Stitt’s proposal left some officials in shock.

Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, argued, “I don’t believe we’ll have another economic downturn over the next few years. It’s just too early to start creating new savings accounts and putting money in new savings accounts.”

Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, said, “People are dying in the state of Oklahoma, and we’re putting money in savings for another day, for ‘just in case.’”

The Tahlequah Daily Press reported in July that Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah, was negatively referring to the $200 million as “the governor’s slush fund.”

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest declared it was “discouraging that the budget puts $200 million into savings when we could have made a bigger investment in our schools, our students and our future.”

Despite those complaints, the bill setting $200 million into savings passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives 92-0 and cleared the Senate 37-9.

Today, due to falling oil prices and the COVID-19/coronavirus event, the state faces large shortfalls. The current-year budget may fall up to $200 million below what was appropriated. Projections suggest lawmakers will have around $600 million less to appropriate next year than what was originally appropriated for 2020 (and things may get worse).

As Stitt recently noted, being “very fiscally responsible” even when “everything looked rosy” last year has left the state with “the largest savings account” in Oklahoma history—a total of $1 billion in savings.

“That’s significant,” Stitt said, “and it’s going to help us get through this down time.”

Yes, it will. The savings decried by the teachers’ union may now protect teachers from mid-year budget cuts at schools and avoid education cuts next year. The “just in case” money decried by some may now preserve funding for Oklahoma’s health needs during a pandemic. And Oklahomans will be protected from another round of tax increases at a time when thousands are losing their jobs.

So-called “experts” often claim government financing isn’t comparable to household budgeting. The benefit of last year’s saving effort proves the “experts” are wrong, and Oklahomans should thank the policymakers who embraced savings.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

COVID-19 in Oklahoma: cumulative and daily graphs

Every morning, the Oklahoma State Department of Health posts updated figures relating to COVID-19 testing and results in Oklahoma. I've put the information released thus far into two graphs, which are shown below.

First, this graphic shows the cumulative figures in Oklahoma so far during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is based on OSDH numbers for confirmed cases, deaths from confirmed cases, and hospitalization of patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Total to-date confirmed cases, deaths, and hospitalizations
This graph shows daily net changes in each of those categories: new confirmed cases, new deaths from confirmed cases, and net changes in total daily hospitalization figures. Caveat on the hospitalization line: the OSDH has not published tracking on any patient discharges, so this does not necessarily mean that amount of new patients have been hospitalized on each specific day, but does track the change in current hospitalizations on that day.

Daily changes in new confirmed cases, new deaths, and net increases in hospitalization
All of these figures are specifically confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are dozens to hundreds of suspected cases that have not been confirmed yet, including individuals that are currently hospitalized with suspected cases of COVID-19.

You can find these figures updated daily at coronavirus.health.ok.gov, where the Oklahoma State Department of Health continues to release information on the COVID-19 pandemic, including tips for avoiding the spread and what to do if you suspect you are coming down with the virus.

Gov. Stitt: elective surgeries, most abortions suspended under Executive Order


Governor Stitt clarifies elective surgeries and procedures suspended under Executive Order

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 27, 2020) – On Tuesday, Governor Stitt through his Executive Order 2020-07 (4th amended) postponed all elective surgeries and minor medical procedures until April 7.

Today, Governor Stitt clarified that any type of abortion services as defined in 63 O.S. § 1-730(A)(1) which are not a medical emergency as defined in 63 O.S. § 1-738.1 or otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks to the unborn child’s mother are included in that Executive Order.

This also includes routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures such as orthopedic surgeries.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has increased demands for hospital beds and has created a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to protect health care professionals and stop transmission of the virus.

“We must ensure that our health care professionals, first responders and medical facilities have all of the resources they need to combat COVID-19,” said Gov. Stitt. “I am committed to doing whatever necessary to protect those who are on the front lines fighting against this virus.”

Attorney General: Stitt's executive order does not mean martial law, police don't have to enforce misdemeanor violations


Attorney General Hunter Clarifies Governor’s Executive Order Regarding Law Enforcement Action for Non-Compliance

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today released the following information regarding law enforcement action relating to individuals or business owners that do not comply with the governor’s March 24 executive order.

“The guidelines in the governor’s executive order call for Oklahomans to act in the best interest of their fellow citizens,” Attorney General Hunter said. “What we are calling on more than anything, is for Oklahomans to be good citizens, good neighbors and comply with the governor’s executive order, as well as the ordinances of local governments, to protect one another from this deadly illness.​

“While a violation of an executive order can be a misdemeanor, law enforcement officers are counseled to inform and persuade to effect compliance when confronted with violations, emphasizing the gravity of the ongoing public health emergency we are experiencing.

“This is not intended to undercut law enforcement’s ability to make decisions based on their training, discretion and the facts of any given situation. Rather, this statement is provided to support and enable law enforcement to make sound, fact based decisions given the circumstances while appropriately balancing the interests of public safety and public health.

“We are in an unprecedented time. The Coronavirus has and will continue to cause profound disruptions in everyone’s lives and livelihoods and we are all painfully aware of those who have become ill or tragically, have died. But rest assured, by following the advice of our state, municipal, county and federal leaders, and complying with the measures laid out in the governor’s executive order, we will save lives.”

Facts Concerning the Governor’s Executive Order

  • It does not impose martial law; 
  • Individuals can still be charged with a misdemeanor. However, it is up to law enforcement’s discretion on who does or does not need to be arrested for violating the executive order or another misdemeanor crime;
  • The guidelines in the governor’s executive order call for Oklahomans to do what is in the best interest of the public health of their fellow citizens; and
  • More resources and information can be found at the Oklahoma Department of Health’s website, here: https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Muskogee Hospital sets up triage tent adjacent to ER to process potential COVID-19 patients


Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee Update to COVID-19 Response

(Muskogee, Oklahoma) As a part of the ongoing preparation and response to COVID-19 in the area, Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee has set up a triage tent adjacent to its emergency department in order to assess patients presenting with emergent COVID-19 symptoms or acute respiratory illness. By doing this, the hospital aims to minimize the number of potentially infectious patients entering the facility without appropriate personal protective equipment.

“We want to keep all of our patients and staff safe and reduce their exposure to COVID-19,” said Michele Keeling, senior vice president and administrator of Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee. “In order to do this we are directing all patients seeking emergency treatment to proceed directly to the tent.” This process will start at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 26.

The external triage area provides the hospital the ability to physically distance patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 symptoms from those coming to the emergency room for other serious medical issues such as stroke, chest pain and trauma. As patients are assessed in the triage area and their level of severity is determined, they will be appropriately masked and escorted into the facility in a manner that minimizes exposure to others.

“I want to make sure that I’m clear, this tent is not a walk-in clinic or public testing site—it is an extension of the emergency department. If you do not need emergency care, please do not come to the hospital. Instead, call your primary care physician first for guidance,” said Keeling. “The presence of this tent should not cause any unnecessary anxiety. It does not mean that we are unable to handle the volume of patients coming to the hospital. It is only a sign that we are doing everything within our power to keep our patients and staff safe.”

The hospital continues to respond to the needs of the community during this time of increased public concern. “Our role in this pandemic is to be prepared and ready to care for our community,” said Kim Walton, RN, director of acute care services.

Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee has posted information via www.saintfrancis.com/muskogee which includes important links to the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1889 Institute: abolish ABA accreditation for OK law schools, lead way in innovation


ABOLISH ABA ACCREDITATION FOR OKLAHOMA LAW SCHOOLS
Oklahoma can lead the way in legal education innovation.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 25, 2020) – According to a new 1889 Institute study, the American Bar Association (ABA) has a monopoly over legal education in the United States since 47 states have made the ABA their exclusive law school accrediting authority. Oklahoma is one of these states. Like the others, this state was urged by the ABA to give it such authority. This creates a conflict of interest wherein a politically active organization has outsized influence over the educations of attorneys, who constitute a plurality of legislators, make up the entirety of the judiciaries, and exercise great influence over executive agencies at the state and national levels.

“Though only 14 percent of lawyers belong to the ABA, they wield outsized influence over all three branches of our government by virtue of their dominance of legal education,” said Ben Lepak, 1889 Institute Legal Fellow and author of the study. “The ABA’s obsolete requirements, such as a certain number of paper volumes in a law library, stultifies innovation, increases the cost of a legal education, and limits the number of individuals educated in the law,” he said.

Lepak’s study points out that the ABA’s original mission in accrediting law schools was not to improve legal education, but to cut down on the number of attorneys due to what many already in the profession considered “overcrowding.” In other words, they wished to raise their fees by reducing the number of new lawyers.

“Since the ABA’s primary mission is to act in its members’ interests, it is a conflicted interest group that doesn’t even speak for most lawyers,” said Lepak.

The paper recommends that the Oklahoma legislature repeal the ABA’s exclusive ability to accredit law schools by repealing the requirement that to practice law in the state, one must have attended an ABA accredited law school. In turn, this should be coupled with a revamp of the bar exam to make it more relevant to the actual practice of law, making it a multi-part exam that would allow provisional licensing in certain aspects of the legal services where an examinee has proven proficient.


About the 1889 Institute
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Breaking the ABA’s Law School Cartel: A Proposal to Make Oklahoma Top-Ten in Innovative Lawyer Education,” can be found on the nonprofit’s website at http://www.1889institute.org.

Muskogee County now has 4 COVID-19 cases, 248 statewide


Yesterday morning, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported that there were 164 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, with one individual testing positive in Muskogee County. As of some point yesterday, that total increased to four within the boundaries of Muskogee County.

This morning's report from the Health Department shows a new statewide total of 248 (84 new confirmed), with 4 in Muskogee County. 86 individuals with confirmed COVID-19 infections are currently hospitalized across the state.

Satellite testing sites are now operational in Kay and Pittsburg counties, where specimens were collected from 32 and 16 individuals, respectively. Those tests are now being performed by the Oklahoma Public Health Laboratory.

Since yesterday, there have been two additional deaths (both in Cleveland County), bringing the confirmed death toll statewide to 7.

Source: coronavirus.health.ok.gov/

For the latest up-to-date information from the Oklahoma State Department of Health regarding COVID-19, including statistics, what to do if you feel unwell, resources, and contact information, visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov.

Muskogee Mayoral Runoff has been pushed to June 30th


I missed this news from yesterday, but for those who were wondering, the Muskogee mayoral runoff election has been officially rescheduled from April 7th to June 30th.

From the Muskogee Phoenix:
Concerns about community spread of the novel coronavirus prompted the cancellation of the runoff election scheduled April 7, when Muskogee voters were scheduled to choose their next mayor.

City councilors on Monday approved a resolution that reschedules the election to coincide with party primary elections that will be conducted June 30 statewide. The resolution also provides for city councilors who won election on Feb. 7 to assume their duties on April 6, a week earlier than anticipated had they waited until the Tuesday following the runoff election.

Kelly Beach said school districts that had scheduled elections for April 7 are expected to follow suit after the Oklahoma State Election Board authorized such measures after it declared an election emergency. The move was part of the state's efforts to curb person-to-person infection — or community spread — of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

City Attorney Roy Tucker said he was contacted by Beach after the state election officials declared the election emergency. Beach already had been encouraging voters to apply for and cast absentee ballots in an effort to promote social distancing.

Beach also had reported problems with securing enough precinct workers to conduct the elections. Regular precinct workers, he said, had expressed concerns about potential exposure to the coronavirus, for which there is no vaccine, no approved treatment, and no immunities.

Gov. Stitt declares today a Statewide Day of Prayer, to join pastors for televised evening prayer event


GOVERNOR STITT DECLARES STATE-WIDE DAY OF PRAYER, CALLS FOR NIGHT OF PRAYER FOR THOSE IMPACTED BY COVID-19

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 25, 2020)— Governor Kevin Stitt has issued a proclamation declaring Thursday, March 26, a “Statewide Day of Prayer” for all Oklahomans impacted by COVID-19.

In recognition of this day of prayer, the Governor has called for Oklahoma faith leaders to unite together at a special prayer and worship event titled “Let Hope Rise: Together In Prayer for Oklahoma.”

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and will be televised live on Griffin Communications stations News 9 in Oklahoma City and News On 6 in Tulsa. Viewers can also stream online at https://transformchurch.us/. In-person attendance will not be allowed in accordance with current social distancing guidelines.

“I know this is an uncertain or anxious time for many Oklahomans right now,” said Gov. Stitt. “That is why I believe it is important we join together as a state and pray for God’s blessing, protection and strength as we face a challenge that is unprecedented in its scope.”

Hosted by Transformation Church Pastor Michael Todd, the event will also feature Pastors Craig and Amy Groeschel of Life.Church, Pastor Jamie Austin of Woodlake Church, Pastor Herbert Cooper of People’s Church, Pastors Paul Daugherty and Sharon Daugherty of Victory Church, Dr. Joel Harder, Chaplain of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Pastor Alex Himaya of Battle Creek Church, Pastor Doug Melton of Southern Hills Baptist Church OKC and Pastor Bill Scheer of Guts Church.

“Prayer is not our last resort, but our first response,” said Michael Todd. “We believe our faith is more important now than it has ever been. Everyone needs an anchor during this turbulent time and that is what prayer is for us.”

“We believe the Church isn’t a building. It’s the people who gather together in worship. Even though we can’t meet in person right now, we’ll continue to use technology to meet online,” added Craig Groeschel. “As we see God move in incredible ways through churches across our state and around the world, we have faith that He will draw even more people to Him in this uncertain time. We have hope because we know our God is good and He’s still in control. ”

“As a locally-owned company, we are honored to be able to offer this moving program to our fellow Oklahomans,” said David F. Griffin, Chairman and CEO of Griffin Communications. “In this time it’s important that we all remember that we are in this together as Oklahomans.”

State Board of Education approves distance learning for remainder of school year


State Board approves distance learning for the remainder of the school year 

OKLAHOMA CITY (Date) – The State Board of Education unanimously approved an order that implements a Distance Learning Plan to complete the 2019-20 school year for Oklahoma students without reopening school buildings. The approval comes as numbers grow for positive COVID-19 cases in the state.

“Oklahoma has tremendous educators – strong, dedicated, tenacious and smart. We have faith and confidence that our districts and teachers are committed to creative and innovative ways to continue learning for their students, and they will rise to this challenge,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “Distance Learning Plans will look different from district to district. Many districts have used online tools for some time and will be able to hit the ground running. Others have little connectivity and communities with little or no access to computer technology. I know the hard-working educators in our districts will pull together to make this adjustment to benefit all learners.”

Beginning April 6, districts will be expected to provide distance learning for the rest of the school year. District leaders will also provide assurances to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) of a Distance Learning Plan and ensure services continue for English learners and special education students.

“Our education communities are tough, resilient and committed. They know, as we all do, that we are all in this together. If this pandemic underscores anything, it is that we must help one another,” Hofmeister said. “We understand the challenges all Oklahomans are facing, and we know we can count on our schools to provide the best education possible in a way that ensures the safety and health of students and everyone in the school and community.”

OSDE will provide distance learning frameworks and resources on its website in the coming days. In addition, the agency is exploring how federal assistance could help digital connectivity for some districts. OETA, Oklahoma’s educational public TV network, will also provide help. In partnership with OSDE, OETA will broadcast instructional daytime programming for the state’s PreK-12 students.

While education will resume on April 6 with distance learning, there will not be traditional, in-person instruction or extracurricular activities. Districts will be expected to following critical safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control with regard to social distancing for students, staff and school families.

For the graduating class of 2020, each district will adopt a plan that establishes the assessment or assessments those students are required to take in order to graduate. 

The State Board took action on multiple waivers – ranging from school calendars to loosening current restrictions on funds – aimed at giving districts greater flexibility to respond to the needs of their students and communities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Muskogee City Council, County Commissioners adopt shelter-in-place resolution


The Muskogee City Council and County Commissioners held an historic joint emergency meeting this evening, where they unanimously voted to adopt "a task force's recommendation that directs Muskogee County residents to 'stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.'"

During the meeting, health officials said that Muskogee County now has 4 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up from 1 yesterday.

Details on adopted Joint City-County Task Force recommendations:
  • Residents of the City and County are directed to stay at home and avoid discretionary travel unless they are performing essential activities.
    • Essential activities include health-related appointments, purchasing food/home goods, outdoor activity under social distancing guidelines, as well as work at an essential business as defined by Gov. Stitt's executive orders
  • Not a curfew
  • No plan to stop residents and ask why they are not home
  • Requires essential businesses to set controls within their operations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (i.e. work from home, social distancing, etc)
  • Echoes Gov. Stitt's order to close non-essential business
You can read the full resolution here.


Afterwards, Mayor Janey Boydston and District Attorney Orvil Loge addressed Muskogee city/county residents about the meeting:


Inhofe votes for Coronavirus relief package, says "Help is on the way"


Inhofe Votes for Comprehensive Coronavirus Relief Package: “Help is on the way”
Provides Comprehensive Response: Small Business Fix, Massive Support for Health Care and Funding for Coronavirus Treatment, Free Testing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement after voting in favor of the CARES Act, the comprehensive coronavirus relief package. Previous efforts to advance the legislation failed on Sunday and Monday because Senate Democrats opposed the measure. This legislation also fixes the major paid-leave mandate imposed on small businesses that Sen. Inhofe highlighted last week.

“To all Oklahomans—our families, our students, our small businesses and health care providers—help is on the way. We just passed a comprehensive relief package that will provide essential resources as we continue to do our part in combatting the coronavirus. I’m proud to vote for this bill because it helps Oklahoma families make ends meet, resources our health care system and provides critical support to the small businesses that fuel our economy. I urge the House to pass this as quickly as possible so President Trump can sign it into law.

“We are facing the greatest public health crisis we’ve seen in 100 years. The CARES Act provides massive funding for our health care system and local communities to make sure our doctors, nurses, public health workers and rural hospitals have what they need to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Care will be provided for everyone who needs it—no one needs to worry. It provides billions for the development and eventual purchase of vaccines, test kits and other preparedness efforts, while cutting red tape and empowering the private sector to help us create the tools we need.

“For families struggling with economic uncertainty—we’re providing immediate relief. Oklahomans know how to weather a storm, but our legislation makes sure you are equipped to do so. It gives the average Oklahoma family of four $3,400 to help with immediate needs like rent, groceries and utilities. This legislation increases the maximum amount of unemployment benefits and extends coverage up to 39 weeks. Student loan interest and payments are halted until we get through the crisis.

“Finally, we give our small businesses the responsible relief they desperately need during this uncertain time by focusing on the heartbeat of every small business: the employees. I’m proud we were able to address the major problem from the bill that passed last week that imposed a mandate on small businesses. That legislation did not provide them with immediate cash to both pay for the mandate and keep their doors open. This legislation does: small businesses will be able to get rapid access to credit to keep things afloat – and up to eight weeks of payroll and other operating expenses will be completely forgiven. So for all the restaurants and retail stores struggling because of necessary closures, this legislation is designed specifically to help you. By keeping people employed, it will prepare our strong economy to come roaring back once we get through the crisis.”

The CARES Act helps Oklahoma’s heath care system:

  • Provides $100 billion in assistance to hospitals, rural health clinics and other providers to ensure comprehensive care is provided to those suffering from the coronavirus. A substantial portion of the funding will be available for providers to add beds, emergency facilities, ventilators and other critical capacities to meet potential requirements.
  • Everyone will receive care—even the underinsured or the uninsured.
  • Provides $31 billion for vaccines, test kits and other preparedness efforts. This funding will ensure all testing is provided free of charge to patients. It also streamlines the regulatory process and promotes private sector investment so potential vaccines can be quickly and safely tested—not bogged down in red tape.
  • Provides $20 billion for our veteran health care system to care for our nation’s heroes.
  • Provides $45 billion for state and local governments to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.
  • Provides $1 billion for Indian Health Service.


The CARES Act helps the people of Oklahoma:

  • Provides $3,400 in cash for the average family of four in Oklahoma to make sure everyone can make ends meet during this difficult time, whether it’s rent, a mortgage, utilities or groceries. Specific amounts include $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for a couple and $500 for each dependent child.
  • Six month deferment of all student loan interest and payments. Additionally, individuals whose student loan payments are made by their employers will not pay taxes on the payments for the remainder of the year.
  • Provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for those who lose their jobs during this crisis.
  • Provides a tax credit to incentivize businesses of all sizes to retain employees, even when facing a decline in revenue because of the crisis.


The CARES Act helps Oklahoma’s small businesses:

  • Provides $350 billion in loans to small businesses to keep doors open and employees paid. This immediately addresses the major problem with the paid-leave mandate imposed on small businesses last week. By providing loans – with terms that forgive eight weeks of operating expenses including payroll and sick leave—companies will be able to maintain employees without concern for cash crunch the mandate created. These loans:
    • i.  Are available to any company with under 500 employees,
    • ii.   Can be made for up to $10 million,
    • iii.  Are reduced by an amount equal to 8 weeks of operating expenses (salaries, paid sick leave, rent, utilities),
    • iv.  Have payments deferred for the first year.
  • Provides grants up to $10,000 for small businesses.
  • Defers payments of existing small business loans for six months.
  • Provides $23.5 billion for agriculture industry.


The CARES Act also provides support to struggling state and local governments and industries critical to the nation:

  • Oklahoma will receive more than $1.25 billion of the $150 billion designated for state and local governments for coronavirus response.
  • $29 billion in loans is provided to the airline industry. Additional funds are being made available to ensure aviation jobs, like those at American Airlines Tulsa maintenance facility, are maintained.
  • Additional funds are made available to the Secretary of Treasury to provide liquidity to industries particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. All support would include the following good government safeguards: prohibits stock buybacks and dividend payments for a period of time, requirements for companies to keep employees on payroll, freezes executive compensation, creates a Special Inspector General for improved oversight and requires immediate reporting to Congress about who is receiving the loans.


A comprehensive summary of the legislation can be found here.

Lucas hails Senate passage of Coronavirus economic stimulus legislation


Lucas Statement on Senate Passage of Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act by a vote of 96-0. The CARES Act provides direct financial help for the American people, ensures rapid relief for small businesses and their employees, takes significant steps to stabilize the American economy while protecting jobs, and supports our nation’s healthcare professionals and patients who are combating the coronavirus within our communities.

“Today, the Senate took additional steps to ensure American workers, families, and business owners no longer have to tackle this economic crisis alone. I applaud my colleagues in the U.S. Senate for passing this bold piece of legislation that will deliver much-needed relief to the American people,” said Congressman Lucas.

“For those who have lost work, the CARES Act offers direct and immediate assistance. For our nation’s small businesses, it offers emergency capital so small businesses can provide stability for their workers during this disruption. For America’s agriculture producers, it provides crucial assistance by adequately funding the Commodity Credit Corporation. But most importantly it continues to increase our health care system’s resources needed to combat the virus itself.

While the crisis that has brought our economy to a near halt continues to impact the American way of life, I urge my House colleagues to immediately consider and pass the CARES Act. Our workers cannot wait. Our small businesses cannot wait. And our healthcare professionals and their patients cannot wait.”

Background:

The CARES Act would address supply shortages, allocate additional funds for the Strategic National Stockpile, to procure personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, support health care workers and hospitals, and funds research of new treatment and vaccines to combat this pandemic.

  • $45.4 billion for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the agency President Trump has tasked to take over the COVID-19 response. Specifically, the funding will go to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to continue response and recovery activities and reimbursements provided to states and localities during this critical time.
  • $100 billion for hospitals to ensure healthcare providers continue to receive the support they need for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue.
  • $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), which can purchase medical supplies equipment, and medicine to be distributed to states.
  • $11 billion for vaccine, therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical or preparedness needs, which will advance construction, manufacturing, and purchase of vaccines and therapeutic delivery to the American people.
  • $4.3 billion for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention for public health initiatives. Specifically $1.5 billion designated for state and local preparedness and response activities.
  • $1.32 billion to Community Health Centers, who are often on the front lines of treating and testing for COVID-19 in rural areas of Oklahoma.
  • Expands the use of Telehealth medicine to surge capacity and diagnose and treat patients in safe and faster environment.
  • $275 million in Health Resources and Services Administration grants to expand services and capacity for rural hospitals and telehealth.
  • Extends expiring health extenders to November 30, 2020
  • $1.7 billion - Assistance to Tribal Communities (Indian Health Service, Bureaus of Indian Education/Affairs, and Food Distribution)  

The CARES Act would provide emergency relief to workers, families, and small businesses, issue loans to distressed industries, provide flexibility and debt relief to local businesses, expand unemployment benefits, and offer direct assistance to American workers and families through a one-time tax rebate.

  • $1,200 per individual and $500 per child direct payments in the form of a one-time tax rebate.  There are no earned income or tax liability requirements to receive these rebate checks. The full rebate amount is available for those with incomes at or below $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for head of household, and $150,000 for married couples.
  • Creates a “Paycheck Protection Program” for small  employers, self-employed individuals, and “gig economy” workers, with $350 billion to help prevent workers from losing their jobs and small businesses from going under due to economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Paycheck Protection Program” would provide 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency.
  • Requires the U.S. Small Business Administration to pay all principal, interest and fees on all existing SBA loan products including 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, and Microloan programs for six months.
  • $250 billion to expand unemployment benefits, providing economic relief and much needed support for workers.
  • Increases benefits more generous by adding a $600/week across-the-board payment increase through the end of July. In addition, for those who need it, the bill provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond what states typically allow.
  • Provides loans in the amount of $50 billion for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo airlines, and $17 billion for businesses critical to maintain national security.
  • Waives the 10% penalty on coronavirus-related early distributions from 401(k)s and IRAs, which applies to distributions made at any time during 2020.
The CARES Act would provide relief for America’s farmers and ranchers and would allocate new funding to agriculture producers, including livestock producers, who have been negatively impacted by current market conditions.

  • $9.5 billion in new funding to help producers, including livestock producers, that have been impacted by the coronavirus.  

State Rep. Jason Lowe recovering from COVID-19



Lowe Recovering After Testing Positive for COVID-19

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Lowe is recovering and doing well after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Lowe reported several days ago he began experiencing symptoms that included a fever, chills, body aches and exhaustion. He immediately contacted his primary care physician and quarantined at home. Although Lowe is currently showing no symptoms, he is continuing to self-isolate so that he does not pose a risk to others.

“I am extremely grateful for the care that I received, and I have a new appreciation for what thousands of Oklahoma health care workers are dealing with right now,” Lowe said. “I encourage us all to support those in our communities who put their lives on the line for the citizens of the great state of Oklahoma. Let’s lift these selfless professionals up in prayer and support during this crisis.”

Lowe is committed to working with state government partners to address this unique health care issue. He plans to continue to work remotely from his home and encourages the residents of House District 97 to contact his office with any issues they may have.

The OKC legislator encourages the public to heed government warnings relating to social distancing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It is of vital importance that we all stay home to help flatten the curve swiftly and effectively,” Lowe said. “I am encouraged that we will get through this together. Thank you for your continued support and prayers.”

For more information on COVID-19 please visit www.coronavirus.health.ok.gov.

1889 Institute: closing public schools for remainder of year is a gross overreaction


1889 Institute: Statement regarding Hofmeister's proposal to keep schools closed

The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma think tank, has released the following statement regarding Joy Hofmeister’s proposal to keep schools closed for the remainder of the school year. Byron Schlomach, Institute Director, can be contacted directly at bschlomach@1889institute.org.

We at the 1889 Institute consider Joy Hofmeister’s proposal to close Oklahoma’s schools for the rest of the school year a gross overreaction to the coronavirus situation. Even in the best of times and circumstances, suddenly shifting every student in the state from traditional classrooms to online distance learning will have negative educational consequences. This in addition to the economic burden on two-earner families forced to completely reorder their lives with schools closed.

We believe many of our leaders have overreacted to worst-case scenarios presented by well-intended health experts with no training or sense of proportion in weighing the collateral damage of shutting down our economy versus targeting resources to protect the truly vulnerable. We say reopen the schools and stop the madness. Only truly vulnerable students and staff should stay home.

Our position is buttressed by Dr. David L. Katz, a specialist in preventive medicine and public health, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. In a recent New York Times editorial, he suggested a more surgical approach given that the current actions shutting down our society and economy are likely worse than the disease. He suggests only those over 75, and other high-risk individuals, shelter in place. Everyone else should take sanitation precautions, practice social distancing, and carry on normally, with those over 60 being especially careful.

No children less than 10 years old have been documented to have died from Covid-19. Yet, the response on the part of local and national leaders has been as if every individual is at mortal risk and grossly disproportionate to the danger. The same point has been made by Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, co-director of Stanford’s Meta-Research Innovation Center and professor of medicine, biomedical data science, statistics, and epidemiology and population health of Stanford University. His data analysis indicates that the response to Covid-19 may well be “a fiasco in the making.”

We should follow the advice of Dr. Katz and have truly vulnerable populations shelter themselves while the rest of us carry on our daily lives and provide for the vulnerable, with resources readily available but for hoarding caused by some leaders’ overreactions. This approach would maximize protection for those truly at risk while minimizing losses for the rest of society, including Oklahoma’s children and their parents.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

To slow COVID-19, Gov. Stitt issues statewide orders, restrictions for counties with confirmed cases


GOVERNOR STITT ANNOUNCES LATEST COVID-19 ACTIONS
Amends Executive Order to provide new measures to help flatten the curve in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (MARCH 24, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt today held a press conference to provide an update on the State’s response to COVID-19 and announce amendments to Executive Order 2020-07.

“We remain committed to making decisions based on reliable data, emerging science and the advice of experts from my Governor’s Solution Task Force, the State Department of Health and the CDC on how to best slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Stitt. These new action items will allow us to ensure we remain proactive in our response to this on-going crisis. We will continue to take the necessary precautions and steps in order to prioritize the health and safety of all 4 million Oklahomans.”

The amended Executive Order provides for the following statewide measures:

  • Issues a statewide “Safer at Home” order for adults over the age of 65 and vulnerable individuals with serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.
  • Prohibits visitations to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Postpones all elective surgeries, minor medical procedures and non-emergency dental procedures until April 7, 2020.

The amended Executive Order provides for the following measures in counties with community spread:

  • Requires restaurants in Oklahoma counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases to provide take-out and delivery options only and closes all bars in those counties.
  • Closes all businesses not identified as being within a critical infrastructure sector, such as gyms, salons, massage parlors and movie theaters, where counties have community spread effective March 25 at 11:59PM through April 15. Federal guidance on the essential critical infrastructure workforce can be found here: www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce. Additions may be added by Executive Order or memorandum.
During the press conference, the governor also announced the State of Oklahoma is working on a plan to designate hospitals in Oklahoma and Tulsa County to treat all COVID-19 patients. This will occur through attrition.

Attorney General issues consumer alert over at-home coronavirus testing scams


Attorney General Hunter Issues Consumer Alert on At-Home Coronavirus Testing

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today issued a consumer alert after receiving reports of individuals attempting to sell at-home tests for the Coronavirus.

Attorney General Hunter said Oklahomans need to be on high alert for scam artists trying to sell or administer home-testing kits for COVID-19.

“There are currently no credible test kits on the market for the Coronavirus that someone can administer in their home,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Additionally, no health care provider, or other individual credentialed to administer tests for the virus, will call and offer to test people at random. Oklahomans need to be on notice that this fraud is happening in our state, and it will likely become even more prevalent in the coming days. Never purchase these tests, and report the individuals trying to sell them to my office or a local law enforcement authority.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit has received over 130 complaints in relation to the Coronavirus since the national emergency was declared on March 13.

Testing for the Coronavirus in Oklahoma is only conducted in a verified laboratory. After a test is completed, the results are sent only to the ordering physician. Neither the results of a test, nor the status of pending tests will be given over the phone.

If Oklahomans believe they may have contracted COVID-19, they should stay home and follow these steps provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health:

  • Call your doctor: Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Seek medical attention: Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing);
  • Wear a face mask when sick: Put on a face mask before you enter the facility if available. These steps will help the healthcare provider’s office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed; and
  • Alert health department: Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health department. Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: State Board of Education to consider school building closure, implementing distance learning


Special State Board of Education meeting called for Wednesday, March 25, at 9:30 a.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 24, 2020) – The State Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, March 25, to consider numerous waivers including school building closure for the rest of the school year and district implementation of continuous learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting agenda is available here.

What: State Board of Education special meeting

When: Wednesday, March 25 at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Oliver Hodge Education Building, 2500 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK

Note: As a result of today's Executive Order by Gov. Stitt, the Oklahoma State Department of Education is limiting in-person attendance to State Board members and essential staff.

The meeting will be live-streamed on the Oklahoma State Department of Education's Facebook page starting at 9:30 a.m. Public and media are encouraged to watch the meeting via live stream.

State Sen. Paul Rosino issues statement after testing positive for COVID-19


Senator Paul Rosino Statement on COVID-19

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Senator Paul Rosino on Tuesday said he is recovering and doing well after testing positive for COVID-19. Rosino was not present at the Senate last week, nor was he among the senators or Senate personnel who underwent testing on Tuesday, March 17, after a Senate staffer tested positive for COVID-19.

Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, said as soon has he began feeling unwell Sunday (March 15) he strictly followed the recommendations of public health officials to stay home, self-isolate and contact a doctor. Testing done by Rosino’s private physician later confirmed the senator’s diagnosis. Rosino said he was last at the Capitol on Thursday, March 12, and he felt well at that time.

“I want to thank everyone who has reached out to inquire about me. I am doing well and feel much better. I’m glad I followed the health professionals’ advice to the tee. That’s what we all need to do now:  stay home if we feel sick, isolate and seek care from a doctor. Doing that, we can all be well, let the health care heroes focus on the critically ill, and do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.

Rosino said he plans to continue working remotely from his home. He encourages residents of Senate District 45 to reach out to his office for help with any issues.

“I’m following the doctor’s guidelines and will continue to do so. While I’m at home, though, I’m still working to take care of issues for Senate District 45 residents. I’m also collaborating with Senate colleagues and state government partners as we address health care issues and other important topics related to this health care crisis,” he said.

LIST: Government definition of essential business or critical infrastructure


Earlier this afternoon, Governor Kevin Stitt issued executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Oklahoma.

Thanks to NonDoc.com for this article that sums up Stitt's actions, as I was working and therefore missed the press conference:
During a 2 p.m. press briefing today accessible by phone and Zoom videoconference, Stitt revealed the additional steps intended to extend social distancing:
  • a statewide shelter-in-place policy branded as “safer at home” for older Oklahomans and those with underlying health issues compromising their immune systems. Ordered through April 30, the policy is intended to guarantee employment protections for older Oklahomans and limit their travel to essential locations such as grocery stores and pharmacies;
  • operation adjustments for “non-essential” businesses in counties identified as having “community spread” of COVID-19. In counties that feature confirmed cases, any socially-driven business will be required to close its common areas for 21 days. Currently, the rules affect 19 counties but would expand upon further diagnosis across the state;
  • a 14-day suspension of non-urgent and non-emergent medical services statewide to conserve personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and n95 respirators;
  • suspension of all visitation to nursing homes and longterm care facilities.
As Oklahomans wonder what exactly an "essential business" is, Governor Stitt and Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell have both referenced a memorandum from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that identifies "essential critical infrastructure workers during [the] COVID-19 response".


You can read the full memorandum here, but for reference here are specific industries and occupations referenced as essential by the CISA:

HEALTHCARE / PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Workers providing COVID-19 testing; Workers that perform critical clinical research needed for COVID-19 response
  • Caregivers (e.g., physicians, dentists, psychologists, mid-level practitioners, nurses and assistants, infection control and quality assurance personnel, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists and assistants, social workers, speech pathologists and diagnostic and therapeutic technicians and technologists)
  • Hospital and laboratory personnel (including accounting, administrative, admitting and discharge, engineering, epidemiological, source plasma and blood donation, food service, housekeeping, medical records, information technology and operational technology, nutritionists, sanitarians, respiratory therapists, etc.)
  • Workers in other medical facilities (including Ambulatory Health and Surgical, Blood Banks, Clinics, Community Mental Health, Comprehensive Outpatient rehabilitation, End Stage Renal Disease, Health Departments, Home Health care, Hospices, Hospitals, Long Term Care, Organ Pharmacies, Procurement Organizations, Psychiatric Residential, Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers)
  • Manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators, and distributors of medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood and blood products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products
  • Public health / community health workers, including those who compile, model, analyze and communicate public health information
  • Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities
  • Workers that manage health plans, billing, and health information, who cannot practically work remotely
  • Workers who conduct community-based public health functions, conducting epidemiologic surveillance, compiling, analyzing and communicating public health information, who cannot practically work remotely
  • Workers performing cybersecurity functions at healthcare and public health facilities, who cannot practically work remotely
  • Workers conducting research critical to COVID-19 response
  • Workers performing security, incident management, and emergency operations functions at or on behalf of healthcare entities including healthcare coalitions, who cannot practically work remotely
  • Workers who support food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals, such as those residing in shelters
  • Pharmacy employees necessary for filling prescriptions
  • Workers performing mortuary services, including funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemetery workers
  • Workers who coordinate with other organizations to ensure the proper recovery, handling, identification, transportation, tracking, storage, and disposal of human remains and personal effects; certify cause of death; and facilitate access to mental/behavioral health services to the family members, responders, and survivors of an incident

LAW ENFORCEMENT, PUBLIC SAFETY, FIRST RESPONDERS
  • Personnel in emergency management, law enforcement, Emergency Management Systems, fire, and corrections, including front line and management
  • Emergency Medical Technicians
  • 911 call center employees
  • Fusion Center employees
  • Hazardous material responders from government and the private sector.
  • Workers – including contracted vendors -- who maintain, manufacture, or supply digital systems infrastructure supporting law enforcement emergency service, and response operations.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
  • Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores  and other retail that sells human food, animal/pet food,  and beverage products
  • Restaurant carry-out and quick serve food operations - Carry-out and delivery food employees
  • Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees—to include those employed in food processing (packers, meat processing, cheese plants, milk plants, produce, etc.) facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging
  • Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor needed to produce our food supply domestically
  • Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs
  • Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor-managed inventory controllers and blockchain managers
  • Workers supporting the sanitation of all food manufacturing processes and operations from wholesale to retail
  • Company cafeterias - in-plant cafeterias used to feed employees
  • Workers in food testing labs in private industries and in institutions of higher education
  • Workers essential for assistance programs and government payments
  • Employees of companies engaged in the production, storage, transport, and distribution of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids
  • Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc.; transportation of live animals, animal medical materials; transportation of deceased animals for disposal; raising of animals for food; animal production operations; slaughter and packing plants, renderers, and associated regulatory and government workforce
  • Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products
  • Employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary to agricultural production and distribution

ENERGY
Electricity industry:
  • Workers who maintain, ensure, or restore, or are involved in the development, transportation, fuel procurement, expansion, or operation of the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power, including call centers, utility workers, reliability engineers and fleet maintenance technicians
  • Workers needed for safe and secure operations at nuclear generation
  • Workers at generation, transmission and electric blackstart facilities
  • Workers at Reliability Coordinator (RC), Balancing Authorities (BA), and primary and backup Control Centers (CC), including but not limited to independent system operators, regional transmission organizations, and balancing authorities
  • Mutual assistance personnel
  • IT and OT technology staff – for EMS (Energy Management Systems) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, and utility data centers; Cybersecurity engineers; cybersecurity risk management
  • Vegetation management crews and traffic workers who support
  • Environmental remediation/monitoring technicians
  • Instrumentation, protection, and control technicians
Petroleum workers:
  • Petroleum product storage, pipeline, marine transport, terminals, rail transport, road transport
  • Crude oil storage facilities, pipeline, and marine transport
  • Petroleum refinery facilities
  • Petroleum security operations center employees and workers who support emergency response services
  • Petroleum operations control rooms/centers
  • Petroleum drilling, extraction, production, processing, refining, terminal operations, transporting, and retail for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing
  • Onshore and offshore operations for maintenance and emergency response
  • Retail fuel centers such as gas stations and truck stops, and the distribution systems that support them
Natural and propane gas workers:
  • Natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines, including compressor stations
  • Underground storage of natural gas
  • Natural gas processing plants, and those that deal with natural gas liquids
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities
  • Natural gas security operations center, natural gas operations dispatch and control rooms/centers natural gas emergency response and customer emergencies, including natural gas leak calls
  • Drilling, production, processing, refining, and transporting natural gas for use as end-use fuels, feedstocks for chemical manufacturing, or use in electricity generation
  • Propane gas dispatch and control rooms and emergency response and customer emergencies, including propane leak calls
  • Propane gas service maintenance and restoration, including call centers
  • Processing, refining, and transporting natural liquids, including propane gas, for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing
  • Propane gas storage, transmission, and distribution centers

WATER AND WASTEWATER
Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including:
  • Operational staff at water authorities
  • Operational staff at community water systems
  • Operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities
  • Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring
  • Operational staff for water distribution and testing
  • Operational staff at wastewater collection facilities
  • Operational staff and technical support for SCADA Control systems
  • Chemical suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection
  • Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations

TRANSPORTATION AND LOGISTICS
  • Employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, including truck drivers, bus drivers, dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck stop and rest area workers, and workers that maintain and inspect infrastructure (including those that require cross-jurisdiction travel)
  • Employees of firms providing services that enable logistics operations, including cooling, storing, packaging, and distributing products for wholesale or retail sale or use.
  • Mass transit workers
  • Workers responsible for operating dispatching passenger, commuter and freight trains and maintaining rail infrastructure and equipment
  • Maritime transportation workers - port workers, mariners, equipment operators
  • Truck drivers who haul hazardous and waste materials to support critical infrastructure, capabilities, functions, and services
  • Automotive repair and maintenance facilities
  • Manufacturers and distributors (to include service centers and related operations) of packaging materials, pallets, crates, containers, and other supplies needed to support manufacturing, packaging staging and distribution operations
  • Postal and shipping workers, to include private companies
  • Employees who repair and maintain vehicles, aircraft, rail equipment, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers
  • Air transportation employees, including air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel, ramp workers, aviation and aerospace safety, security, and operations personnel and accident investigations
  • Workers who support the maintenance and operation of cargo by air transportation, including flight crews, maintenance, airport operations, and other on- and off- airport facilities workers

PUBLIC WORKS
  • Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential dams, locks and levees
  • Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential public works facilities and operations, including bridges, water and sewer main breaks, fleet maintenance personnel, construction of critical or strategic infrastructure, traffic signal maintenance, emergency location services for buried utilities, maintenance of digital systems infrastructure supporting public works operations, and other emergent issues
  • Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
  • Support, such as road and line clearing, to ensure the availability of needed facilities, transportation, energy and communications
  • Support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste

COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Communications:
  • Maintenance of communications infrastructure- including privately owned and maintained communication systems- supported by technicians, operators, call-centers, wireline and wireless providers, cable service providers, satellite operations, undersea cable landing stations (including cable marine depots and submarine cable ship operators), Internet Exchange Points, and manufacturers and distributors of communications equipment
  • Workers who support radio, television, and media service, including, but not limited to front line news reporters, studio, and technicians for newsgathering and reporting
  • Workers at Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Organizations, and Network Operations staff, engineers and/or technicians to manage the network or operate facilities
  • Engineers, technicians and associated personnel responsible for infrastructure construction and restoration, including contractors for construction and engineering of fiber optic cables
  • Installation, maintenance and repair technicians that establish, support or repair service as needed
  • Central office personnel to maintain and operate central office, data centers, and other network office facilities
  • Customer service and support staff, including managed and professional services as well as remote providers of support to transitioning employees to set up and maintain home offices, who interface with customers to manage or support service environments and security issues, including payroll, billing, fraud, and troubleshooting
  • Dispatchers involved with service repair and restoration
Information Technology:
  • Workers who support command centers, including, but not limited to Network Operations Command Center, Broadcast Operations Control Center and Security Operations Command Center
  • Data center operators, including system administrators, HVAC & electrical engineers, security personnel, IT managers, data transfer solutions engineers, software and hardware engineers, and database administrators
  • Client service centers, field engineers, and other technicians supporting critical infrastructure, as well as manufacturers and supply chain vendors that provide hardware and software, and information technology equipment (to include microelectronics and semiconductors) for critical infrastructure
  • Workers responding to cyber incidents involving critical infrastructure, including medical facilities, SLTT governments and federal facilities, energy and utilities, and banks and financial institutions, and other critical infrastructure categories and personnel
  • Workers supporting the provision of essential global, national and local infrastructure for computing services (incl. cloud computing services), business infrastructure, web-based services, and critical manufacturing
  • Workers supporting communications systems and information technology used by law enforcement, public safety, medical, energy and other critical industries
  • Support required for continuity of services, including janitorial/cleaning personnel

OTHER COMMUNITY-BASED GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS AND ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS
  • Workers to ensure continuity of building functions
  • Security staff to maintain building access control and physical security measures
  • Elections personnel
  • Federal, State, and Local, Tribal, and Territorial employees who support Mission Essential Functions and communications networks
  • Trade Officials (FTA negotiators; international data flow administrators)
  • Weather forecasters
  • Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting other critical government operations
  • Workers at operations centers necessary to maintain other essential functions
  • Workers who support necessary credentialing, vetting and licensing operations for transportation workers
  • Customs workers who are critical to facilitating trade in support of the national emergency response supply chain
  • Educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, if operating under rules for social distancing
  • Hotel Workers where hotels are used for COVID-19 mitigation and containment measures

CRITICAL MANUFACTURING
  • Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, and for supply chains associated with transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base. Additionally, workers needed to maintain the continuity of these manufacturing functions and associated supply chains.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS
  • Workers at nuclear facilities, workers managing medical waste, workers managing waste from pharmaceuticals and medical material production, and workers at laboratories processing test kits
  • Workers who support hazardous materials response and cleanup
  • Workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting hazardous materials management operations

FINANCIAL SERVICES
  •  Workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services (e.g., payment, clearing, and settlement; wholesale funding; insurance services; and capital markets activities)
  • Workers who are needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services, including ATMs, and to move currency and payments (e.g., armored cash carriers)
  • Workers who support financial operations, such as those staffing data and security operations centers

CHEMICAL
  • Workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains, including workers at chemical manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers at distribution facilities, workers who transport basic raw chemical materials to the producers of industrial and consumer goods, including hand sanitizers, food and food additives, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and paper products.
  • Workers supporting the safe transportation of chemicals, including those supporting tank truck cleaning facilities and workers who manufacture packaging items
  • Workers supporting the production of protective cleaning and medical solutions, personal protective equipment, and packaging that prevents the contamination of food, water, medicine, among others essential products
  • Workers supporting the operation and maintenance of facilities (particularly those with high risk chemicals and/or sites that cannot be shut down) whose work cannot be done remotely and requires the presence of highly trained personnel to ensure safe operations, including plant contract workers who provide inspections
  • Workers who support the production and transportation of chlorine and alkali manufacturing, single-use plastics, and packaging that prevents the contamination or supports the continued manufacture of food, water, medicine, and other essential products, including glass container manufacturing

DEFENSE INDUSTRIAL BASE
  • Workers who support the essential services required to meet national security commitments to the federal government and U.S. Military. These individuals, include but are not limited to, aerospace; mechanical and software engineers, manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security staff; security personnel; intelligence support, aircraft and weapon system mechanics and maintainers
  • Personnel working for companies, and their subcontractors, who perform under contract to the Department of Defense providing materials and services to the Department of Defense, and government-owned/contractor-operated and government-owned/government-operated facilities