Governor Stitt

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters narrowly decided on Tuesday to expand Medicaid health insurance to tens of thousands low-income residents, becoming the first state to amend its Constitution to do so.

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Speaking at the Capitol shortly after Oklahoma reported its largest ever single-day jump in COVID-19 infections, Gov. Kevin Stitt committed to not implementing -- or even considering -- a mandatory masking policy, even if the coronavirus pandemic continues its upward trend in the state.

"I will not consider or reconsider mandating masks. We believe in freedoms," said Stitt, who briefly donned a face covering at the press conference. 

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s key cabinet members at the forefront of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic announced Monday they are stepping down to return to their full-time jobs.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday said he still does not support State Question 802, the ballot question to be voted on by Oklahomans on Tuesday regarding whether the state's Medicaid program should be expanded.

"It's going to be either raising taxes, which I'm not going to be for, or it's going to be cutting services from other state agencies" like education and public safety, Stitt said on how the state would fund the expansion if passed by voters.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The president of the state medical association on Thursday called for Oklahoma to require that face masks be worn at businesses and in public places, as the state health department reported 438 new coronavirus cases and three additional deaths.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said at least 11,948 residents have been infected and 375 of them have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. 

Facebook / Gov. Kevin Stitt

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is urging anyone who attended President Donald Trump's Saturday campaign rally or any of several recent protests against racism and police violence to be tested for COVID-19.

"Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is urging Oklahomans who have chosen to attend large-scale gatherings in recent weeks to seek out testing for COVID-19, even if symptoms are not present," a statement released on Sunday reads. It also instructs Oklahomans to be tested prior to attending any future large gatherings.

As new COVID-19 infections skyrocket in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt defended Saturday's Trump campaign rally in Tulsa.

Appearing on Fox News on Friday, Stitt was asked how he responds to public health officials who have said the rally should be postponed.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Oklahoma on Thursday smashed its record for new COVID-19 cases set just the day before.

The State Health Department reported 450 new cases Thursday — a 5% jump — bringing the state’s total to 9,354. There are more than 1,900 active infections.

The numbers were reportedly delayed because a technical problem at the state health department and did not come out until after Gov. Kevin Stitt participated in a small business round table with President Donald Trump at the White House, where he said Oklahoma is one of the first states to safely reopen.

1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission

Gov. Kevin Stitt said on Wednesday President Donald Trump’s potential visit to the Greenwood District ahead of his campaign rally this weekend is "in flux."

"I don’t know if the president is going to go to the Greenwood District now. It was a request that I made early but because of the Juneteenth celebration, with the Secret Service it could be problematic to have the president go there because some things have to be disrupted and shut down for a presidential visit," Stitt said.

Visitation at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Oklahoma may resume Monday under a phased approach, according to an executive order by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

"It is important we take a measured and responsible approach to allowing visitors to our nursing homes and long-term care facilities, just as we did with the rest of our state," Stitt said in a statement. "This guidance will allow us to continue to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans while allowing them to safely resume valuable interactions with their loved ones."

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Oklahoma Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) said this week that she took two major exceptions with Gov. Kevin Stitt's Sunday roundtable discussion on race, put together in the wake of nationwide protests over police killings of Black Americans following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.

PickPik

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The federal government approved new gambling compacts between Oklahoma and two tribal nations, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Monday, but the governor still remains locked in a legal dispute over tribal gambling with other tribes and legislative leaders from his own party.

The compacts between Oklahoma and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation were both “deemed approved” by the U.S. Department of the Interior following the expiration of a 45-day review period.

Stuart Ostler / Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s Republican legislative leaders asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to settle whether Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his authority when he reached deals with two Native American tribes to allow sports gambling.

That was Attorney General Mike Hunter’s conclusion in a formal opinion and letter to the U.S. Interior secretary last month.

Citing a low proportion of active cases in the state, increased testing and declining positive rates, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday the state will move to the next phase of his Open Up and Recover Safely plan on Monday as planned.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration is scrapping a plan to expand Medicaid on July 1, citing a lack of state funding.

The state’s Medicaid Director Melody Anthony notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a letter Thursday that the state was withdrawing its proposal.

The Stitt administration pushed for the expansion in March, but after the Legislature narrowly passed bills to help pay for the state’s share, including one that increased a fee that hospitals pay, Stitt vetoed them.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday morning his pick for a new interim director of the State Department of Health.

Col. Lance Frye, a Tulsa resident, is currently serving as the State Air Surgeon of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, a role he said he will continue in during his time as health commissioner. Frye is also an OB/GYN and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

"Col. Frye is the right leader at the right time," Stitt said in his announcement from the Capitol on Friday.

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Oklahoma cities and counties can apply for federal coronavirus relief funds through an online portal starting June 1.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that will be the method for them to be reimbursed for eligible COVID-19 expenses under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which Oklahoma received $1.2 billion from.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Responding to complaints from Oklahomans across the state who say they're struggling to receive unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a state cabinet secretary said Tuesday that many issues and delays are being caused by the applicants themselves.

"The biggest issue that we've seen that's causing people to get - either they get paid one week and then it stalls, or they stall completely, are inconsistencies or incomplete information," said David Ostrowe, Governor Kevin Stitt's Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. 

Oklahoma’s affordable housing tax credit will not be touched going into next fiscal year.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed House Bill 2760, which would have cut its annual cap from $4 million to $2 million.

Mental Health Association Oklahoma Chief Housing Officer Greg Shinn said Stitt’s veto message correctly noted cutting the incentive would not provide more money for the state budget until fiscal year 2023.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dozens of people rallied at the state Capitol on Monday, complaining that their state unemployment claims aren’t being processed.

Most of those who gathered on the Capitol’s south steps were self-employed and complained of glitches with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s website, waiting on hold for hours to talk to an agent and not getting promised call backs.

Tesla

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla has picked Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as finalists for its new U.S. assembly plant, a person briefed on the matter said Friday.

The person says company officials visited Tulsa in the past week and were shown two sites.

It wasn’t clear if there were any other finalists in the mix. The person, who didn’t want to be identified because the site selection process is secret, said no final decision has been made.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Late Wednesday afternoon, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed lawmakers' $7.7 billion budget in its entirety, along with bills temporarily reallocating nearly $300 million in apportioned dollars to public schools.

By 10 p.m., lawmakers voted to override Stitt's vetoes of all four bills.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Collections to Oklahoma’s main government operating fund missed projections by 44% last month, the biggest shortfall in modern history, state finance officials said Tuesday.

Postponing the income tax deadline from April to July, plummeting energy prices and the coronavirus-related shutdown of businesses across the state amounted to a “threefold economic gut punch,” said Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Steve Harpe.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s pick to lead the Oklahoma State Department of Health doesn’t have enough support in the state Senate to secure the job, a key senator said Monday.

Sen. Greg McCortney, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said interim Health Commissioner Gary Cox doesn’t have enough votes to be confirmed, and so his nomination won’t be considered at the committee’s last scheduled meeting Monday afternoon.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday he will veto budget bills taking dollars apportioned to the state’s teacher, law enforcement and firefighter pension systems next year.

House Bills 2741 and 2742 use the apportioned dollars to provide $112 million for public schools, a move that helps hold the State Department of Education's budget cut to 2.5% as other agencies take cuts of up to 4%.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Health officials say four more people in Oklahoma have died  from the coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths to 270.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says that the number of confirmed positive cases in the state increased by 66, for a total of 4,490.

The number of actual infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without showing symptoms.

With Tesla founder Elon Musk using Twitter as a platform to threaten to pull his company out of California due to his disagreement with the state's measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt saw an opening on Saturday.

"Oklahoma is open for business," the tweet from the governor's official account reads. "We're doing it safely, responsibly and based on the data in our state. @ElonMusk, let's talk!"

"P.S.," the tweet concludes, "Route 66 would make a great place for a test drive..."

The number of workers workers at a pork processing plant in Guymon testing positive for the coronavirus is up to at least 151, according to state officials on Wednesday.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state is helping the situation at the Seaboard Foods plant by sending health department contact tracers and offering housing at a public college about 20 minutes away in Goodwell.

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Oklahoma lawmakers on Tuesday gave Gov. Kevin Stitt another 30 days of expanded powers granted under a catastrophic health emergency declaration to deal with COVID-19.

Under state law, the declaration of a health emergency gives the governor powers including waiving regulations that could hinder the public health response, mobilizing the National Guard and reallocating up to $50 million in state funds for the response.

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This story was updated at 4:48 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5th, to include a new response from Baylee Lakey, communications director for the governor.

In an opinion released at the request of the Oklahoma legislature's two most senior Republicans and a separate letter to a federal cabinet secretary, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Tuesday dug in deeper on his charge that Governor Kevin Stitt, a fellow Republican, acted unlawfully last month in signing gaming compacts between the state and two Indian governments.

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