Governor Stitt

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.

Wikimedia

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.

Facebook / Gov. Kevin Stitt

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.

Metro Pentecostal Church in Tulsa has lost several congregants and at least one pastor to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus currently spreading throughout Oklahoma, the country, and the world. One member spent 31 days on a ventilator. The head pastor fought and recovered from the illness.

Still, on Sunday, it became one of the first churches in Tulsa to reopen for in person worship service following Governor Kevin Stitt's orders to allow houses of worship to begin welcoming back congregations.

The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt and Health Commissioner Gary Cox offered a response of sorts Thursday to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s request for an investigative audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s spending.

Stitt said the health department is buying personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies for the state’s COVID-19 response on the competitive global market, purchases the state has $1.2 billion in federal funds for.

Libby Billings courtesy Libby Billings; Thomas Hunter courtesy Oklahoma Restaurant Association

Following prolonged mandated closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with the blessings of both Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and a reluctant Mayor G.T. Bynum, Tulsa restaurants will be permitted starting Friday to welcome guests back to eat in their dining rooms.

Not too many are seizing that opportunity, though.

"Absolutely not," said restaurateur Libby Billings, whose downtown Tulsa eateries include The Vault, Roppongi, and Elote. 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s top prosecutor on Tuesday requested an investigative audit of the state Health Department over the agency’s spending of state-appropriated funds. 

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Attorney General Mike Hunter’s request was related to the state’s coronavirus response, which the agency is leading.

The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday continued to defend his decision to begin lifting restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Stitt said hospitalizations in Oklahoma peaked almost a month ago and the health care system now has plenty of capacity. Stitt said he started issuing executive orders on COVID-19 March 12 with three goals in mind.

Anadisgoi / Cherokee Nation

In a donation spurred by what he called a "dire need of assistance," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. ordered 5,000 protective facemasks to be sent to Navajo Nation, where COVID-19 rates continue to climb rapidly.

"Today it's the Navajo Nation that's in desperate need," Hoskin said on a Tuesday phone call from Tahlequah, Okla., the Cherokee capital. "The next time around, it could be the Cherokee Nation, and we would want other Indian nations to be there for us."

Justin Russell on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt requested that the White House declare an "Act of God," a legal maneuver the governor said is "a necessary step to encourage and support those operators who choose to stop production until demand returns and storage becomes readily available." 

Oil and gas industry insiders are split on whether that's true. 

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, told the Tulsa World on Monday that each patient in Tulsa County who tests positive for COVID-19 provides an average of 36 potentially exposed persons for the department to trace.

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington

Oklahoma has already begun reopening following a plan by Governor Kevin Stitt, but a team of health researchers estimate that the state is still over 50 days away from the earliest date when it would be safe to ease restrictions intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt defended his decision to allow the state's businesses to reopen.

"We peaked at hospitalizations with 560 across the state," Stitt said. "Today we have 300 across the state in our hospitals. And so we think it's time for a measured reopening."

Wallace asked Stitt about statements by Dr. Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, in which Monks characterized the reopening as too early and not in keeping with White House guidelines.

Gov. Kevin Stitt appears set to give it a month before implementing the third phase of his Open Up and Recover Safely Plan and have businesses running at nearly normal levels.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s state medical board has approved almost 200 doctors for temporary licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An executive order from Gov. Kevin Stitt allows the board to approve 90-day critical care licenses for out-of-state physicians. As of last week, 192 doctors had been approved.

Many are primary care physicians, but there are also several emergency medicine doctors and specialists from neurologists to infectious disease specialists in the mix. 

Medical board member Dr. Mark Fixley does not expect they will be needed, though.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt responded Friday to charges leveled by Republican leaders in the state legislature that recent gaming compacts signed between the state and two tribal governments were unlawful.

https://fshoq.com

Doctors at many hospitals in Oklahoma are performing elective surgeries again.

Gov. Kevin Stitt lifted his order against elective surgeries, effective Friday. Ascension St. John, however, is not among the hospitals performing them again. CEO Mark McBride said doctors have been performing surgeries needed during the ban, but hospital officials thought it prudent to take a couple more days to work out the logistics for elective procedures.

Chris Polansky / KWGS

His hand seemingly forced by Governor Kevin Stitt's easing of restrictions on business closures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced reluctantly on Friday that Tulsa's "Safer At Home" order will expire on Thursday, April 30th. 

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Governor Kevin Stitt's plans to begin opening businesses like salons and restaurants does not include any direction for when to reopen the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Capitol has been closed to the public since mid-March, when a legislative staffer tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Governor Kevin Stitt Facebook page

The president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association said Thursday that he is not confident that Governor Kevin Stitt's plan to begin reopening the state's economy on April 24th is a good idea.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his authority when he signed gambling compacts with two Native American tribes this week, House and Senate GOP leaders said in a joint letter to the governor on Wednesday.

House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said the governor’s inclusion of sports betting is one of several flaws they found in their review of the compacts.

“Sadly, the documents signed yesterday are legally flawed and sow more division than unity,” the two leaders wrote.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Kevin Stitt will begin lifting restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma this week.

Stitt said Wednesday new cases and hospitalizations are declining enough to start a phased reopening that follows federal guidelines. Businesses like salons and pet groomers may reopen Friday by appointment only if the cities they’re in have not adopted more stringent measures than the state.

Erin Faulkenberry, CLEET (A1205 cohort)

Like most institutions around the country, Oklahoma's Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, was forced to scale back in-person instruction at its academy in Ada due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Now, according to executive director Jesus "Eddie" Campa, the agency is ready to slowly begin welcoming cadets back.

"We are allowed to bring them back to the facility, but we want to do that at a slow pace," Campa said at a video conference meeting of the councilmembers on Wednesday. "There's going to be very minimal contact and very minimal exposure."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The White House has told governors their leadership is critical in testing for coronavirus and provided a map showing that Oklahoma is one of four states with the lowest testing capacity in the United States.

Whitney Bryen-Oklahoma Watch

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s attempt to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic cannot be enforced, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin issued a preliminary injunction late Monday after abortion providers sued Stitt over the ban. The injunction replaces a temporary restraining order that the same judge issued last week that allowed most abortions to continue.

Serge Melki

The Oklahoma State Board of Equalization made official on Monday a $416.9 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year.

While oil prices plunged  into negative territory, that did not worsen the situation.

"We’ve already collected approximately 90% of those revenues with three months remaining, and only two of those months are going to be significantly impacted by this drastic change in pricing," said Oklahoma Tax Commission Executive Director Jay Doyle.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has put a state question to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma on the June 30 ballot.

State Question 802 supporters turned in more than 313,000 signatures last year to qualify the proposal for a statewide vote. It needed 178,000.

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