State reopening, but caution still advised
We had exciting news out of the Capitol last week from Gov. Kevin Stitt. Oklahomans have listened and heeded the health warnings and guidelines, and the state has successfully begun flattening the curve for COVID-19 cases. For this reason, with guidance from the White House, and health data and input from healthcare providers in the state, Oklahoma’s economy will be reopened in three phases. The first phase began last Friday, April 24.
Please be mindful that COVID-19 is still out there, so it’s imperative that everyone continue practicing social distancing and good hygiene. The decision to reopen cities is up to local mayors. Oklahoma City, for instance, has too many cases so Mayor David Holt has chosen to stick with the original plan of reopening beginning May 1.
Regardless of where you live, we must all remain cautious in the next month, especially those over 65 or who have compromised immune systems. The governor has asked that people still try to avoid large groups and places where there isn’t enough space to practice social distancing, and avoid nonessential travel.
The first phase is to help get thousands of Oklahomans back to work if it’s allowed and they so choose. Exceptions must be provided for vulnerable employees, so as to not put their health in danger. Last Friday, personal care businesses (like hair and nail salons, barbershops, spas and pet groomers) were allowed to open under certain restrictions. Visits must be by appointment only, with customers waiting in their cars until their scheduled time. Waiting rooms must remain empty and social distancing must be maintained.
Beginning on May 1, restaurants, workout facilities, sporting venues and movie theaters will be able to reopen around the state, but again we must continue our social distancing and hygiene precautions.
Certain elective surgeries were able to begin on April 24, and all minor medical procedures and non-emergency dental procedures can resume on May 1.
Work is also continuing in the Legislature, as we began the first phase of approving executive nominations last week. I was proud to carry the nomination of Terrence Shreve of Barnsdall to the Oklahoma Used Motor Vehicle and Parts Commission, to serve a six-year term ending June 30, 2026, succeeding James Holman.
The State Board of Equalization certified the nearly $417 million revenue failure, which allows actions already taken by the Legislature to go into effect. We also were told that we’ll only have around $6.9 billion to appropriate for next year’s budget. This is $1.4 billion less than we originally thought in February.
Negotiations are ongoing, as we study how much the state will be receiving from the federal relief package along with how COVID-19 will impact our state economy in the coming months. We also must consider what will happen with the energy sector and stock market.
You can stay up to date on what’s happening in the Senate by visiting www.oksenate.gov.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581, or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.