rural issues

SPENCER PUGH / UNSPLASH

Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. The profession requires long hours, limited social contact and is often at the mercy of external factors such as weather and market rates. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has farmers facing unprecedented challenges, and this has some worried about a mental health crisis in this community.

JOHN PAUL COONROD

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery store aisles have been crowded, and shelves emptied of basic food items. To avoid the mayhem, some shoppers are turning to smaller markets in more rural areas. That’s giving rural grocery stores a boost.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the decision by lawmakers to end the legislative session two weeks early, Governor Stitt vetoes a bill on rural broadband and lawmakers pass a bill giving a Cost of Living Adjustment for State Retirees.

The trio also discusses a constitutional challenge to the new law requiring notarization of absentee ballots and remembering Oklahoma City Republican Senator Brooks Douglass.

Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Updated May 20

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed House Bill 4018 on Tuesday, writing that the Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe has already created a broadband task force and creating a Rural Broadband Expansion Council would be unneccesary and redundant.

DAVID KOVALUK / ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Rural hospitals have been planning for the arrival of the coronavirus, but the preparations for a virus that may not come are putting some already struggling rural hospitals in danger.

A group of rural Oklahoma lawmakers are asking the State Department of Education to reconsider rules they say would end four-day school weeks.

The 16 Republican representatives are calling on the state to make a waiver that would allow for shorter school calendars more attainable.

Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, is leading the charge. In a statement, she said four-day school weeks are important for keeping rural school districts afloat.

Monument Valley, Utah, is the desert backdrop for many famous old Western movies. And even today, kids in the valley are doing their homework the way they did in the 1950s: offline.

"There's a lot of kids that don't have even electricity at home," said Spencer Singer, principal at Monument Valley High School. "You know, for all intents and purposes we operate in a third world-type situation."

By this time next week, Decatur County, Tenn., will have lost its only hospital, Decatur County General, which has been serving the rural community of about 12,000 people along the Tennessee River since 1963.

The hospital's human resources director, Melinda Hays-Kirkwood, has already begun laying off people, and she says by next week only a skeleton staff will remain.

"It's hard on these employees that have been here a long time. I've got people who have been here for 30 years," Hays-Kirkwood says. "For some people, this has been their only job out of college."

Flickr / Wesley Fryer

Criminal justice reform advocates are doubling down on their requests to send some state prisoners home during the Coronavirus pandemic. They want the Governor Kevin Stitt to approve the releases for more than 280 prisoners.

The state Pardon and Parole Board already recommended the prisoners' sentences be commuted and Stitt has mostly agreed with the board's recommendations in the past.

Oklahoma has supply of personal protective equipment to last for 9.3 days. Governor Kevin Stitt and Secretary of Health and Human Services Jerome Loughridge made the announcement in a press conference Sunday evening.

Also announced was increased testing capacity. Dr. Kayse Shrum, Oklahoma's Secretary of Science and Innovation announced that in a new collaboration with the labs at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University that by the end of the week the state will be testing as many as 10,000 people.

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